I learned today that another one of my “birth” brothers has died – that he died yesterday.
He was much older than I. He was in the USAF and then married and out of the house by the time I was 6 or so, so my relationship with him was distant, but we “sort of” kept in touch. Moreso than other family members, anyway.
I remember, when I was very, very small and he was home on leave, being fascinated by his blue eyes. Our father’s eyes were a sort of hazel-blue that would change with mood and clothing – mine are similar except they change to green – but John had gaslight-blue eyes. Sinatra eyes. They drew you in.
His was a very sad life. He was treated cruelly as a child, and not just by the mad patriarch who got us all in one way or another. He was rejected by many in the family and left rather confused about where he belonged in the world. That was a question he never managed to get answered. Two suicide attempts in his life, and a great deal of sadness. Even in the “joyful” times, he never seemed comfortable or happy. The blue eyes always seemed to betray that vulnerability and insecurity. Neglected in his childhood, he neglected himself in adulthood. He lost his teeth early, and always looked decades older than he was.
It has been almost a year since we talked and our last conversation was not happy. He had been rather deliberately hurt, one more time, by an older family member who knew exactly how to hurt him – by excluding him. She could not have known, when she cut him, that he was already pretty sick and in a wheelchair.
He had no faith, wished for no funeral, no rites, no memorial.
I don’t blame him for not having faith. I can’t think of any example of love he ever encountered that did not – ultimately – get distorted or misrepresented or prove itself to be wholly untrustworthy, not to be counted on, not to be believed.
I loved him, but I was much younger than he, and of a completely different nature. I doubt he believed it, that I loved him. He had no tools to believe it.
How tragically sad is that?
I know people who like to pretend to victimhood, who spend a great deal of time counting all the ways they have been hurt.
Well, we all get hurt. As I said in the podcast yesterday, our lives – in may ways – wreck us. The loud “poor-me’s” who revel in their victimhood and throw themselves pity parties…well, at the very least they get some satisfaction in the notice they demand of others.
John never demanded notice. Likely he never believed he was worth anyone’s noticing. When you are rejected by your parents at a young age, never quite included in “the family,” that can happen.
It has never been my habit to decide the spiritual fate of someone else; in fact I loathe nothing more than folks who presumptuously declare they know the state of someone else’s soul, because of this scripture verse or that. These people, to me, seem unloving, empty and oddly disconnected from the scripture they quote…as though their intellect has cut off from their heart. Other people mean well, but…I know tomorrow my email will contain a few missives from people who will quote scripture at me and enumerate to me all the reasons my brother is not now in the peace of Christ.
I say to hell with that. He was loved into being; he was baptized and sealed. The people who were supposed to teach him the way in which to go spun him madly, incessantly – then allowed him to get dizzy and lost. He lived a sad, tortured life the best way he knew how – quite imperfectly, but then his tools were also very insufficient and his trust was non-existent. I cannot claim to know anything, but I do not believe that a loving God would look upon this much-sinned against man and reject him once again, as he was rejected all his life.
For one thing, none of us know what happens in those infinitesimal moments between life and death, if mercy is offered one more time, and accepted.
For another, the Good Shepherd knows when a sheep has been left behind and gotten lost, has fallen helplessly into a crevice, and has died alone – abandoned to the cold and his own fear.
And so tonight – and for many nights – I will pray for John, for the repose of his soul. For his consolation and peace, in the mercy of God.
Tonight, I am believing that my brother John is finally in the presence of the all-encompassing and unconditional love in which he can finally trust, finally surrender to…or that he has glimpsed enough of it to want more, however long it takes to become fit for it.