Eclectic. Focused. Shy. Bold. Nineteen-year-old Brianna Cassidy was all those, with an adventurous spirit that sought out service. Her death after being struck by a reckless driver rent a void in the lives of her parents, one they’re filling, in some small measure, by honoring Brianna’s goals and reaching out to others shattered by loss.
Brianna loved photography, marine biology, and family vacations in Yosemite. She volunteered running cameras for church media ministries, devoured books, and dreamed of flying in Alaska. Playing a computer flight simulator with her cousin Erik as a preteen, Brianna fell in love with flight. Reading about missionary aviation, she decided she’d found her calling—and by the time she started her senior year of high school, she’d already earned her private pilot’s license.
A few months later, after high school graduation, Brianna traveled to Ecuador on a second mission trip. At the time of her death in December 2014, Brianna was looked forward to starting a nursing degree, and excited that her mother, Mary Cassidy, would be taking classes at the same school.
“It happened on a Friday,” remembers Rod Cassidy, Brianna’s father. “It wasn’t until that Sunday night that we learned there was a woman in the vehicle with our daughter the last few minutes of her life.”
The woman’s name was Kimberly. She and her husband, Danny, pulled over when they witnessed a driver go airborne and hit Brianna’s vehicle. While Danny attended to the other driver, Kimberly, a longtime nurse, assessed Brianna. It was clear that Brianna’s condition was grave, and Kimberly poured her heart out to God over the injustice of such a young life slipping away. Then she heard a voice, so clear and unmistakable that she looked around to see who was speaking. Call my child by her name, the voice instructed, and Kimberly soon found Brianna’s ID. Holding Brianna’s hand, Kimberley talked to her, prayed over her, and felt a peace she knew only God could give.
Rod and Mary Cassidy have set up the Wings of Passion Foundation to honor and promote the causes their daughter believed in. “We want to assist serious-minded individuals with a mind for mission aviation and media ministry,” Rod says. “We want to carry on her purpose and plan.”
The Cassidys have also created www.briannacassidy.com, a website sharing their daughter’s story and those of others facing grief. “It’s not just about us and our daughter,” Rod says. “We want to use the website as a platform. Everyone has a story and another’s may touch someone that ours does not.
“We know the Lord has a plan beyond what we see,” Rod reflects. “If Brianna’s story can reach more people in her death than in her life, what difference does it make, on the other side? Through it all God has a plan and He’s got a purpose. And through it all one day we will have such joy, in the resurrection morning, being united and seeing all the lives that she’s touched. As the Bible says, `sorrow endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.’
“There’s no greater loss a person can go through than the loss of a child,” Rod says. “It’s only by God’s grace and the fact that He is with us in the suffering that we’re going through.”