A Story From my Life

I do not know how to communicate with this audience anymore without being accused of emotional manipulation because I share my emotions, or being accused of being creepy/unstable/in it for something sinister because I share my love. If you are one of those people who think this way, I ask that you just not read the post. It’s a story from my life I want to share with my soldiers and a message of love from a personal experience I’ve lived. No one is forcing you to read it. Let me speak to my soldiers, and you are free to pass it over.

When my brother died, we planned a funeral. This is usually what people do.

The issue was that my brother hadn’t been to church in years. I wouldn’t say he didn’t believe in God, but he was scared that no God exists, and I think he gave up hope searching for answers that aren’t really there. Especially after the pain he had been through in his time on earth: a hell that I’ve prayed to understand more, if only so I can be closer to him. Looking back on some recent events in my life, I’ve realized that maybe that prayer has been answered in a few small ways.

When I saw his urn on the Roman Catholic altar it filled me with confusion. I guess my brother all the sudden is a Catholic again? Okay.

But all of us sort of never did this before. You know, there’s not a SparkNotes for burying your 26-year-old brother. So we just scheduled the Mass. I don’t know. What else does one do?

Instead of having an organist and a cantor we didn’t know, though, my mother asked a great favor. Through work, she’d befriended a young singer of immense talent who lived at least 10 hours away. He is a person of color, and could sing with deep soul and authenticity. My brother valued nothing more in life than realness. He had no patience for courtesy in the audience of someone who never knew agony. He would not fold his napkin on his lap for you if you’ve never known what it’s like to use nothing but that napkin to keep you warm at night.

This singer decided to make that 10 hour trip to attend the funeral, and his music brought to a very stiff Catholic Mass a level of that authenticity that we all knew my brother would approve of. Many of you might recall I too sang for my brother at the end of that service; I doubt I’d have had the courage to do so without the presence of this young man at the microphone behind me.

A year later, this talented young musician invited my mother and me to visit his family. His father is a pastor, the head of his own Christian church, and, I was told, devoted to strict tradition. I was aware of the religious, cultural, and racial differences between our two families, and filled with nerves to meet them as guests in their own home. I didn’t want to say or do the wrong thing.

We ate dinner together (the best fried chicken you’ve ever had) with some nervous laughter and many sincere questions and compliments. We avoided the topic of my brother. The Pastor indeed was a man of deep faith. Black, tall, bald, and bearded. He was sweet and patient to me. I’m sure he could see my nerves, and my every sin as if I wore them like tattoos. But he didn’t let on.

After two hour’s visit, we headed back to our car in the driveway. The family followed us out. We said our goodbyes–with bear hugs to our musician friend. Before getting into the car, though, I turned to the Pastor. From my pocket I pulled out a bracelet. I’d made it. It was a simple band with a Christian symbol. It reminded me of the cross my brother had made out of two pieces of long grass once at his first rehab.

Everyone turned to the Pastor and me, confused that I’d stopped.

I placed the bracelet in his hand, and I tried to speak. Nothing came out, but they waited.

“Sir,” I said. All those fears of religious, cultural, and racial differences froze in my throat. And then, tears overcame me. I couldn’t say more. Instead, I bowed my head and rested it on the Pastor’s large hand. I closed my eyes against the skin of his wrist.

And I stayed there.

“Oh my,” said the Pastor. His voice shook with emotion. I heard sniffling from the others watching.

“Thank you,” I finally said.

“Oh my.”

I lifted myself. He looked at me with reddened eyes. We all didn’t need to say my brother’s name to know he was in that moment. “I love you,” I warbled.

The Pastor touched below my chin. “Precious child,” he said.

I’ve never met him again. But I think of that moment all the time and still wonder what it meant.

I share this story with my army to remind you that you’re more than soldiers of a Club Penguin game. You’re individually precious sons and daughters, of God, of your parents, and of me. I want the pains in your life to be contradicted with moments of love that stick with you. Sometimes you won’t know what to say; sometimes it’ll all be too much.

But no matter who you are, where you come from, what your religion is, your color, your culture, old or young, you can say to me exactly what I said to the Pastor: “Sir.”

And if that’s all you can utter, if something in your life is making saying one more word too painful, I will take your hand immediately and bow for your hurt too.

Please be strong. Know that I think of you each daily. We are an army; but more. You are more.

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

“Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me bring your love,
Where there is injury your pardon Lord,
And where there’s doubt true faith in you.

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

O Master grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving of ourselves that we receive.
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

O Master grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
And to love as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving of ourselves that we receive.
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Make me a channel of your peace.”

2 Responses

  1. I’m not crying… I’m just allergic to air 🥺💜

  2. Damn… I haven’t cried in a little while. Might as well do it now while reading this again and again

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