Thursday, January 21, 2016

My brother, Michael

I’ve been thinking a lot about my little brother, Michael, who died December 30th last year.  I don’t think I’ve quite absorbed the fact that he is gone yet. I think of him at odd times, like on Sunday evenings, when we would often call to talk with him. And then I remember that I can’t do that anymore. Or as he said after our dad died, that would be LONG distance. I found myself standing recently near the entrance of HEB, our local grocery store, tears welling as I looked at the Valentine’s Day gifts displayed near the floral section. Michael’s birthday was February 13th, so I usually sent him a birthday and Valentine’s Day gift at the same time. It seems to be the little things catch me off guard and trigger the memories and the sadness.

But that’s just the background that prompted this blog post. I want to tell you why I admired my little brother. Michael was born with brain damage. His speech was mostly unintelligible, even to close friends and family, though as my husband, John, said in his eulogy at Michael’s funeral, Michael was a master of non-verbal communication. Michael looked different, and he battled heart and mental health problems. As John said in his eulogy, Michael survived enough health problems for four or five people. Yet he soldiered on throughout his 55 years, overcoming obstacles that would have overwhelmed lesser folk. His courage and endurance were amazing.

Michael was fiercely loyal to family and friends, and to his favorite sports teams, which included those from Texas and Washington, where his sisters live. I miss his rib-cracking hugs and his booming laugh, which became less frequent as his health deteriorated. Michael navigated his difficult life with grace and dignity. He was one of my heroes. Remember my brother, Michael, the next time you are tempted to dismiss someone battling a disability. They most likely have a lot to teach you about faith and love and endurance in the face of this life’s unbending challenges.

Grace and Peace,