Recollections on a Lost Brother
It’s difficult for me to believe that it’s been ten years since Bruce passed; ten whole years that I’ve lived without him in my life. It’s a nuanced agony to imagine what life would have been like with him here. I wonder, what would he be doing? Would he be married? Who would he be married to? Would they have children? Would we still be best friends? Would my life be different? Of course, these questions aren’t important, at least not really, because this is how life has unfolded and where I am today, who I am today, is because of these moments and the way the Lord has strengthened and held me through them.
Before Bruce went away to military school we started getting close. I kept his secrets and he protected me from the myriad of terrible guys that I was interested in. I was young, fifteen years old, and although I probably shouldn’t have kept his secrets for him, at that time, I thought I was doing the right thing. A few weeks ago, I was at my parents’ house and I came across a journal of my dad’s—he had planned on writing us a book with a profusion of advice that we could look back on when he was gone. In this journal, I found a list of the things he wanted to address, one of which included his greatest regret in life, which was that Bruce died. Next to this proclomation, he wrote that he wondered what he could have done differently to prevent it.
The truth is, we all could have done things differently. I could have shared more with my parents about what was going on with Bruce and perhaps he would have ended up in rehab sooner. Or maybe if my parents wouldn’t have been so strict, he wouldn’t have rebelled as much as he did. But, the what ifs can’t bring Bruce back and they can’t show me what would have been, like some mystical crystal ball. Decisions are like a game of Chutes & Ladders, each decision leading us to a consequence (whether good or bad) and ultimately to another decision. Our path isn’t linear, and although I wish it was as simple as uttering “if only I had done this, then,” it’s a lot more complicated than that.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t wonder what Bruce would be like as an almost thirty-year old. It doesn’t mean I don’t wish that he could be here to walk Julia down the aisle in Dad’s absence. It doesn’t mean that I don’t wonder if perhaps Dad would still be here if Bruce hadn’t died. And yet, I can’t live, nor do I want to live, in a world where I’m constantly wondering what if. This isn’t to say that I haven’t had doubts or that I never contemplate what could have been, but I’ve chosen to feel God’s peace in the midst of these questions.
As strange as this sounds, in some ways I’m thankful for the ten-year anniversary of Bruce’s death, because it reminds me that I can trust that someday I will look back and see God’s hand in the absence of my dad as well. He provides, even in the midst of the darkest of days, and there is a purpose to this pain. I don’t think I would be the woman I am today without the loss of Bruce, and several years from now I hope I’ll look back and see that I couldn’t possibly be the woman I am then without having lost my dad.
I still wonder what grand purpose Bruce’s death served, because even ten years later it’s unclear. I wonder what purpose my broken engagement served—although I’ve begun to see God’s hand very clearly in this. And, I wonder why Dad had to leave us when he did. But, there is beauty in the unknown; there is peace that transcends the broken places; there is hope in the depths of darkness.