So, I write this in anticipation of attending the memorial service of one of my older brothers. It’s weird even just writing it. He is the first sibling I’ve lost since I’ve been on this planet. We weren’t super duper close anymore, but we were…good. He knew I loved him, didn’t he?
Of all the brothers I have, he is one of my favorite, displaced from the #1 spot only by my youngest brother. Yeah, you still have the #1 brother spot, C. I’m you’re sure the favorite of us all. Babies usually are.
Anyway, of all the brothers I’ve ever had, Rick (as we called him), was the one who took an interest in me. It didn’t matter that I was bruised or broken. It didn’t matter if I cursed or if I had little money. Rick, while far from perfect, was my first experience with what an older brother should be to his younger sister as an adult. It doesn’t mean my other siblings were mean or foreign. He was in a period in his life when he could pour into me, and I could receive what he gave.
In 2006-2007, Rick gave me some of the best advice I ever had at one of the most unhappy points in all of my life. He simply told me (in a colorful way) to be happy. The way he said it shouldn’t be repeated by Christian folks such as myself *ahem*. Rick was fun. He had no eff’s to give and didn’t try. His relationship with my father was strained at best, but I do not believe he hated him. He was simply indifferent. If they had bothered to square up with a mirror between them both, they would have seen they were exactly alike, or at the very least, extremely similar.
In some ways, access to my brother gave me a peek into what my dad may have been like as a younger man. And in that, I could understand why my mom loved him. I could also see why she would dislike and be annoyed by his actions.
My brother gave me a glimpse into something my parents never told me about themselves. He gave me a peek into how I got here, and what their relationship may have looked like. I am forever grateful for this sliver into their personality dynamic.
The last time I saw Rick was at his wedding reception. He was the happiest I had ever seen him. He had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and that gave him a peace I’d never seen in him before. Seeing him this way made me happy, joyful and at peace with him. He was battling colon cancer at the time. It looked like he was going to make it. That was four years ago. And as I write this, I am ashamed to say I didn’t keep our relationship going to its fullest potential. My sporadic phone calls became nonexistent, and I just didn’t keep up anymore after that. Do I wish I had? Kinda. Then again maybe not. I don’t do well with suffering.
I feel weird like I still have opportunities to pick up the phone and call him. A part of me is still and quiet. She doesn’t want to talk or write or work, but she does because she doesn’t know what else to do. There aren’t any do-overs. There isn’t another chance to say I love you or can we hang out one last time. I know that I’m equally responsible for letting our relationship slip. As strange as it sounds, I accept and have made peace with this. What is only just now starting to etch into my purview is even though we weren’t as close as we used to be, we still were blood. Didn’t matter that it was half, whole or 2% (sounds like milk, right?). Rick held an important piece of my story, of who I am. This causes me to realize all of my siblings do. Regardless of how much or how little we communicate(d). My oldest paternal brother will always be the one who taught me how to roller skate. My oldest sister will always be the one who lived life on her terms and was a snazzy dresser. My next oldest siblings will always be the ones who would watch me, especially my sister Robin. Robin was a blast. I wonder if she understands this, even though I annoyed her beyond words. And lastly, there’s the baby brother. He was the one I prayed for, asked God for. Because I wanted a baby brother and got one. He was and will always be the very first unselfish thing God ever gave me, although circumstances didn’t allow for us to grow up in the same house like I planned.
This death has me thinking about my children and grandchildren, and what’s really important. They are the 2nd most important human beings to me, the first being my husband. I would be a liar if I said only being able to pray for my son and his wife has to be enough because they won’t let me near (his wife’s mother died Friday, as well as my father’s brother, my uncle. Yes, all of them died on the same day. No, death is no respecter of persons, and he does not offer discounts on grief for group departures). I would be a liar if I said my heart doesn’t break when I think I may never speak to them again before any of us left the planet. What keeps me hopeful and joyful in that hope is the promise that God will complete the good work He began in me. They are part of that work. God doesn’t abandon projects or people. He really does work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I am one who loves Him and is called.
That picture up there, though, sums it all up. When my brother crossed my mind three weeks ago, I knew I should have reached out. It was a nagging feeling I ignored. I thought I had more time. More time to call, to visit, to laugh, to argue, to do. The days …slip into weeks and months and years. And then, time is up. We do the same thing to Christ. We think we have time to figure things out for ourselves. Why waste this time instead of doing what we know is right, which is to turn to him and devote our lives to Him? This isn’t a game. You don’t want to be caught with your pants down when ‘Game Over’ splashes across the screen of your life. We don’t know much, not even when our own end will come.
Yes, this is a shameless plug to meet Jesus before you have to meet Him. All you have to do is say this:
Death comes in an instant and changes our landscapes. Nothing is promised to be solid or to be steady. All we can do is learn from our mistakes, make better choices and love. Loving my brother is a choice I made, even if the manifestation of it was temporary. I am still glad I chose to love him and know him, even briefly. I’m better for it. I hope he was too.
As you can see, I’m still being silly. I’m still trying to bring everyone else on the silly train with me. Because I still have to keep living, and I’m the weirdo who doesn’t cry her grief. I am grieving though, and it’s not like there’s a manual for how I should do this, or when it will end. I will still praise my God for his grace and mercy and joy and peace. Thank you for all of you who have prayed, who will continue to pray and even for those who haven’t and just wish me better days.