Today marks the one-month anniversary of the unexpected passing of my brother, Joe. He was nine days past his forty-second birthday. The Lord called him home sometime during the middle of the night on a seemingly ordinary Saturday. Death almost always feels like a thief, especially when it steals the young or strikes without warning. It is traumatic for those left in its wake, and it has felt like a different level of grief to navigate.
In the days following my brother's death, one of the things I struggled with the most was wondering what I was doing at the moment of his death. The very moment his life crossed over the thin veil between this life and into eternity. Perhaps I was brushing my teeth, or wrestling my four-year-old to get into her pajamas. Maybe I was unwinding while watching a Netflix series or scrolling the timeline of social media. I know it feels irrelevant, since the knowing would not change the outcome. Yet it still feels like an answer I want to have. Like I should have known the moment that his heart stopped beating and mine continued on. I would have liked to apologize to him for not knowing. But I don’t know the exact moment. I don’t know what I was doing, and I never will. What I do know is that he would not want me to carry sorrow over this.
In the long stretch of days between receiving the news and the funeral, there were many moments of reflection. Of trying to process this unwanted new reality. On one of those days I found myself at work. Sanitizing table tops as part of the pandemic protocol, I noticed a decorative piece on one of tables in our coffee house. It’s a bendable hand which can be changed into different positions. While I’ve seen this piece a hundred different times, I knew this time was different. Someone had left a small rose tucked in the hand.
The Lord is always speaking to us in the ordinary things of life. In John 1:1, it says this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This passage speaks of Jesus who is known to us. Is always present with us. Continually speaks to us. We just need to pause to listen.
I knew in that moment, just as the delicate rose rested in the artwork hand, I too am also being held in all my moments. I am held when aware of God’s presence with me. I am held even when not aware and am feeling alone. I was held in that moment when life seemed to be like any other ordinary Saturday. In reality it was quite different because my brother’s life was slipping away.
Here’s the other truth: my brother is also held by God. He was never alone for a second because the Word, Jesus, who became flesh and entered our human story, was with him. Holding him. Comforting him.
I was held. He was held. And we were both carried by love.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
One of the effects of unexpected loss and tragedy is lingering fear and anxiety. You see, it's easy to believe that at some point in the future, another loss may occur that will blindside you. In those moments, when my heart is consumed by worry over what the future will bring, and my inability to handle it, I remind myself of the promise in Psalm 46:5. “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Only the Sovereign Lord knows what tomorrow holds. All that I need to know is that I am held by Him. All of my tomorrows are known to Him. I am carried by His love for me. He is my help. He is my strength. He is enough.
Father, thank you for the gift of family and relationship. Thank you for the years I got to know, love and spend with my brother. Thank you for the reminder that he was never alone and neither am I. You are the comforter and the one who has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us. I pray for those who are hurting and grieving today. Those who need a reminder of your presence with them, and your love for them. Draw them close to you today. Amen.
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