Isn't it strange how sad events happen around Christmas? One friend told me that his brother-in-law's wife died last week, and that the brother-in-law has had a series of difficulties recently. Another friend knows someone who has suicidal tendencies. A third friend lost his father on Christmas Eve. I can name other disasters that happened around the week or two before Christmas. Yes, they happen all year round. But it's certainly more difficult at this time of year.
Today is December 21, 2008. About an hour and a half ago, my oldest brother died. He was 64.
Jack ("Jackie" to many family and friends) was born with Down Syndrome. He could not talk, but was able to do basic functions for himself. He was content to watch television or listen to his phonograph records. Jack was not able to stay at home for most of his adult life, and was in various state institutions and eventually into foster care. For the last few years of his life, he was in an adult home.
Later in life, he had health problems that developed. At the end, he had to use a walker to get around, and an oxygen tank was a frequent companion. Various infections occurred, and the last one is what did him in.
He was stubborn. The doctors were simply guessing, and I believe that it tormented our parents when they said he would not live very long. "He won't live to puberty"..."He won't live to..." Ha! He fooled them all. In fact, we understood on the 19th that he would not last the day. Stubborn Jack held off until the 21st.
There have been people praying for our family at this time, and we all have appreciated it. My next oldest brother and his wife were the main facilitators of his care. They did a great job, and I was especially glad of what they had to do, and deal with, while I was 750 miles away.
I have to admit that I had trouble in my younger years understanding and dealing with his condition. That, and the fact that we were apart most of the time added up so that we were never close. But he was still my brother. Hey, I've admitted my faults and failings on here before, yes?
One memory that keeps coming back is that my mother (who passed away a few years ago) said, "Just think, in Heaven, Jackie will be perfect." That was something for me to look forward to then as well as now.
I wouldn't be on my game if I did not add one moment of anger. This is directed to the arrogant atheists that seek to take away the faith of those of us who believe in God. What do you have to offer? Are you going to attempt to take away the comfort that my brother is now perfect, at peace, entirely whole in Heaven? That he will be with our mother? Or that our father, who does not know anyone (or who he is himself) will join them in a grand, happy reunion one day? Or the rest of us, at that? I have some people to look up myself...
I'm going to be more blunt here: This is part of what Christmas is all about. The real meaning. Jesus came to live among men, to die, to be bodily resurrected. At this time of loss, we have the hope that he gives us. Capice?
Addendum 12-22-2008: Here is an excerpt from a letter from my sister-in-law. As I said, my father does not know anyone anymore, and does not even know who he is.
We stopped in to see Dad today. He did not seem to understand. I stopped in on one of his neighbors. Doris told me that last night after dinner, "John started scratching back & forth in his chair as he normally does; then all of a sudden he let out a very loud howl." Doris said he sounded like an angry bear. This would have been out the time of Jackie's passing. Just thought you would want to know.Perhaps my father did know after all...
(Edit: My father died less than two months later.)