33 Years Ago

I was just reminded that 33 years ago yesterday, I experienced one of the worst events in my life.  I lost my best friend and brother, Mike.

It wasn’t that we were wholly unprepared for it, and yet how does one prepare for the death of a loved one, especially one you thought encapsulated much of life and helped you define who you were as a person.

My brothers, Mike and Steve, both suffered from Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy.  They were born with it – I wasn’t.  My entire life up to that point was connected to them, to him.   He was confined to a wheelchair but that inconvenience never stopped us.  We went everywhere and did everything.  Bowling.  Concerts.  Sporting events.  I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it.

And then suddenly he wasn’t there anymore.

I went through nothing less than a year long bout of depression.  I was never suicidal, mind you, but the purpose of living, the purpose for living, eluded me.  Vanity saith the Preacher, Vanity.  Everything truly seemed vain.  It was difficult to get up each day.  It was difficult to plan my future.  It was difficult to find direction and focused.

I never turned to drugs or alcohol.  I turned to sports.  Soccer was medicine.  And what a good medicine it was.  After Mike passed, a person that really helped me get back on my feet was my old high school soccer coach.  He needed a Junior Varsity coach.  He got me into the proper clinics and within a matter of months, I was busy again with something I truly love to do.  Not only was I still playing soccer, I was coaching the Boys and Girls JV teams at my old high school.  The Major League soccer club I was playing for needed a new president and I filled that role while continuing to play.  I joined up with the local recreation department and in was quickly made the Head of Referees.  I also started coaching youth soccer teams.  I went from wanting to do nothing to being busy six, sometimes seven days a week.

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

I know firsthand the weight of that invisible, immovable monster of doubt and anger that sits on your shoulders and tells you, don’t get up – you can’t get up – you won’t get up – nothing matters anyway.

I’ve been there.

And believe me, telling a person to just put it behind them, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and move doesn’t help.  It’s cold and callous and more destructive than helpful.

Depression takes time.  It takes patience.  And it takes a circle of people who really care and are willing to lend an ear, and give of their time.  I had that and I found it in other unexpected places as well.  It was a long journey out of the darkness.

But somewhere in that darkness, I put pen to paper and wrote an article about my brother’s death.  Not only did Mike die, I was with him when it happened.  I was 21 and he was 20.  We were alone together in a hospital room.  The degenerative disease was unmerciful and unrelenting.  He’d been getting steadily worse and could hardly breathe now.  There was debate about putting him permanently on a ventilator.

He was scared.  I was scared.

That evening, after he fell asleep, I went to the window and prayed.  I prayed something I had never prayed before.  I told the Lord I was tired of watching my brother suffer.  I challenged the Lord.  I told the Lord to either heal him or take him.  Just end this.

And just then Mike woke up and called for me.  I went to him, wiping tears from my eyes, and in his last raspy whisper he said, ‘Ready, Set, Run.”  And he flat lined.

Isaiah 40:31 ‘But they that wait upon Yahweh shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.’

I’ve never been a church person but I’ve always been a religious person, and I’ve always prayed.  After Mike passed, it was difficult to pray.  It was hard to believe.

I can’t speak for anyone else but I identified my depression with hopeless.  For me, that’s where the depression was.  I lost hope.  Not in me.  Not in Mike.  Not in my parents or anyone else.

I lost hope in there being a higher power and higher purpose in life.  This body is temporary and the things we are experiencing in them is temporary as well.  It is important to remember that.

All that matters is what we choose to do with the time given to us.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.’

We all get tired.  We all get sad.  We all experience bad days where nothing seems to make sense and the troubles seem overwhelming.  The light at the end of the tunnel disappears.

Faith, however, is not some kind of magic that makes everything better, fixes all the problems and makes you indestructible and free of worry and pain.  I hate that kind of preaching.

Faith is simply hope that you are doing the best you can under the circumstances and someone sees it, acknowledges it.  I can’t live without believing He sees my good works.

No matter how much people will deny the need for that kind of belief, I can’t deny it.

I don’t need to believe in order to be a good person.

I need to believe to give purpose for waking up in the morning and doing the best I can every day.  It is who and what I am, then when I was caring for my brothers, and now as I care for my family and loved ones.

It’s never about how much we have or don’t have in life.

It’s never about the good things that happen or the bad things.

We can’t let any of it shake us.

For all of us, this life will end one day – and that’s ok.

And if I’m wrong, and there is no Creator out there watching over me, what have I lost in believing?

The belief got me through the hard times.  The belief got me out of bed.  The belief made my life seem like it had a purpose even when all other purposes disappeared.

I don’t believe the Creator is out there to smite me for every wrong I think or do.

I believe He has blessed me abundantly with life to do His good pleasure, to care for others and be cared for, to love others and be loved.

I’ll never understand how that could be seen as a bad thing.

It’s hope.

Hebrews 11:1 ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’

I’ve not seen the place I have imagined my brothers have gone.  I’ve not seen heaven.  But I have hope that it is there.  It would only bring me darkness to believe they were nothing more than flesh and blood and their life served no useful purpose.

Their lives had a purpose and so does mine.  So does yours.  I have to believe that.

33 years ago yesterday, I lost sight of that.  Thanks to many who were close to me then, I found it again.

I refuse, no matter the storms, to ever lose sight of the light again.

Sorry if I offended anyone with my exposition but faith is what drives me, motivates me, and it is as much a part of me as my arms and my legs, even more so.

I wish you all peace and hope you never lose sight of the light.  “Ready, Set, Run.”

If anyone is interested in reading the article I wrote about my brother, Mike, “The Grand Transition”, you can get a copy of it at the following link.

Leaving a quick, short review is always helpful.


Allen M Werner is the author of the epic fantasy series, The Crystal Crux.
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