14 years ago today, my brother, Micah, at 15 years old went home to be with Jesus. I have often written a poem in memory of him each year on this day, but this year I have written something a little different. This is one of the rawest posts I have ever written, but I hope it makes a difference in your life. It is a little longer then my usual posts, but it is from my heart.
For the first 8 years of my life I lived childhood bliss. Life was pretty "normal". As normal as a big homeschooling family can be. I had 7 siblings at the time. I was the oldest girl after four boys and and I had three sisters younger than I. My brothers delighted in teasing me and I eventually learned how to handle it for the most part, but not after lots of tears and running to mamma for comfort. Other than having mean brothers that I still some how adored and followed around even to the point of almost getting lost, life was pretty normal.
We lived on five acres of land, but in an unofficial way we owned all the property around it, too. Life consisted of school in the morning and exploring the woods in the afternoon. We played make-belief and lived in unrealistic worlds of our own imagination. We listened to Elisabeth Elliot and Adventures and Odyssey on the radio, built forts in the woods, made tree swings, and road bikes. And that is just a very small peak into my life at 8.
But life took a turn for the worse on a briskly cool Thanksgiving morning when our mom had sent us out to play while she worked on getting a Thanksgiving meal ready. That was the day that thanksgiving didn’t feel much like a Thanksgiving. My brother, Micah, fell out of a tree that day and hurt himself really bad. My parents had to take him to the hospital and it turned out that a broken femur, torn spleen, hole in his lungs, and fractured vertebrae weren’t the only problems. That’s when my family found out that he had Leukemia, too. And that was just the beginning of a very not normal life. I was 8 and scared and sad and confused.
There are lots of suffering families around the world, lots of broken homes, lots of deaths, either parents or siblings. I know my family is not the only one who was facing an unusual life and deep suffering. But what is it like to have a completely normal and carefree life that is all the sudden thrown into havoc? What’s it like to have parents who are rarely around not because they don’t love each other or you, not because they work too much, not because they don’t exist, but because your own brother is in the hospital more days than not? What’s it like to have brothers babysitting you even though they really don’t want to? Or going to another homeschooling family's home to do school with their kids? What’s it like to watch your brother loose all of his hair and what’s it like to watch him grow weaker and weaker, unable to move around like he wants did? What’s it like to watch your brother slowly fade away? What’s it like to go to the hospital on a cold winter day and stare down at death in the image of your very own brother who once had been very much alive?
Or what is it like to feel the guilt of realizing you could have loved him better but didn’t because you always thought there would be a tomorrow, but then one day there wasn’t? What is it like to have your friends look at you and not know what to say because you are now different then they and they can’t understand what you have just walked through? What’s it like to listen to all those kind attempts from others as they try their best to say something comforting? You want them to know that you appreciate their kindness, but also saying “sorry for your loss” is simply an understatement. I didn’t just lose my favorite stuffed animal or doll. I didn’t just lose my favorite toy. I lost a human. I lost a part of me and that is not supposed to be normal, not at 12 years old.
And what’s it like trying to make life go back to “normal” when you know that “normal” will never exist again? That life ended four years ago. You create a new normal, but it’s still different. My parents are now home more often, but only in body and not in soul. But I know its a million times worse for them then it is for me. I lost my brother, but they lost their son.
Slowly, slowly I learn to readjust. But life doesn’t pick up where I left off at 8. At the age of twelve I was basically an adult. I knew more about suffering than most of the twelve year old girls in my homeschooling circle and I don’t know what they really thought of me, but I am pretty sure they knew I was different from them now. And I would always be different now. My new normal was now living every day with the realization that my brother was gone forever in this life. And thinking more about heaven then the average girl. How many of you go around thinking about heaven? If you do it’s probably because you have someone you love waiting there for you, too.
But I don’t look back on my life and think how terribly sad and miserable it was or is. I won’t lie either and say that there wasn’t any of that. No, my life has a lot of painful and sad bumps in the road. But I had a lot of good things, too. In those days of never ceasing hospital visits, I looked forward to the days that I got to go to the hospital with my mom and brother. And the days that we had to spend homeschooling at another family's home was actually a lot of fun. We had some pretty special people in our life who were willing to take a lot of extra children under their wings. They not only homeschooled their few or numerous number of children, but they also added several more kids to the group. I can look back and marvel at the church of God and how they supported my family. So many meals were delivered to us and so many anonymous gifts given, gifts that to this day remain a mystery. How many people in our church, but also all over the world surrounded our family with prayers and fasting. No, this life wasn’t normal, but it was special. It is not normal as a little girl to see first hand the body of Christ surround your own family in such a very real way.
And just because my brother died didn’t mean that life had to stop. I kept on living and I kept learning how to laugh again. And I was the little girl who could tell my friend that it's ok to talk about my brother because we loved him and we like to talk about him. I was the little girl who was learning at 12 that this world isn’t all there is to live for and that heaven really was a better place for Micah to be. I was the little girl who learned that his suffering had ended and he was safely home and he wouldn’t have to ever face suffering and pain again. I was the little girl that knew that it would be wrong to wish him back down on this earth again. No, life wasn’t normal anymore, but life could still be good.
I am the adult who finds it almost impossible to imagine what a normal childhood life is supposed to look like. I am the adult who is ok with a quiet peaceful life because the only excitement that I am familiar with, I would wish upon no one. I am the woman who reads a novel and then says, “Real life isn’t like that. Real life isn’t that easy or simple.” But I forget that real life for me really wasn’t that easy or simple. Or maybe the book does hold a mixture of excitement, but it is the kind of excitement that seems so unrealistic, so unreal. I am the woman who wonders where the books are that tell of a childhood that really does exist, but that everyone is afraid to speak of. There are lots of books with a broken home, but how many people know the broken home that I knew. It's not broken because of a divorce, it’s broken because there is a missing puzzle piece and it will never be found and it will never be replaced.
I am the the young woman who longs for children of my own. But at the same time I am faced with a very real reality that at any moment that child could be ripped out of my arms again. I still want it, but I also dread it.
I do not write this that you may take pity on me.
I write this because I need to tell some of you it is going to be ok even though right now it feels like it will not. I write so others will know there is hope and the greatest hope you can cling to is Jesus Christ himself. And I need to tell some of you it won’t all make sense at the time, it may never make sense on this earth, but God really is real and he really does have you in the palm of his hands and he really does care. I write so some will see that they really can laugh again some day, maybe not right now and maybe not soon, but it is possible. I write to tell some that life really can go on, though life will never be normal again.
But for some I write so you can know even just a little better what some have had to face. Maybe it's your best friend or maybe its someone you hardly know, but just met, or maybe it is someone in your church. I write so I can tell you real life is not always normal and real life isn’t always a fairy tale. I write to tell you that some of the biggest heroes in your life are those who are laughing, though they have walked through fire and they're still alive to live another day. I write to tell some of you your day may not have come yet, but when it does come, cling to hope. Life will never be normal again, but you will have joined the many who have survived and who can still rejoice.
I’m here to say that life isn’t always normal, but it is beautiful!