I don’t want to sound like the blog version of “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M., but man, life’s a bitch sometimes.
Today is the six-year anniversary of my brother’s death. YOU: Oh, I’m sorry. How’d he die?
ME: He killed himself.
YOU: (feeling like crap for asking) Oh man. I’m so sorry.
ME: It’s ok. (quickly trying to think of a clever or sarcastic comment to deter away from the awkward moment and the eminent saddness and uncomfortable depression that is creeping in around the corners of your eyes)
How’d i get here? How’d we get here? For the past 6 years, I have been haunted. By questions and much darker things; by what’s missing. There’s the person who will always be missing. Every single day ’til I die. At holidays, my wedding, special occasions, you get it. There’s those answers to questions. Why was my brother born bipolar? Why drugs? Why alcohol? Why was it his 3rd try? Why the gun? Why was i the one he called? Even simpler, why is that patty griffin album he bought for me here… but he’s not? And more importantly, the questions and the thing that’s gone missing has been that idea called hope.
A life spent in the church. Serving and living in community. The perfect picture of what anyone would say is what we christians offer to the world. I was a reader, a prayer, a leader, a lover of lost people and God. What i had was what we package up and ship out to the masses as the stuff heaven’s made of. But then, somewhere in the fabric of an in-line christian walk… a tear. Like the first vibrantly-bold color in Pleasantville. There, it first went missing.
I was given many things in the years to follow. Well-meant book marks, garden stones, cards, pictures, poems, you name it. But what i was never given was hope. Neither me or any one in my family were ever asked how my brother’s death affected us. I surmise that it’s because the real answer wasn’t what anyone was looking for. And I can’t tell you how many times i heard the phrase “God doesnt disappoint” or “all things work for good”. But what does that mean to a person who is disappointed? What did that mean to me or to the one God didn’t heal. Mostly, i think people were afraid. Of pain, of being honest with themselves. We had never been told from the pulpit how to deal with the questions of “why” or really anything relating to the human experience. Maybe I sound bitter, and maybe in some places in me, I am, but i won’t be the one to shut my mouth. I won’t be the one to look away. I won’t be the one to not ask the hard questions. I won’t let my bitterness or brokeness keep it silent anymore. I won’t let the miseducation and discomfort of the church (in this area) keep it silent. I just can’t believe that “Well, you’ll see him in heaven” is as good as it gets, because it’s not enough for me. What is there for me now? Right now? Today?
God found me with hope. He reached down into my darkness. He is still answering my questions, the ones that no one on this planet could even touch. The church as a whole, myself included (of course because i consider myself to be the church), have served a broken world a huge injustice. We have believed that christianity is about having all the answers. “Healing” people. Living a blessed life. We have been decieved. I submit that it is not as we would presume to think. In our one-dimesional view, God’s infinitely-dimensional view may have something more to do with love. The thing that, if in rare form on this planet, does show up, can change our lives. The love that doesn’t try to fix, doesn’t try to “play god”, or be the healer of all things broken. God is the one to do those things as he so chooses. We are to love, hope for the broken and believe in alternate endings, be in the places that remain the darkest, where the church first and foremost belongs.
If anyone were to ask me what could someone have said or done that would have made a difference to me back then, what would it have been? It would have been to say nothing. Teach me to hear God on my own, because even lies feel true to someone who is hurting. He has the answers I’m looking for… and only to hope that God is in fact who he says he is, and love me how i need to be loved as i work through the process. Love without formula or diagram. Some things that have been lost don’t have to stay missing.
For my brother, Trey.