Between A Rock & A Hard Place: Oct 3, 2018

I published this on 3 October 2018 in the original “Forever Stone” blog to honor my brother. The idea seemed to fit my ideas about “Stone Ruins”. I moved it to this site in April, 2019. 

October 3rd. My brother’s birthday. He is no longer here to celebrate. That’s because of a dirty needle and the emptiness in his heart.

We were raised in a Christian family. We went to church almost every Sunday. I think my brother recognized the dysfunction in the Church long before I did. So he went seeking something to fill the emptiness.

Jimmy Buffet sang a song, “A Pirate Looks at Forty”. The first time I heard it I thought of my brother. Especially the line about being born 200 years too late. I don’t think we ever discussed this, but I think he felt that way. He read every Horatio Hornblower story. He was a crazy good sailor. He was never afraid to engage in a risky adventure. Especially if it involved a sailboat. And he was the Captain. He could play Captain Hook.

But he was also Peter Pan. He led his band of ‘lost boys’ on some insane adventures. They had a blast. All was for FUN. He would do something that attracted the attention of the ‘Cops’ and then start running. He & his friends were engaged in “Parkour” long before that sport was invented. But with the twist that he did not want to get caught! So far as I know, he never did.

I remember discussing God and Jesus with him on more than one occasion. I could not answer his questions. Once, we were on a mountain, he picked up a rock and tossed it back up the hill. Then he threw another rock. After tossing a few small rocks he commented about the rocks: he said that since they were unable to move on their own, they willed us to move them to the spot they wished to be. We have no control over this. The rocks force us to toss them. At first I laughed, thinking he was just making a joke. Later I realized that he was putting forth a comment on free will.

He loved music. Especially Rock and Roll. He taught himself to play by listening to records through his headphones and playing along. He had the guitar plugged into the stereo so that no sound could be heard by others (parents). But he could listen to the record and also hear what he was playing through his headphones. Like most musicians, he would move from band to band. Sometimes he would play a solo gig.

His last ‘real’ job was as the manager of a restaurant. That is where his charisma shone. He entertained the clientele: he would get the customers to sing along or join in some activity or drinking game. His customers went to his restaurant because the food was good, the beer was cold, the wait staff was prompt and the atmosphere was outstanding.

That’s when he discovered that he was between a rock and a hard place. The hard drinking and drug use combined with the hepatitis from the dirty needle began to destroy his body.

I saw my brother decay right before my eyes. He had an alternative that no one ever mentioned: suicide. It would have seemed much easier to just take an overdose and die. The ravages of the illness were horrid. But he never gave up. And I prayed for him.

My sister and I asked a family friend, a retired pastor, to visit him and talk to him about Jesus. He did. But my brother was uncertain. Then, one night, my brother saw Jesus at the foot of his bed. He talked to Jesus. And his life changed.

Today, I celebrate him. For much of his life he did it “his way” and it always left him feeling empty. But he did try to bring joy to others. He made the effort to embark on risky adventures that we sane people would not attempt. He made music. And he had FUN.

Look at that picture of the stone church ruins. Some bad decisions turned it into what it is today. We might wonder what it could have been. But that is not for us to know. The same is true of my brother. What could he have been if he had known Jesus when he was a teenager or in his twenties? That is not for us to know, either.

Nor should we place blame: not on those who destroyed that church. Not on my brother, our parents, our church or anyone else. Instead, we forgive.

Image by ushakovasvetlan from Pixabay
Image by ushakovasvetlan from Pixabay

I miss my brother. But I cannot blame him for making bad decisions. I made some too. Instead, I forgive him. And anyone else who could have given him an alternative to drugs, but did not. And…I forgive those who gave him drugs…and dirty needles.

No, Jesus did not cure the hepatitis. But he cured the emptiness that had been in my brother’s heart. My brother died in peace.

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