Monday, January 18, 2010

My brother, Steve

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!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Well, it's a New Year and.....

I'd like to start off this post by saying Happy New Year... and it was until January eight. Oh, January eight started off great, as it is my second daughter, Rachel's, birthday, her "sweet sixteen" birthday this year! So it was a great day until sometime in the afternoon when I got a phone call from my mom asking me to pray for my brother, Steve, who hadn't been feeling well since the day before, had gone to ER the night before, in fact, and got sent home even though he was in extreme debilitating pain, because for some reason they couldn't figure out what was wrong. So Friday afternoon, Lexi, my seventeen year old niece, called my mom because she couldn't wake her dad up. Needless to say, 911 was called, my brother was rushed back to the hospital, and then the next phone call came. The one that has changed our lives forever. My brother was dead. Five days before his 46th birthday, my ornery, hard-headed, stubborn, fun-loving, story-telling, life-of-the-party brother was dead. "NO!" I said! This just can't BE! Not MY brother! It must be somebody else's brother because mine couldn't possibly have died! But it's true. The shock is starting to wear off and reality is setting in. My brother is gone. He leaves behind three kids, Lexi, Brock & Bryce. He was a single dad to them, the one constant in their lives. I want to scream, "Where are you, God?! Is it not enough that we've been going through the "storm" of no income and the possibility of losing our house? Is it not enough that my husband has been having to deal with extremely painful kidney stones while he's desperately trying to find a way to support us again. Is it not enough that our appliances keep breaking down, our car doesn't run right, and now THIS?! And what about my niece and nephews? They don't DESERVE this kind of pain!" Yep, that's what I might say, but what I"ll say instead is, "Jesus, I trust You! I trust You, yes I trust You!" He will sustain us through this. I don't know how, and I certainly don't know why we're having to endure all this, but I'm learning to trust Him more and more through this huge storm we are in the midst of! 1 Peter 1:6-7 says: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." James 1:2 says to "consider it pure joy" when we face trials. Well, to be honest, I'm working on that one. I'm not feeling too joyful right now. I still can't believe that my brother is gone and that his kids are pretty much parentless now. In fact, the tears come quite often, and I'm still wishing I could just wake up and have this all be a bad dream! But the reality is, is that we'll be leaving on my brother's birthday this Wednesday, to travel up to his funeral. I HATE that! I hate that I won't get to tell him one last time that I love him, or give him one last hug! I hate that I'm going to get there and most likely sit down and cry with my mom and with my niece and nephews. I hate all this! But somehow I will get through this, not on my own, but with the One who knew the number of Steve's days before he was even born. With the One who I know loves us with an everlasting love, with the One who, even though I don't see it now, has the perfet plan going on for us. But in the meantime, I will miss my brother and I look forward to the day when I will see him again and then it will be even better because we won't be parted by miles, and there won't be the stresses in our lives that have made life so difficult, and we'll have eternity to to talk it all out! Whew! I am SO glad for that hope!