My younger brother would have been 47 today.
My brother was an amazing individual, with great stories to tell, but I never heard most of them. I do know of his move to Las Vegas, his climbing mountains, his creating huge machinery. I even know about the time he spent the night trapped in a snow cave on one of his climbs. I have seen some of the pictures he took from atop the mountains. Breath-taking and beautiful.
He told me, not long before he took his life, how he knew that this life did not happen by accident, that just did not make sense to him. But then, a god who who let little children suffer did not make sense to him either. And he could not honor such a god.
He told me of his trip to Seattle. And about how the whole reason he left Las Vegas and went there was simply because a voice told him to go. A literal, audible (to him at least) voice that spoke to him. He did not know where the voice came from or who it belonged to, but he followed. He followed it again as he was in Seattle, and got off an exit. There he drove past a machine shop, stopped in and was hired. His new boss became an avid fan and supporter of his climbing efforts. He was on top of the world, literally and figuratively. But like any mountain-top experience, it did not last for long.
When he came back home again, it for a different reason. This time it was not a voice, it was his circumstances. Homeless, living on the streets of Seattle, near death and out of options, he asked mom and dad for a plane ticket home. They loved their son, and got the ticket for him. They were not prepared for what they saw when they picked him up at the airport. He was not the son they remembered. Instead, before them was a tall man who was nothing but skin and bones, the effects of a heroine addiction.
He recovered. Not through a 12-step program or a religious experience, but just out of sheer will-power. An amazing feat for anyone who understands the power of the drug. For ten years he stayed clean. But then he gave in again. By now, Mom and Dad were gone. He reached out to me and my brother. We did what we could to help. We took him in, took him to recovery centers, helped him get things back in order while he sweated out the withdrawl process. He found another job in a machine shop. His boss found him to be an amaingly talented machinist. His talent so impressed the owner of the company that he invested in new machinery that he would operate. But the power of the drug was too strong for him.
He tried to commit suicide, but his roommate found him before it was too late. Barely. Another treatment center. A 12-Step program was a part of that treatment. But he wouldn't have it, he refused to let any kind of a higher power run his life. The lies and deceptions began again.
It wasn't long before tried to kill himself again, and this time he was successful. I remember getting the call from my older brother, not wanting to believe it, but knowing it was true. He was gone.
He left a note. In it, he apologized. He spoke of how he loved his family, his brothers, their wives and his niece and nephews. He also said that he just couldn't take it anymore.
Not all stories have a happy ending. This one certainly didn't.
I have an older brother. We were talking recently about our younger brother, about God, about life. He told me that believed that Jesus died for our sins and that everything happens for a reason. He also told me that he couldn't worship a god who would not let his youngest brother into heaven.
I can. I do.
I don't like the thought that he might not be there. But I will leave that in God's hands. I know that God loved him and pursued him. What I don't know is if that made a difference for him. Perhaps at the end, he cried out, like the thief on the cross. Maybe not. But I cannot and will not put my own brother before God.
There is a Scripture that puzzles or puts off a lot of people. It goes like this.
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26 (NIV)
It is not that God is an egomaniac. It is not that He is jealous of my brother or any other family member. It is just that He is God. And as such, I need to trust Him. For me to say that He shouldn't allow so much evil in the world, or that I wouldn't serve Him if He wouldn't let someone into heaven is just me putting myself in His place. I don't have to watch Bruce Almighty to know that I don't want that job. Besides, He doesn't really want me to hate anyone. In fact, I am told that a more accurate translation of the word hate in this instance is "to love less."
My younger brother would have been 47 today. He could have beaten the addiction. He should have surrendered. I love him. Always will.