February 23rd marked 15 years since that dreaded knock on the door that changed our lives forever. I can remember it like it was yesterday, but I long to forget it.
As a 13-year old social butterfly, I was anxious to answer the door to any visitor. Little did I know that on that Sunday night, I would open the door to find a police officer standing on our porch. The officer quickly asked for my parents and my dad dutifully and promptly came to the door. One glance at the uniform standing in our threshold and my dad knew that something was terribly wrong.
The events that came next are too horrible to even speak of, yet alone write about. Wailing, crying, screaming, and a broken hand that had been punched into the asphalt were just a few of the ways that each of my family members reacted to hearing the worst news of our lives.
The news that my parent’s firstborn son, our oldest brother, had died in a car accident at the age of nineteen.
It is easy to deify people once they are gone, but Brian needed no adulation after his death. His life said it all. The same things said about him at his funeral were said about him while he was still living. He was a man passionate about God, willing to stand up for what he believed no matter the cost, while still extending grace and love to all those around him. He was a young man after God’s own heart.
The two-thousand people who attended his funeral and the hospital in Zimbabwe, Africa that would carry his name were all evidence of the deep impact he made on the lives of others.
The weeks, months, and years that followed are a hazy, distant memory. My parents each dealt with their grief differently, as did their four other children. It seemed at times that the pain we all were feeling would never end and that none of us would ever find healing. Such a tragedy left permanent scars on each of us, scars that can reopen without a moment’s notice even to this day.
A common misconception of grief is that it gets easier with time. There is nothing easy about grief.
Over time, however, God gives us glimpses of joy even in the darkest times that make each day a little bit more bearable. Times where we laugh together as a family again or cheer for each other at soccer games and graduations. Times that will always be bittersweet, but that act as rays of sunshine in a dark closet. Times that we can remember a memory of Brian with a smile on our faces instead of tears on our cheeks.
February 23rd is still a dreaded day and it always will be until we are all united in Heaven. It is a day we all wish we could blot off the calendar. Although we feel the loss of our brother every day, that day is a constant reminder of the horrible event that changed the course of each of our lives…A day that will always echo of a searing loss.
But it is also a day where we can choose joy in the face of anguish. We can mourn the loss of our brother with hope. We can choose to honor him by clinging to the One whose presence he is basking in at this very moment.
And I choose joy.
“Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God.” Robert Schulle