When I first started writng about my brother David, I put those posts in a category called An Unfinished Story –my bother finished his story here on this earth on August 19, 2017 and entered the beauty of his new life and story in heaven. And while this part of his journey is over, I suspect I’ll still be writing and reflecting on his precious life here…
These are the words I spoke at his memorial service this past Saturday evening, August 26, 2017:
There’s so much I want to share with you about my brother David. But I decided the one small thing I’ll share with you this evening is what I saw this past spring when David was in the ICU.
This fall will be twenty years since I moved away from northern Virginia to south Florida.
Only a few short months after I moved, I experienced my first winter in Florida –Palm trees, warm weather, blue skies, and the evergreen and tropical landscape. What a strange and wonderful sight.
After a few years, the strange and wonderful sight of the ever-present summer of south Florida replaced the experience of the four seasons. A perpetual summer became common-place and familiar.
I’ve traveled back to Virginia a few times in these twenty years, but in the familiar green summers or colorful leafy falls.
This year was different, I traveled back here on the cusp of spring.
David was fighting pneumonia in the ICU at Fort Belvoir Hospital and I knew I needed to be there. I remember my drive with dad to the hospital on a Saturday morning and taking in the sights of spring, blossoming trees and perennial flowers sprouting up from the ground. It was an incredible sight. We rode along familiar roads and hills into Fort Belvoir, even though it was familiar it also felt strange. I saw forests on either side as we entered the base. There were some flowering trees starting to blossom, but the oaks, and maples, and sweet gum trees were nothing but brown branches, “Are those trees dead?” I asked dad.
“No, no. All this will be green soon.”
We arrived at the hospital and spent the rest of the day in the ICU with mom and David and Heidi and the girls. I was afraid of seeing him with all the tubes and machines hooked up, but David has a way of making these things seem unimportant. I could still see the smile in his eyes, and despite it all, he even gave me a genuine smile when I came over to his bed and held his hand.
We sat by his side while he rested. We talked and prayed together and talked with all the nurses who came in to care for David. Dad brought in a package from Aunt Jan and we shared all the photos and letters from when David, Heidi, and I were little.
For so many years my family has prayed over David. I can remember my prayers for him as a child. I expectantly waited for God’s miracle healing of my brother. This struggle with faith, and with trusting in God, and with questioning pain and suffering – all of it has been with me through the years. But also through the years, I know God has heard my prayers, and He gently shows me his love, for my questioning self, and for my brother –in the midst of his trials and despite his trials.
What I’ve always longed for was David’s complete healing. I’ve often heard the words, “we don’t know whether healing will come here on earth or in heaven.” And in my true childlike and selfish nature I would want to throw a fit at God and say, “That’s not the miracle I’m looking for. We’ll all be whole in heaven.”
That doesn’t count.
And then God gently reminds me again…
He showed me on a walk with mom outside David’s hospital. We walked along a tree lined path and I saw more flowering trees blossoming and more oak trees standing bare against the blue sky. I asked her too, “Mom are these trees along this path all dead?” And her answer was of course no.
I was only there four short days, but on Monday when I said my last goodbye to my brother I walked outside among the trees and I saw on those brown branches little buds beginning to appear.
In the ICU We faced death all around. Outwardly we saw it. The doctor and nurses spoke of it. Yet God showed me, this is not all there is.
He shows each of us. Reminds us through spring and these full green summer trees, There is life again.
2 Corinthians 4:10-12 and vs 16-18 says:
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
I walked along the Fort Belvoir hospital path again this morning, This time with my dad and uncle Bob. The path was lined with full green oaks, paper birch trees, southern bayberry and thick grass. I saw and heard the new life all around. I couldn’t see it in the trees in the early spring. I could hardly imagine this pathway so full of new life. But new life has come.
In April I could only see David’s broken and dying body. But now new life has come. The miracle of healing I’ve been praying for is his. I can hardly imagine!