Marlowe's Shade

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

In Memoriam

Today is my brother's birthday. He would have been 38 years old. The 15th of this December will mark the 3rd anniversary of the day he died.

The past two years I haven't been sure what to do on either of these dates. The first year, some of the family members called each other. Now that seems awkward.

My brother had a heart attack on the day his doctor was to tell him he was cancer free after almost a year of chemo and radiation. He died soon after. In my last conversation with him about a week before, he called me about a dream he had. He said he saw the whole family standing around him, holding hands and praying. He was weeping with joy and felt the overpowering presence of God.

This turned out to be an exact description of the scene that played out in the ICU as he lay in a coma while a machine kept him breathing. His heart had stopped for more that 15 minutes before he was revived, and the next day the doctors told us he had no conscious brain activity and couldn't survive without life support. This only confirmed what I felt when I first saw him in the hospital bed. Still, until the next morning we took turns by his bedside, holding his hand, reading Scripture, and praying for a miracle. I read every verse I could find about the sick being healed and the dead being raised. Since then I've accepted that God decided that my brother had had enough, mission accomplished, and it was time for him to come home.
The other day I was reading about Nachshon Wachsman, and how his parents responded to the outpouring of prayers and support for their son before he was cruelly murdered by terrorists. Hi mother spoke of how her husband's greatest concern was that those who had prayed would lose faith in God because Nachshon wasn't spared. Reading her account I recognized the tenuous but supernatural peace that God gives us when He provides us with a small glimpse of his plan to take what was meant for evil and turn it into something good.

My brother had a personal, unique and very tangible relationship with Jesus. I'm trying to avoid all the religious cliches because my brother was not religious. He loved you or he didn't. I can't recall a single thing that he ever did because he thought he "ought to". He was never a meritorious "good do-bee" like me. Jesus was his best bud, they talked, they worked things out.
Those of us who remain can't avoid the question. Why did he have to leave us? By the time we buried him, I had part of the answer, and I don't think I can explain it all. But I'll use what my sister-in-law experienced to try to illustrate. We were so worried about her. She had just lost her father 3 months before, had been through the harrowing chemo treatments with my brother, and now this.
But at some point after he slipped away, she felt him with her for the last time, and he wasn't alone. When she told us, her face was transfigured, all the weariness and pain had been replaced with peace and joy. It's no use trying to describe how she looked anymore than it was for her to describe what she experienced. But she absolutely knew that my brother had lovingly said farewell and gave her a intimation of Heaven that would sustain her for as long as she needed.

I posted this for myself. I've learned that grief is selfish. Yet not to let it run it's course is dangerous. And while we tarry here it never ends. I wish I could convey what I saw in my sister-in-law's face to everyone, but I can't. It's a gift that's not mine to give. What she went through didn't entitle her to it, but it did prepare her to receive it. But I can testify to what I saw. There was much more to it than what I've related. But when God brought my brother into Heaven, He left the gate open just a crack for us, and exchanged our loss for a greater Hope.
papijoe 6:00 AM