What is it about the holidays that make us so much more suceptible to grief? I've had my brother on my mind so much this week. I'm sure it's because he left this world so close to the holidays and his birthday was in December and it's the first Christmas that I haven't received a phone call from him.
And all of sudden I'm beating myself up for not staying with him the night he died. He died alone and for that I wish I could go back and change the decision I made to come back home from Durham that night. Why didn’t I stay….and why am I just now dealing with this?
My relationship with Joe hit a few rocky spots over the years. You really have to work at relationships when a sibling is 19 years older than you and was off at college when you were born and married shortly thereafter. I didn’t grow up living with him at all like most people do with their siblings.
I loved his first wife, Johnnie. They had no children and she (more than he) treated me like I was her child. As a matter of fact, my sister recently told me that Johnnie begged my mother when I was born to let her adopt me and raise me as their own. Then when I was 13, their marriage fell apart. Joe remarried as soon as their divorce was final. My heart was broken – Johnnie’s heart was broken. She dealt with it the best way she knew how – she withdrew from our whole family. I carried the hurt and bitterness toward Joe around like excess baggage for many years. Many years later when Johnnie came back into our lives as a friend, she urged me to forgive Joe. She told me that she was partially to blame and went on to give some flimsy excuse why. But with God’s help, and knowing that she still loved him and had forgiven him, I finally forgave. .
We built a wonderful relationship from there and I learned to love him like a brother again.
Thank you Johnnie for giving me that. Joe and Johnnie never quit loving each other but remained faithful to their second marriages. The two of them are with each other again and with God – for they were both believers – they loved each other from a distance for all those years. Joe later told me that he realized right away that he had made a mistake, but he couldn’t right a wrong with another wrong by leaving his second wife.
I can’t go back and change the decision that I made the night Joe passed away. But I can move on and I can share with others to do what is in your heart and listen more closely to God’s wishes instead of trying to be reasonable. A brother’s love defies reason. But Joe would have forgiven me as Johnnie forgave him. I love you Joe – breathe that fresh air in heaven that you could not get enough of here on earth with your broken lungs.