After Son's Death, Mom Adopts a Community

Emeril surprised Breakfast in Bed winner Susie Bratt, from Charleston, W.V.

May 8, 2009 — -- It was Susie Bratt's generosity and strength that prompted her son's girlfriend to write into "Good Morning America" for Emeril's Breakfast in Bed contest.

"In two months, my boyfriend's mother Susie inspired a community to overcome unexpected death by living life with the same strength and generosity that she had instilled in her son. In February, her 23-year-old son lost his six-week fight with cancer," wrote Cristin Chase, the girlfriend of John Bratt III.

"As hundreds of young friends searched for answers and closure, Susie has welcomed and loved them as if they were her own. She has helped them find inner strength and use that energy to help others. Susie lost a son, but she became a mom to a community that needed her love and strength more than she'll ever know."

Susie Bratt's Story

Susie Bratt's story begins with her close relationship with her son, Andy.

Growing up Andy Bratt was a popular baseball player, and his mother was sure never to miss a game.

"They'd love to play around. He'd give his mom piggy back rides on the field," said Bratt's friend Adam Brown.

Andy was a people magnet and most people remember him for his infectious smile. In his early 20s, he still lived at home. He had just purchased his first new car and started working as a graphic artist when tragedy struck.

In January, doctors diagnosed Andy with testicular cancer. The news was shattering, but he remained optimistic.

"He was positive the whole time ," Whitney O'Neal, Andy's girlfriend, said.

Battling Cancer

In order to help her son, Susie Bratt read everything she could about testicular cancer. She and her son prepared to fight it vigilantly, but after just one round of chemotherapy, word came that Andy's cancer had spread throughout his body.

"She was strong for him and he never shed a tear in front of her either. He was trying to protect mom, Whitney," said John Bratt, Andy's father.

John Bratt said his son tried to make others smile and joked to deal with the situation.

Like his mom, Andy thought of others, even from his ICU bed. He made sure that O'Neal received a Valentine's Day gift.

"He told his parents what he wanted me to have for Valentine 's Day even though he wasn't gonna be there," a sobbing O'Neal said.

And when the doctor told him there was nothing more he could do, Andy hugged the oncologist and said thanks.

He told his mother he was ready to go. On the day before Valentine's Day, and just six weeks after his initial diagnosis, 23-year-old Andy Bratt died.

The suddenness paralyzed his loved ones. But then comfort came from unexpected source -- Susie Bratt. She became a kind of mom to the whole town.

"She was rallying us together and said, 'This will be OK ,'" said Andy's friend, Michelle Phouthavong.

Carrying On

Susie began planning fundraisers and an awareness program for other young men about the cancer that took her son.

"She wants to be a motivational speaker and go to different high schools," O'Neal said. "Hopefully it doesn't happen to somebody else's family."

Just before Andy died, his mother whispered something in his ear.

"She told him, 'Andy, when you get to heaven give us a sign that you're OK,'" said John Bratt III.

When the family left the hospital, they looked up in the sky and there was a rainbow over the house.

"There was a little bit of sunshine peeking through and there was a rainbow there. And I got this warm feeling in my stomach," John Bratt III said.

So this Mother's Day, "GMA" remembered the love of a son and the strength of a mother who found a way to lift a family and a whole town with the kind of love you only find at the end of the rainbow.