Mother's Day was spent at the funeral home. All the siblings and their spouses who lived in the community gathered with dearest one's parents to plan. That 8 children, their spouses, my brother-in-law's partner, his ex wife and his sons could all gather and plan without fighting, no disputing, just calmly and kindly plan is really a miracle. I wonder why we can grasp what is important at the time of death but are often unable to do it in life.
People were so kind. We had been on welfare and were using the foodbank for about 7 months when he died. Stretched to the limit emotionally, spiritually and every which way we had already seen that when people give of themselves they were sacrificing. Whether it was an encouraging word, a bag of groceries, paying our rent or simply making sure we could find the strength to face another day we knew they were sacrificing. They could have been doing something else with their time, their resources, their very being. They could have walked the other way until our life's circumstances changed.
I stood before the picture of Jesus on my wall that day and with tears streaming down my face said, "God is good." It felt like the words were being pulled out of me one by one. I thought of all the times I sat in church and heard the congregation respond to the statement, "God is good" with "all the time". I don't think there was once that I ever believed it. I thought to say it meant I had to like everything that happened in my life and I knew I didn't. God is with us in our circumstances but is not the author of them.
I've been sitting here for ten minutes trying to decide what to write about my brother-in-law so that you can get a glimpse of who he was to me. Writing him a letter seems to be the only way I can gather my thoughts.
Dear brother who loved and knew my dearest one like no one else ever will,
What I would give to look you in the eyes one more time. To hear your gravelly voice. To see your smile. To even have you say for the umpteenth time that I was pissed off at you because you were drinking again. To hang up on you because you woke me up at 5 am. I wish for the chance to be graced with being able to say I believed in you and that I loved you when all I wanted to do was beat your chest because you were numbing the pain.
I know you got grace. I wish I could have honoured that in you instead of being threatened by it. Accepted you as is. There were times, especially when you were drinking, that you spoke the truth so clearly that I flinched.
When people drink they become unpredictable. I hated how my heart speeded up when you showed up drunk. Maybe the problem was that every ounce of pharisee within me came to the surface when I saw you. Maybe I couldn't stand to see myself so clearly so I projected it all onto you. You were always a no bullshit kind of guy. When what came out of my mouth and what was in my spirit didn't match you called me on it every time, sometimes without saying a word. There was an authenticity within you that's rare to find in people. The thing I was most uncomfortable about around you was that being in your presence showed me at a gut level that I was wearing so many masks and you knew it.
I sit here and think about the time we went to court with you. The look on your face as they led you away to jail. How scared and trapped your eyes looked. The tears of the young boy behind us who had a glimpse into his future if he didn't make different choices. When sentencing you the judge was speaking to the hearts of all those young people there that day too.
I think of you every time I get up and the first thing out of my mouth is not "good morning." I remember how I came out of the bedroom one morning and started in on oldest son, telling him this and that. You looked at me and said, "You could at least say good morning first."
I think about the time you came over and we spent the evening around the campfire reading the bible. My big headedness because you were so impressed I knew so many verses and where to find them. I could spell grace real well but living it was another thing. You saw God in places where I didn't even know to look. You got grace. It was all those messages in your head from childhood that said God could only be found in one religion that fucked you up again and again.
I had fuzzy boundaries when it came to you. I'm not sure I would be any better at it today. It's one thing to have fuzzy boundaries, it's another to be able to love the one who continually shows you that you do simply by being themselves. I tend to avoid people who make me aware of those places in my life where I stumble and fall. Being loving to you was awful hard. Funny, I never felt like loving me was hard for you.
I wanted to see your sobriety stick. I know now that you wanted it too, more than any of us. I'm sorry I judged you so harshly for numbing your pain in the only way you knew how. You remind me to hold the pain of others to the Light, not beat it with my fists and stomp on it as if it doesn't matter, as if it doesn't enter into the equation of their actions.
The last time you talked to dearest one before you died you told him to remember your agreement that whoever got to the Eastern gate first would wait for the other one. I know you wait in anticipation.