Yesterday, my brother Bob died.
We found out right after our Good Friday service, which is the sort of thing that tests your faith. It was a shock in the sense that Bob was a 22-year-old man who did not engage in the sorts of activities that endanger the lives of so many men that age. He died shortly after a seizure of the type he’d experienced (and took medication for) since high school. As my wife relayed my mom’s message, the shock faded into dull regret and sharpened into grief. It’s one thing to nod with the pastor explaining why the death of one man is good despite appearances and quite another to accept the death of a brother whose life seemed to lay primarily in the future.
I repeat, for my own benefit, that Bob was a man. To me, he will always be a boy.
This photo was taken of him at my wedding when he was ten—the same age as my oldest son. We don’t have many photos of him from that day since the photographer didn’t know until later that he was my brother and not a cousin. Even to me, 18 years older than him, Bob seemed like a stranger that my parents brought into their house. When he answered the phone after his voice dropped, I always mistook him for my brother Dave. His steady approach to the world reminded me of no other than my brother Doug. As I write this, the guilt gnaws at me; I wish I’d gotten to know him better.
Was it good that Bob died when he did? By no means! Death is an evil we all face; death is never right or fair. Most of us are familiar with the verse that Bob is standing in front of in that photo. It ends with the sweet promise of everlasting life. Even so, I am angry with God that he took Bob from us. I am already dreading the days and weeks and months to come when dark thoughts and feelings will sneak our lives and steal bits of our memories of Bob. I worry that pain will overwhelm some of us who knew him.
And yet, deep down, at the core of my being, I know that light will not entirely vanish from the world. After we follow Bob through the shadowy valley, we will find him not resting, but rejoicing over a full life well lived. If you knew Bob, do not seek out the darkness—it will come. Rather find the shafts of light. For myself, I will remember the backpacking trips we took together, the game nights and jokes, his accomplishments as a he grew, and the day I learned that I had another brother whose name is Robert.
Even on the darkest of days, dawn comes in the morning.