Grief is a funny thing. It has a mind of its own. Even though I try never to run from it, because it will chase me down, I still run. I don’t want to feel this emotion today or any day. I want to put it off; it suffocates me and it is painful. I know I should face it straight on and deal with my emotions, my memories, and the gifts that have brought me to this time of grieving. My husband, children, and friends are checking on me, just I am checking on my sister-in-law, nieces and siblings. With the passing of my brother, we have lost a husband, a father, a brother, and a friend.
This early morning, I woke for no apparent reason. A vision of my brother, a memory of him driving up to my parent’s home in a maroon convertible Triumph, flashed in my mind. The top was down and his long black hair was settling around his happy face as the wind had blown it freely on his drive. This was the first of many memories that flashed into my barely conscious brain. I have often written and said to others in grief: allow your memories to comfort you. That comfort is not without pain. My heart hurts, I will not see him again until I pass. I will not be able to use him again as my political moral barometer. I will not be able to hug him and tell him I love him. Of course, he knows these things, but they are no longer a physical reality for me.
As other memories formed I organized them chronologically, and through the tears streaming down my checks, I am comforted. My earliest memories revolve around our family, when we were children. I remember seeing him head off to school in khaki pants and a white shirt. He usually had a novel in one hand and his tennis racquet in the other. I remember going with my mother to pick him up at the City Park tennis courts; it was a beautiful place. I remember what he looked like when he would leave in his dungarees as a Sea Scout. He and I recently discussed his explorations with the Sea Scouts, an activity that he loved. I remember his kindness and love for me when I failed, when I succeeded, and when I our mother was ill. I remember in the summers he would pile all the neighborhood kiddos into his car and drop us off at the country club to go swimming. He would include my sister and me in his plans, going to drive-in movies, po’boy shops and so many other places. I remember the love he shared with us, and particularly his special bond with my oldest sister. They were a great brother-sister team.
He was twelve years older than me, so in many ways he always seemed like a grown-up to me. I remember sitting and listening to him tell our parents of his most recent adventure. He captivated my attention. I remember when he left to go to boarding school. I remember visiting him there, as well as his visits home. In his early college days, I remember the excitement of this new adventure. I remember the draft during the Vietnam war. I remember his struggles with what to do, how to precede, and his ultimate enlistment rather than draft. I remember eating Thanksgiving dinner at Fort Polk following his graduation from boot camp. I remember his growing pains as he turned into a fine and upstanding man. I remember his wedding and the joy that came with his love and relationship to his wife. I remember how he fell in love with each of his girls as they were born. He was a good brother, a good father and a good husband. He was not perfect, nor was I. We fought, we made up, and we loved one another. He taught me many things about myself and who I wanted to be. He was also my godfather. He helped me to know God as my sovereign, and later as my friend, offering unconditional love.
I remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. On that day, when my mother and I came into the house, he rose from a rattan chair with blue and white upholstery and exclaimed to my mother, “Do you know what happened today”? She sadly answered, “yes”. I had no idea. I listened and took in the trauma of losing such a prominent civil rights leader. I was almost ten years old. It was probably when my sense of social justice began to develop. I don’t remember having an understanding before then.
Today, as I watch the sun rise, it reminds me of my favorite Van Gogh painting, “Starry Night”. My brother is like the morning star. He brought light into my world, and that light will live on. In the Book of Revelations, we learn that we receive the gift of the morning star from Christ, who is light. This gift is given as an acknowledgement of our faith and victory over adversity (Rev 2:28). My brother was one who sought knowledge of, and relationship with, God. He shared his love and mercy. My memories offer comfort in my grief, but my grieving continues. God’s time is the healer and on this I will wait, remembering and loving my brother.
Scripture for Thought:
A song of ascents.
When the LORD restored the captives of Zion,
we thought we were dreaming.
Then our mouths were filled with laughter;
our tongues sang for joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD had done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
Oh, how happy we were!
Restore our captives, LORD,
like the dry stream beds of the Negeb.
Those who sow in tears
will reap with cries of joy.
Those who go forth weeping,
carrying sacks of seed,
Will return with cries of joy,
carrying their bundled sheaves.