For My Brother, Now in Paradise

(Steve Earley /The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

My brother died yesterday.

His death was sadly not unexpected. A life spent paying little attention to his health caught up with him; obesity-fueled diabetes allowed to reign untempered until diabetic neuropathy and other issues first ravaged his system, reducing him to a pale shadow of his former self, then finally did him in. Odd that a man who made his living as a paramedic, thereby repeatedly seeing firsthand the results of ill-advised living, would play so fast and loose with his own well-being. Nevertheless, there it was, and yesterday it extracted its final toll.

My brother was prone to extremes, swinging wildly in philosophies and practices, including politics. It made for a complicated relationship. At times, we were inseparable, while other times found us not on speaking terms. Nevertheless, he was my brother.

We are not always touched solely by those we know or know of. There are lessons to be taken from my brother’s life and death. Think upon them as you will.

First, your health is not solely your own. Most all of us have people who love us, want us in their lives, and need us in their lives. Consider them. Watch your diet. Lay off the chemicals, legal or otherwise. If you have an ongoing medical condition, do what you are asked to do and need to do in order to keep it under control. Scripture tells us, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” While the direct reference is an admonishment against sexual immorality, it also precisely describes the argument against gluttony and other self-destructive habits denigrating that which is created in God’s image. Namely, us.

Second, do not make politics personal. My brother and I didn’t talk to each other for what turned out to be the last few years of his life due to political disagreements. It is possible to have spirited, passionate debate, even with family members. But do not abuse the familial relationship by assuming anything goes, and it is acceptable to rage against one another because you are related. Treat family as you treat, or at least hopefully treat, your friends. While I cannot reverse the past few years, I can learn from them.

Finally, get right and stay right with God. None of us are here forever, but we will be around forever. Seek Christ if you do not know Him. If you do, hold fast to your faith. You will need it.

And so, one circle increases as another decreases. My brother is now with our parents and our oldest brother in heaven, freed from his failed body and doubtless being severely lectured by our mother for not taking better care of himself. We who remain will one day pass, invariably followed by all who have come or will come after us. Enjoy and savor life; set aside that which distracts from same. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.