The past week-plus has been HARD. It's been full of sorrow and grief over the sudden passing of my 45 year old brother. So here is the sad story of a time in my life that I never in a million years thought would happen....
We arrived in northern California on Thursday night, January 14th, after driving approximately 15 hours (total) on Wednesday and Thursday to get there. We met up with my family at someone's house who had dinner for us and then almost immediately sat down with my brother's pastor and told him about Steve's life. We laughed and we cried over the stories and memories we all have of him. Friday night was the viewing. It's hard to describe the gamut of emotions I went through as I walked up to that casket and saw my brother lying there so quiet and still. "Breathe!" I'm silently screaming. "Wake up! Sit up and tell us it's one of your stupid jokes you love to play on people!" But, it's not one of his jokes, this is real. My brother, in the prime of his life is gone. Yes, it's only his shell laying there in that casket, but it's the shell that surrounded the full-of-life person that my brother was. Saturday, January 16, was the funeral. There was standing room only. The pastor took our stories we'd told him about Steve, and wove them into a wonderful depiction of his life. There was a beautiful photo tribute with Steve's favorite songs playing as we watched his life unfold in pictures. And then his friends got up to pay their tributes to him. I was amazed at all that I had missed in his life. I was enough older then him, so I was away at college or already out on my own during the years when he really started making an impact on people. And an impact he made, and it was so wonderful to hear how he was a positive influence with so many of them from classmates in school to the youth in his church. This ornery brother of mine, who used to torment me when we were growing up, who always had to have the last word because he was always right, had another side, a side that truly impacted people for the better, well MOSTLY for the better. There were a few stories... well, I'm not going to repeat them. LOL. The sad things is, he didn't show this other side of him, to us, his family, all that much. But now he is gone. And that just doesn't seem real, yet. And then, after all the tributes, my daughters and I had to get up and sing one of Steve's favorite songs, "I Can Only Imagine." I don't know how we did it except that God was with us and I didn't look at anyone in the audience. If you'd like to see the video of us singing, it's at the bottom of this blog. After the service, it was a great reunion with lots of people, some whom I hadn't seen in years. It was great to see these people, but the reason why we were seeing all of them sure was a "crappy" one - pardon my "French"!
We had the privilege of staying at the house of Tad and Jackie, Steve's best friends. What a blessing it was to get to know this family and I can totally see why my brother loved them. I'm also very grateful to Jackie for telling us about the last few days of Steve's life. I was amazed, as she talked to us, at all the ways I saw God's fingerprint on things leading up to Steve's death. God knew that it was Steve's time soon, but being the loving God that He is, He made sure that people were where they were supposed to be so that my niece and nephews weren't alone when they got the news that their dad was gone. He also made sure that my parents were close by so that they didn't have a long drive to accomplish after they would have learned of Steve's death. There were other things, too, but it would made this blog entry WAY too long! Suffice it to say, I am just SO grateful that we serve such a loving God. Also, even though nothing is official yet, we are all pretty sure that what took my brother was an aneurysm. Anyway, here is what happened, as told to me by Jackie and also some input by Lexi, my niece:
Tuesday, January 5th, Steve was feeling neck pain. He was also feeling dizzy and actually had to hold on to the wall to be able to keep from falling a few times. He attributed it to a pinched nerve, shrugged it off and went home early. Wednesday, his daughter, Lexi, said he was feeling pretty good and he worked all day. However, early on Thursday morning, around 3am, he was in such pain he was crying out. Lexi called Tad and Jackie because she didn't know what to do. She talked to Jackie who told her to take him to ER and that one of them would meet her there. So that is what happened. After a few hours at the ER, the hospital wanted him to stay so they could run more tests, but he was feeling better because of all the pain meds they'd given him. So, in his typical stubborn style, he insisted on going home. On his way out to the car, and he had to be helped out to it, he mentioned how much his head hurt even with all the pain meds they'd given him. Hmmmm. Severe neck pain and a screaming headache along with dizziness and vomiting (did I mention that?). And he thought he could go home?! HELLO?!! Well, he stayed home and rested on Thursday and by Friday, he wasn't doing so well. He'd fallen out of bed during the night and had hit his head on a mirror and also on a golf club. His kids were worried enough that they took his mattress topper off the bed and put it on the floor in the living room and had him lie down there so he couldn't fall out of bed anymore. Around noon, my niece had a short conversation with him and then around 1:30 she went to tell him that she was going to go pick up her brothers from school. That is when she saw that he looked "funny" and she couldn't wake him up. She called my parents, who had been traveling all day to get there and still about an hour away, and they told her to call 911 immediately. He was rushed to the hospital where they worked on him for quite a while, but they couldn't bring him back. And finally the doctor had to go tell the kids that their dad was gone from this world. Shortly after that my parents arrived and, well, life will never be the same again! My niece and nephews have lost a dad, my parents have lost a son, their only son, my sister and I have lost a brother, and many people have lost a good friend. We will all miss him! But we all know we will see my brother again! It's at a time like this, that my faith in the One who has given us eternal life becomes all that much more precious to me! I don't know how I'd get through something like this without Him! So now we start to put the pieces back together in a new puzzle of life. Day by day, step by step, I suppose we'll get there. But it sure hurts a lot right now!