Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Brother's 10 Year Celebration in Heaven

The above picture was taken the afternoon before my brother Eddie's death. It may have been ten years since I touched his sweet face or "forced" him to hug me, but I have not forgotten him. I remember his unique laugh, his long conversations about his past trip to the Holy Land with my father, and his funny, but very wise quips about almost anything.

Below is an excerpt from my second book (In Every Place) where I recount the day that my brother died. It was one of the hardest parts of the book to write as you can imagine. But that was enhanced by the fact we were three weeks from returning to Ivory Coast, West Africa, for missionary service. Three weeks.

The Steps Ordered By God
    Though God is not bound by time, He does understand that we weave our very existence around the concept of phases, eras, time. Precise, exact, perfect. That is His timing in our lives. During the first week of July my brother called, telling me that he had decided to have surgery to try and repair the aneurysm that had grown to a whopping fourteen centimeter in his aorta. That size of an aneurysm sitting on a person’s aorta could mean nothing but trouble. The doctors, when Eddie asked about how death would most likely come if that thing ruptured, described a horrible thing. This is not the way Eddie wanted to go nor did he want his family to watch him go that way. So he chose to take the risk and have the surgery. In his place, I would have certainly done the same thing. That he cared enough to do it before we left for Africa, however, spoke volumes. 

   “Any particular reason why you are choosing to have this surgery before I go back to Africa?” I candidly asked him on the phone. “Yea, well, you would worry too much if you were over there, and besides, I think you need to be here for mama and daddy,” he said in a quiet voice. Pricked to my very core, I could not verbally make myself elaborate on what he had said, but I knew exactly what he was saying. He believed that he was going to die.

    So the weekend before his surgery, we went down to stay with my parents. Jeff was already lined up to preach at my home church that weekend and he and the girls would have to return to Charlotte on Sunday night because they were scheduled to be at the doctor’s office for mandatory physicals on Monday morning.
That Sunday night (night before his surgery), I went with my mom to see Eddie in the hospital. He was required to be there the night before because of the complex preparation for this kind of surgery. While we visited with him, his legs were itchy as they often were, he looked so pale and old, and his eyes were just tired. When mom went out of the room to get some lotion, I leaned forward looking deep into his eyes, and asked him, “Where are you going tomorrow, huh?” He smiled weakly and said, “Well, there is a big part of me that wants to come back here and be with my family, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to see Jesus. That will be good, too. It will be all right, my sister.” To break the fear swimming towards me in response to his statement, I jokingly told him that he could not leave me to raise our mommy and daddy by myself! We both laughed and then I kissed his cheek lingeringly. It would be the last time I would ever do that.

     On the morning of any surgery, there is so much to be done and so many family members wanting to say things to the person having the surgery. I never went back to the prepping room to see him since I felt there was nothing that could supersede the time we had shared the night before. As the aides wheeled him to the surgery door, he lifted his head and looked pointedly at all of us standing there. Then he smiled so peacefully and lay his head back down. I thought: He’s really going to heaven today. He knows it. I know it. Who else here knows it but would dare not say it? My heart was pounding with the reality of it. 

     Sitting in a hospital waiting room was not at all unfamiliar to our family, but you never got used to it nor learned to like it. The first time the nurse came to give us an update, there was the slightest hint that things might not be going well. The next time she told us that, though the doctor had repaired the aortic aneurysm, Eddie’s heart seemed unwilling to beat on its own. The medical staff was doing everything they could, but Eddie’s wife, Judy, wanted the two dozen or so family and friends to go into the chapel and pray. That morning God had sent to me two dear missionary friends whom we had known during our Jamaican ministry simply because they knew about Eddie’s surgery and happened to be in town visiting a grandmother. They had felt led to come to the hospital and be there with me. (Don't ever underestimate the leading of the Holy Spirit even if you don't understand why) David and Anita Fenley ministered to me in ways I could never tell them. Just having them there was powerful.

    While some prayed, the chapel door opened and the same nurse came in, but the look on her face told the story as she quietly summoned Eddie’s immediate family to meet with the doctor in the consultation room down the hall. I sat still as it all hit me. The fears of losing my brother while I was on the mission field had not come to fruition. God and Eddie had seen to that. During my revelries, a dear friend of our family kneeled in front of me, took my hands, and prompted me to stand up and go to that dreaded room. “Your mom and dad need you. Go to them and be strong,” she lovingly said as she hugged me. With eyes filled with disbelief, I said, “How can I? How can I ever get on that plane in three weeks and leave them? How can I? I CANNOT!!” Again, I had gone before God and His promised grace. Of course, I could not. Not on my own.

(Excerpt taken from In Every Place by Kim L. Abernethy - to be published in January 2012)