It’s been a year. A year since I found out my brother was gone, not just from my world for a while, but from this life forever. (You can read my brother’s eulogy HERE).
As I’ve walked this path of grief for 12 months, there have been the expected moments of deep pain. There was that helpless, hopeless moment when the reality of my brother’s loss really hit me, of truly knowing he wasn’t coming back. He wasn’t just on a trip or away for a while. He was really gone – forever. The finality of that realization is a grief in itself.
There have been moments of deep longing – longing to share my life with my brother. To share my oldest son’s senior year, to share how special it was to see my oldest and youngest play basketball on the same court while their dad coached them; to share Brock giving his valedictorian speech.
There have been moments I have felt my brother’s absence keenly. His absence from the audience when Brody performed in his first play. His absence when he wasn’t there to proclaim in that way only my brother could, how AWESOME it was when Brody won a few art competitions this past year. I knew how much Scott would have enjoyed those moments and it was hard to know he missed them.
The hard truth is my life is moving on and my brother isn’t a part of it.
While he has at times been absent from our lives, now that absence is permanent and final. (I wrote about moving on and all that entails HERE).
That makes me both sad and a little mad sometimes.
Suicide (and murder for that matter) are never God’s will. When someone dies of cancer or a heart attack or a car accident, there isn’t a choice. When someone takes their own life (or someone takes it for them), that is a choice. And while I could argue that my brother’s mental illness made that less of a choice than some people think, it still hurts. It hurts that we weren’t enough to keep him tethered here.
But with the pain and the hurt and the change has also come moments of joy and of healing. I know – that sounds weird doesn’t it?
While I would never have wanted my brother to kill himself and his death has been one of the hardest things I’ve experienced, in walking through the grief from that tragic event I have experienced God’s presence in a way I never have before.
Sure, I knew God never leaves us and walks with us always. Heck, I even believed it quite sincerely. I even had that poem “Footsteps” on my bedroom wall when I was growing up.
But believing God will be there when we walk through the deepest valley is different than actually walking through that valley with Him.
God’s tenderness, His comfort, His love were never more real and tangible to me than in the weeks and months after my brother’s death.
And with that experience came the realization that if God cared that much for me, how much more had He and still was, caring for my brother?
Suicide seems like such a lonely, desperate thing, but knowing that God was there – even in my brother’s darkest moment – has brought me so much comfort and healing.
God has also brought me healing by allowing me to use what I’ve been through to comfort others, too. The article I wrote about suicide prevention held an urgency, a realness, that it probably wouldn’t have if I had written this before my brother’s death.
Being able to hold someone’s hands, look them deep in the eye and assure them of God’s love and presence no matter what – not because of some head knowledge but because of actual experience – that is healing to me.
Because here’s the thing, if God can use my brother’s death to help others, then the enemy doesn’t win. Even though my brother is gone, God can still use his life and death for a greater purpose. What the enemy meant as evil and the end, God continues to use for good and life.
If I’ve learned anything during this past year, it is that God is able to redeem anything – even the unthinkably horrible like suicide. God truly can bring beauty from ashes, and that stands as a testament to the faithful, loving God that I serve.
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. ~ Isaiah 61:3