Last week marked six years since my brother died. I’ve thought about him and the intervening six years a lot over the past few weeks. My brother was possibly the best human I’ve ever known. Our family didn’t have a lot, and it had even less when he and my sister were growing up (he was 13 years older than me). So, when it came time for college he had to cut his own path. He enrolled in a college 5 hours from home. He stayed with an uncle and aunt close by to save money. He took classes by day and worked at night, living off of tuna fish and Vienna sausages in between classes. After gradation, he got a job with Carolina Power and Light company. He was a hard worker and did well. He married, bought a house, and raised three daughters. Life was good, but still somehow felt a bit incomplete. Over the course of many months he realized that he was being called to a new direction in life, that of a full-time pastor. He left the security of his job to pursue a ministry degree and chased his calling.
Growing up, I would wait at home for my brother, counting the days until his next visit. I idolized him, and I’m sure I was annoying in the ways that only a hero-worshipping 7 year old can be. He was always patient with me, making time for me. I always felt I was important to him. He was the one who taught me how to change the oil in my car, and how to use a chainsaw. We went to games together and backpacked. Time with him was always refreshing, and I never stopped looking forward to being able to hang out together. Our paths later joined up at seminary. I began a year after he did. We roomed together on campus on the couple of nights that he stayed over in the dorm (he commuted home most of the time). I would give anything to have one of those nights back. After classes we would grab dinner and talk about life, family, ministry, and how my Dolphins were going to have a better season that his Raiders, or vice versa. When you lose someone you love, you come to realize that the ordinary moments of life are often the most valuable.
I wish I could write something that would convey the quality of person my brother was, but I just don’t have the ability. He was my anchor in many ways, and he impacted everyone he came into contact with. He was humble and thoughtful. He was everything I will try to become, but never fully reach. The hole that remains in my life now that he’s gone will never fully go away.
As I look back over the years since his death, I recognize six different things that I’ve learned about grief. Devastating losses don’t have to destroy your life. In fact, those we love would never have wanted our life to derail forever. Wounds can heal and life can move forward. Over the next few weeks I’ll share the lessons I’ve learned. If you are grieving or know someone who is, direct them to my site. I hope it helps.