Something to hold on to...

"Today I am one day nearer home than ever before. One day nearer the dawning when the fog will lift, mysteries clear, and all question marks straighten up into exclamation points!
 I shall see the King!"     Vance Havner

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My brother Carl

The fact that I will soon turn 52 and the fact that my oldest brother passed away at that age is a bit erie to me, especially given the fact that this has not been the most stellar year for me health-wise. It has caused me to think about him, a lot.

I have mentioned before that I come from a big family. I am the youngest of 9 children. This made the family dynamics a bit odd because we never ever lived together for any long period of time. By the time I was born, my oldest brother was 21 and soon to be married. The next two brothers, twins, entered the military about 4 months before I was born, so they were already out of the house. One of them made the military his career so he was only officially home when he was on leave. He and I never really lived together. It was strange having a brother who you only saw when Uncle Sam let him come home.

Back to the oldest:

As I said he was 21 when I was born. This picture puts that in perspective, although I am not sure how old I was here. I remember that my mother did not like to look at this picture because she said I was "sick" then. I suffered some strange anemia back then that made me very weak and caused me to pass out while trying to walk.

I don't have many memories of him until I was a bit older and he was married. I remember my sister and I staying all night at their house, that was fun. I remember eating "Chicken and Stars" soup and homemade banana bread at their house. I remember their big dog , Queenie, which I was terribly afraid of. I remember that with his daughters, my nieces, my relationship was closer to that of siblings than it was of an "aunt and nieces" because of the small age difference. His oldest daughter and I could fight like the best of rivaling siblings one moment and be best friends the next. He was a collector. He loved finding unique items at yard sales and thrift stores. He found my cast iron dutch oven in a thrift store when he knew I wanted one to put back in my "hope chest". He loved books. I barely saw him without a book in his hand. He would decide to learn about something and would go to the library and check out books on that subject and consume them.

His knowledge amazed me, but I never really knew his heart until much later. I spent a lot of time with him over the years, but I don't feel like I ever really knew him. After his marriage ended he moved away to start a new life in the state our youngest brother lived. They had a unique relationship despite their age difference and it was good for Carl. In some ways he blossomed there. He began a new hobby of carving ducks, geese, and shore birds. I am the proud owner of his first attempt, and while it is crude in some standards, it is one of my most precious possessions. His later carvings were amazing, the feathers on these water-fowl were so lifelike you would want to pet them. He loved this hobby and mastered it early on. It was during those years that he became a Christian and our relationship took on an entire new meaning. Although we had a few different views about our doctrinal issues, I knew his heart was right and that he loved God with every part of it. I know he still struggled with demons of the past, as we all do, but he was forgiven and he cherished the grace that was given to him. He and I wrote many letters back and forth in those days to discuss our faith and to attempt to persuade each other to see our side of different theological issues. Since I was a former Bible college student, I thought I had all the answers, I am not so sure now.

The next picture was taken after my grandfather's funeral. All of my siblings were there that day.
Funerals were sadly the only time we all got together back then. We had already lost both Mother and Daddy, and the sting of death had hit us pretty hard. In this picture, I can see this sting in my grandmother's eyes. She had already lost her daughter, (my mother) her son in law, (my dad), many siblings, and now the man she shared her life with for sixty-nine years. Carl is the one in the front. By this time his health was seriously compromised. Rheumatic fever as a child had left his heart wounded. Two surgeries had already been done to repair damage left from that awful disease. I am standing behind him, next to my grandmother. I was pregnant then with our oldest son. Attending that funeral was in question for me because I had had early problems with my pregnancy which had me on bed-rest until just before his passing.

Carl only lived about 5 more years. His complications from years of heart damage, plus strong medications taken for years had taken their toll. He slipped away one evening in his own home and was found the next morning in a kneeling position at the side of his bed by a neighbor and the police, whom she called when she could not get him to answer his door.

At that time I thought 52 was too young to die. His children were all much too young to lose their father. As I approach that age I don't just think it is too young, I absolutely know it. I love that I am from a large family. I love thinking back to all of the noisy family dinners, the attention I would get just for being the baby, and the support a large family brings. To this day, we all love each other and are there in our struggles. My family has surrounded me with so much love and concern during my recent health issues. I am so glad that I have so many siblings to lean on. On the down-side, the age difference between some of us has made natural divisions within the family unit, which is natural that certain groups of siblings would have closer relationships than other groups, I just wish I could have the same closeness with each of them.

I miss my brother Carl. Much like I feel about my parents, I miss the years we have not had together as much as I miss those that we did. Being the oldest and youngest gave me a unique relationship with him. I just wish I was able to fully develop that relationship. A few more years would have been nice.

Here's to you Carl.

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