It's Random Journal Day in my part of the blogisphere (though we've been on hiatus for a couple of months) and I've had a certain blue notebook beside my chair in wait for it. When my sisters visited a few weeks ago, we were talking about when our brother A died. The year, I mean. The date wasn't in question: he died on my daughter SK's birthday. So when we couldn't agree, I went to my journals. When all else fails, go to the journals, and the journal will settle it, at least when it comes to dates. When my family wants to know why I seem to have a better memory than they do? Perhaps journal-keeping goes a long ways in explaining that. But I have to admit my journals have large gaps, too. They weren't/aren't written with history in mind. They're a living presence, a way of keeping in touch with a living God. Oh, please check out all the other journals, too, and the great interview with Kathryn Ross! RIGHT HERE
And so I come to this journal of the late January of 2008 (yes, it wasn't so long ago that brother A died but you'll see why it feels like far longer in a moment);
It's clogging my head so there's no room for anything else. Succinctly, he was homeless but not friendless. They came out of the woodwork to tell us that: to speak of how much they care about him, enjoyed working with him, laughed with him. "He was a very private person, we heard repeatedly. If they only knew...but we've always known, haven't we? One way or another, it's always come out.
Hours later, we've gone through his meager cadre belongings and discovered the other side of him. I keep hearing a phrase from a beer commercial, "He was who we thought he was." He really was. He had one t-shirt, some dirty underwear, one pair of pants, a very thin blanket, a wet towel, a new bag of socks along with a camera, two cell-phones (both locked) with Mom and RE's phone numbers in them. And other things I don't dare repeat here. But I can't not know now.
Tomorrow I will speak as Christ's representative and on our behalf, to this group of co-workers. I will stand before all these people who wonder about us, who question why this man's family turned our backs on him. Do I explain or not that the decade's silence was a complicated thing--not merely a family turning its back? A himself made that choice, and whatever he told them was not the whole truth. Or does any of that matter? Is there a need to defend ourselves? Or is there MORE need for them to simply continue to think well of the man they knew and less well of the strangers they do not. We're the suspicious characters in this story. And maybe it's more loving to him to leave it that way.
Christ, speak through me.
I loved my brother.
Sometimes I hated him.
Sometimes I was afraid of what he might do.
I did fail him, I know, though not in the ways they think.
So, Christ, speak YOUR love, your truth, your Gospel.
Please, don't leave me to myself.
For the sake of those people who grieve,
for A's sake,
for the sake of Mom at home and Dad in heaven.
And even for me.
I was going to stop here, but you won't know the ending, will you? So...
We had his memorial service; twice, actually spoke through it twice due to work schedules. It was well attended and the Universal [Studios] community clearly did love him. It's a huge thing to have one of your own die on the job. It sends shock waves through the whole pond.
So hopefully they feel comforted, more certain that A was not as alone in the world as he might have appeared. And hopefully some of their questions about our 'neglect' and apparent lack of interest in him have been answered. I'm glad I'd brought all the pictures from his baby- and childhood down so they had the board to look at, and that we told them those simple stories of his life before they knew him. But the truth is, he was far more complex than they know. I keep thinking that this week has been like a vertical blind: twisting one way, then turning a completely different way with a different face.
I spoke. Laying our cards on the table. Not a muscle moved as I told the facts of the nine year gap in relationship, our sense of responsibility, the difference in simply grieving him as they can and our having to live with this unfinished, broken, messy end that we can never repair. Then I spoke of God's love for A, of God having made A specifically and uniquely, and God knowing him for who he IS. And God loving him still.
To speak these words honestly was hard. To do so twice was practically beyond my endurance. Both times as I said the words, RE and LD cried. BB, I think, is grieving too deep for tears.