{my brother and me in Oklahoma, about 1981}

“how long you have traveled in darkness weeping
no rest in language, no words to speak
but there in the wreckage beneath bricks and bindings
love has come, love has come for you”

He was fourteen when I was born. In my clearest memories he is a merciless teaser and a fierce protector.

Once, when I was somewhere in the melodramatic early teens, we were fishing together at the pond on the family farm in Oklahoma.  After he went back to the house, I suddenly got a huge bite.  I pulled with all my might–and the line snapped.

I stormed into the house, wailing that it was all his fault for leaving me alone. I don’t recall that he said anything; but he went back to the pond, waded out into the waist-high water (populated with cottonmouths–but then that only increased the fun for him), found my broken line, retrieved my enormous catfish, and caught another for good measure.

Then he made me kill them with a brick, cut off the heads, and clean them.

{my graduation from Wheaton College, 2001}

“against the night sky of your waiting
your face is like starlight when he walks in
everything worth keeping comes through dying
love has come, love has come for you”

Consistency was not his greatest strength, but two things he told me often, that I knew were true: he loved me, and he was proud of me.

And he was loved. He had great gifts: the ability to execute breathtaking drawings and masterful feats of carpentry without apparent effort–and the ability to touch hearts so that people loved him.  The talents were not fully realized, and the love not fully embraced, but they remained: a mark of the mercy we all need.

{my brother and my daughter, 2011}

“so lift up your heart now, to this unfolding
all that has been broken will be restored
here runs deep waters for all who are thirsty
love has come, love has come for you”

I have been thinking about choices–about the fact that the wages of sin is death, and that even we who have been brought from death to life still wrestle with walking in the strength of that new life.

We are light, and life–but we still choose darkness, sometimes, and the works that are ultimately scented with death.  I believe, but some days I choose anger, and bitterness, and despair.  Every morning I read from the Book of Common Prayer: “‘By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope’…you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity…”

I think my brother’s tragedy was that he could never wholly choose, with both hands and both feet. He chose Christ, and yet the light felt a little too bright, still, to walk in all day, and the darkness a little too familiar to fully forsake.

But in the last year there were glimmers, stronger than before: light streaming through the chinks and growing brighter.

“ten thousand angels will light your pathway
until the day breaks fully in the East
they will surround you and make your way straight
love has come, love has come for you
love has come, love has come for you”

And so in the end, I believe Love came for him: the love he had claimed, and put his hope in, and never totally made his only anchor. I think the Preserver preserved. Sitting in the pastor’s office with my parents, I suddenly remembered the words: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). He had confessed, and recently. I can only assume that he had also believed, and was snatched at the last to the safety of the new day.

When these pictures were taken, I had no thought that it was the last time I would see my brother. I don’t think I even actually said goodbye. That had to be said in other ways: music, and words, and a hand helping with the heavy casket.

It is a strange, lonesome feeling, losing my only sibling. I am so sorry it was now. But I am glad that he is loosed from the wreckage and the bindings, because Love has come for him at last, and had the last word.

(Lyrics from “Ten Thousand Angels” by Caedmon’s Call)