What a visit from Seahawks DT Jordan Hill meant to grieving parents

From left to right, Cristen Hill, Seahawks defensive tackle Jordan Hill, Lesa Brackbill and Brennan Brackbill. The Hills offered comfort and support for the Brackbills, who had lost their 19-month-old daughter. Courtesy of Lesa Brackbill

Last October, Tori Brackbill and her family visited the Grand Canyon.

The next month, she rode on a fire truck and got a pedicure with her mom, Lesa. In January, Tori helped build a snowman. And in March, she attended a tea party.

Before Tori's first birthday, Lesa and her husband, Brennan, decided it would be a good idea to create a bucket list for their daughter, who had been diagnosed with an often fatal neurological disorder called Krabbe disease.

"We thought this would be a good idea to ensure that we are continuing to live life with her while she’s here," Lesa said. "And we’ve made a decision to choose joy and gratitude for every single day that we were blessed to have her with us.

"And so the bucket list helped us maintain that focus because we were doing things as a family -- making memories, providing new experiences for her. Even though she couldn’t actively participate in a lot of these things, she was still able to see and smell and use the other senses. So the bucket list became a really big source of joy for us to just experience life with her."

The Brackbills reside in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and one of the items on the bucket list was for Tori to meet an NFL player. Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who is from the same area, got connected with Tori's family through a mutual friend. Hill and his wife, Cristen, planned a visit to see her, but before the date arrived, Tori died.

Instead of going to see Tori, the focus of Hill's visit shifted to offering comfort and support for parents who had lost their 19-month-old daughter.

"Me and my wife wanted to go and just say hello to the family," Hill said. "That was the least we could do.

"The biggest thing for them is they want to bring awareness to the whole situation because it’s a situation not a lot of people understand and not a lot of people know about. I told them if there’s anything I can do down the road, if I can help, I’ll do it."

When Hill arrived at the Brackbills' house, Brennan had lots of questions. He wanted to know about the infamous play call at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. He wondered how loud it actually gets at CenturyLink Field. And he chatted with Hill about his experiences at Penn State.

"They were just totally compassionate towards our situation," Brennan said. "They said they wanted to come visit because losing a child’s never an easy thing. Athletes like Jordan being in the spotlight, that can really lift folks’ spirits. I guess I was just really impressed about the fact that they put their needs aside and still came and visited with us."

Hill had his own family situation at the time. His father in-law was having health issues and had been hospitalized.

"It was just a tremendous experience and extremely thankful that they stopped by despite their own circumstances that went on in their family," Brennan said.

"For me personally, it just brought a lot of joy to my heart. These guys are super busy, but they take their time to visit with a family that’s, for me and my wife, obviously not the greatest time in our life."

Added Lesa: "It was very humbling that they cared so much about our daughter."

Hill brought an autographed Seahawks shirt for Tori, and he said he'll look to connect with Brennan and Lesa in July when he goes back home. But for one afternoon, he and his wife were at least able to provide some comfort for the grieving parents.

"He just seemed like a guy that I could really sit down and talk with much longer than we had the opportunity to," Brennan said. "It’s something that I’ll never forget."