I Had a Brother . . . But, He Died.

jhk_11“Today would have been your brother’s (fill in the blank) birthday.”

I resented hearing Mom’s words every January 17th. Stillborn? Died at birth? I wasn’t sure. But there had been an older brother who died eight years before I was born. When he died, he left me an only child. A part of me went missing forever.

I remember when my parents told me at a restaurant, dinner-time dark. “You had a brother, but he died.” My five-year-old eyes gazed out the window past the red-white-and blue neon sign. They fixed on the Interstate, counting cars, blinking back hot tears.

In the first grade, my teacher asked, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” “I have one brother,” a classmate offered. “Two sisters.” “Three.” She wrote the numbers on the chalkboard. When my turn came, I answered, “I had a brother, but he died.” I recognized then that this dead brother validated me. He lifted me up from that “only” category that I despised. I wasn’t an only, and I wasn’t alone.

I knew little about him. His name would have been Dennis. My mother had almost died in childbirth. Dad’s mother, so full of grief, smashed his oak cradle into a million pieces. They buried him in the grave with my dad’s infant sister with a simple marker: Infant Son of Betty and Charles Fischer. Still, this brother existed in my heart in the present, and he grew older every January 17th.

Other than the annual birth announcement, my parents never mentioned him. There was much that I wanted to ask, but I never did. As an adult, I could imagine the stinging pain of losing a child. I stopped resenting when they counted the years.

Three months after what would have been his 55th birthday, my mother spoke of him as she lay dying in her hospital bed.

“I’m going to see your brother.”

I held her hand. “You’ve been the best mom to me. Now, go. Take care of your little boy.” I gave her to him, and she went willingly.

January 17th comes and goes without the words, “Today your brother would have been . . .” Still, every day, he lives in my heart. I feel him growing old with me, always present, my guardian angel.

1 Corinthians 13:12 says: “Now we see as if we are looking into a dark mirror. But at that time, in the future, we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part. But at that time I will know fully.”

il_340x270.1072332969_8atsSome day, my brother, Dennis, and I will be together in heaven. But until then, I go on doing what I always have—living for him and with him, enjoying every minute of my life here on earth, never feeling like an “only”. My brother is and always has been a part of me, a treasured gift from God.

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Are You Still Waiting?

004-shepherds-angels.jpgMy favorite part of Jesus’ birth story is the shepherds. I imagine them under a starlit sky. Some guard their sheep from predators. Others nap until their watch shift, the only sound the occasional bleating of a lamb. And then comes a blinding white light! An angel of the Lord appears.

    The bible says the shepherds were terrified. Who wouldn’t be?

Do not be afraid,” the angel says. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the sky opens up. A host of angels praise God:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Wow! Wouldn’t you want to be there?

static1.squarespace.jpgThe shepherds never questioned the angel. They knew exactly what it meant. The Messiah had come. In that age before newspapers, radio, television, social media, it took more than a thousand years for the news of the Messiah to spread until everyone heard. The bible says the news spread through many generations: fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. The news trickled down from prophets who passed it to the people. Then, finally, God chose the lowly shepherds in the dead of night as the first to know that the prophesy was fulfilled—the Messiah had come. The long wait was over.

The lesson here is that God makes His people wait until His time is precisely right. What to humans was generations of waiting, to God was a blink of His eye, an appointed time in His master plan. We forget this. We want God to act instantly. We forget that part of His character is making people wait. His timing and ours is not the same.

jesus-second-comingWe count the days to Christmas, the day when we celebrate Christ’s birth, but we also wait for the day when He returns. Maybe our generation will be like the shepherds that night. Maybe we will be blessed to see Him come. If not, then surely our ancestors will be surprised like the shepherds. When they least expect it they will see Jesus coming in the sky to take them home—forever. And how glorious that will be!

Please remember this Christmas that the miracle of Christ is not over. We wait for our Messiah to come again–in God’s time–in His perfect time.

Glory! Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those whom his favor rests.

God bless all of you, my readers,
At Christmastime
And always!

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