Child prodigies like Brandenn Bremmer are rare. They are astoundingly gifted in certain areas, but because of this, they are taught with much older children.
They can become isolated from their peers, have no friends their age, and be thrust into an adult world before they are mentally equipped. It’s not surprising, therefore, to learn that some child prodigies have problems adapting.
One such talented child was Brandenn Bremmer. He had an IQ of 178, he taught himself to read at 18 months, played the piano at 3 years old, and finished high school when he was ten. He killed himself when he was 14. After his death, speculation arose that he killed himself to donate his organs.
Who Was Brandenn Bremmer?
Brandenn was born on 8th December 1990 in Nebraska. When he was born, for a worryingly short time, doctors couldn’t find a pulse. His mother, Patti Bremmer, took this as a sign he was special:
“Things were different right from then. It’s almost like my baby died, and an angel took his place.”
Patti was right. Brandenn Bremmer was special. At 18 months old, he taught himself to read. By three years old, he could play the piano and after attending kindergarten, he decided he didn’t want to go back.
Brandenn was home-schooled, finishing his junior and senior years in just seven months.
Patti and his father Martin kept a watchful eye on their gifted child, but mostly allowed him to make his own decisions:
“We never pushed Brandenn. He made his own choices. He taught himself to read. If anything, we tried to hold him back a little.”
At six years old, Brandenn began attending classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Independent Study High School. He became the youngest person to graduate when he was ten years old.
Former principal of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Independent Study High School, Jim Schiefelbein, remembers Brandenn Bremmer well. Brandenn loved Harry Potter and dressed up as the literary character for his graduation picture. The former principal remembers that after Brandenn spoke to the attending news media, he played with the other children at the graduation.
His mother said that Brandenn could talk to anyone:
“He was comfortable with a baby and he was comfortable with someone 90 years old.”
She added, he “had no chronological age.”
Brandenn had two loves in his life. Music and biology. He wanted to become an anesthesiologist, but he also loved composing. When he was 11, Brandenn enrolled at Colorado State University at Fort Collins to study piano improvisation. In 2004, he composed his debut album ‘Elements’ and toured Nebraska and Colorado to promote it.
Brandenn was making a name for himself on campus and beyond. A music professor introduced Brandenn to physics instructor Brian Jones, who ran an outreach physics project for junior high school pupils.
Brandenn started taking biology classes at Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, Nebraska. He planned to attend the University of Nebraska and graduate at 21 to become an anesthesiologist.
Everyone that met Brandenn Bremmer had a good word to say about him.
David Wohl was one of Brandenn’s professors at Colorado State University at Fort Collins. He last saw the teenager in December:
“He wasn’t just talented, he was just a really nice young man,” Wohl said.
Other professors have described Brandenn as ‘reserved’ but not isolated or withdrawn. His physics professor Brian Jones said:
“I never would have worried about him at all,” Jones said.
Family and friends talk about Brandenn’s easy nature and that he was always smiling. Brandenn seemed like an ordinary teenager, but it was obvious that there was something special about him.
On 16th March 2005, Brandenn Bremmer shot himself in the head in an apparent act of suicide. He was just 14 years old. His parents found him after returning from the grocery store. They immediately called the local sheriff’s department who ruled the incident a suicide, despite the lack of a suicide note.
Speculation surrounding Brandenn’s death began when Patti, clearly in shock and grieving, stated she had some comfort knowing Brandenn’s organs would be donated. She believed this is why he committed suicide.
“He was so in touch with the spiritual world. He was always that way, and we believe he could hear people’s needs. He left to save those people.” – Patti Bremmer
Brandenn had always expressed a desire to donate his organs, but he had shown no signs of depression, nor had he spoken about killing himself in the weeks leading up to his death.
You could say the opposite was true. Brandenn was making plans with friends; he was preparing the finishing touches on the artwork for his second CD. He was also getting excited about becoming an anesthesiologist.
So, why did this gifted and amiable young man commit suicide? Patti insisted her son was not depressed:
“Brandenn wasn’t depressed. He was a happy, upbeat person. There weren’t sudden changes in his behaviour.”
His parents searched for a suicide note, anything to help them understand what drove their son to make the ultimate decision to end his life. They knew it wasn’t an accident; Brandenn was familiar with gun safety. His demeanour hadn’t changed, his world was stable.
Was Brandenn Bremmer’s Suicide the Ultimate Act of Sacrifice?
When Brandenn was 14, his parents sought advice from the Gifted Development Center, run by Linda Silverman for child prodigies. Linda and her husband Hilton knew Brandenn and spent time with his parents. Linda believes gifted children are ‘morally sensitive’ with ‘supernatural’ qualities.
On hearing the sad news of Brandenn’s suicide, the New Yorker spoke to the Silvermans. Hilton said:
“Brandenn was an angel who came down to experience the physical realm for a short period of time.”
The reporter asked Hilton to expand on his statement:
“I’m talking to him right now. He’s become a teacher. He says right now he’s actually being taught how to help these people who experience suicides for much messier reasons.”
Hilton went on to explain that Brandenn’s life and death were preordained and that this ending was meant to be:
“Before Brandenn was born, this was planned. And he did it the way he did so that others would have use for his body. Everything worked out in the end.
But not everyone agrees with the Silvermans or Brandenn’s parents. His closest friends described a period around Christmas when Brandenn admitted to being depressed.
Brandenn Bremmer and Depression
A female friend known as ‘K’ spoke to Brandenn and asked what he had done over Christmas. Brandenn replied, saying ‘nothing, as a family anyway’. Later he emailed K again:
“Yeah, that’s kind of what it’s like here, I mean, we’re a close family … we just don’t spend much … time … being … that … way … Yeah.”
K had sent Brandenn a Christmas gift which arrived during their email exchange. He emailed her to say thank you:
“Your timing couldn’t have been better, for the past week or so I’ve been depressed beyond all reason, so this was just what I needed, thank you very much.”
K was suitably worried so emailed immediately:
“Talk to me, I want to hear about it. Because trust me, I’ve been there, done that and all I got was this lame t-shirt. Just let me know, okay?”
Brandenn wrote back:
“Thanks . . . I’m glad there’s someone who cares. I don’t know why I’m so depressed, before it was just every now and then, and you know, it was just “bummed out” depressed. But now it’s constant and it’s just, “What’s the point of living anymore?” I don’t know, maybe I just don’t spend enough time around good friends like you.”
Brandenn expressed his frustration with living ‘in the middle of nowhere’. He spoke of a nearby family he was close to, but everyone else were ‘just plain idiots’.
Although Brandenn’s mother may take comfort in thinking her son gave his life so that others could live, his friends would say that Brandenn felt isolated and lonely.
He did not have the kind of family life he wanted and his depression was worsening. He may well have wanted his organs to be donated, but I don’t think this is why he decided to commit suicide. He lived an extraordinary life, with few friends and felt he couldn’t talk to anyone.
When someone dies, particularly if they have committed suicide and left no note, it is natural to want answers. Grieving family members and friends want a reason, they need to know why, or if there was anything they could have done to prevent it.
If Brandenn had let someone in to help with his mental health, who knows what this brilliant young man would have achieved.