My brother’s funeral – 31 years ago today

For the last three years, one of my blog posts each October has been dedicated to my brother, Dan.

This is my fourth post during the anniversary month of his death. Dan was in a motorcycle accident in October of 1986. He slipped into a coma before passing away eight days later.

His funeral was held on today’s date, October 29.

I remember the church was packed. Standing room only. I remember that I delivered a eulogy but do not remember what I said. And I remember driving back to graduate school feeling like living for God wasn’t worth the effort any more. The prior three years of my life had been difficult and Dan’s death was the final blow. Sadly, I succumbed to those feelings — and the lies connected to them. I stopped trying to live honorably for God. For the next seven years I did whatever I wanted.

I created a messy life for myself.

In trying to find my way back — and to find out what had gone wrong with my faith — I wrote a book, Live ABOVE the Chaos. Those years — during which I devoted hours to sitting at the computer while I researched answers to my questions and turned the pages of my Bible in my lap — literally saved my life. My faith hasn’t wobbled ever since. (Though my life certainly has careened out of control a few times!)

This is the letter my heart wants to write to my brother this year:

Dan, I still can’t believe you aren’t around. Thank you for what is vivid in my mind — how you entered a room with such a vivacious spirit…always smiling…always confident. I told a friend this month that as far as family dynamics were concerned, you were like a campfire in our home, the warmth our family gathered around. We all liked your personality and enjoyed rallying around your football career. We could all connect with each other by enjoying you.

When you left our family, we changed. And we never recovered. That whole thing about there being a new normal is true. Normal, as we had known it, never returned.

I have realized this year two ways your death has changed me. For one, I need to know to know my adult children are alive each day. I am not a hovering mom. I don’t have a need to know what my children are doing with their days.

But I do need to know they are alive.

So if at the end of the day I have not even received even so much as a text for gas reimbursement (a sign they are alive), then I need a text exchange or a quick phone call to know they are still on the earth.

That is all I need, but I need it.

Second, when children are sleeping I need to know they are breathing. I regularly place my ear near their face to hear or feel their breath. Is that because I remember laying my head on your chest before we took you off life support? It was the strangest thing. You were brain-dead, so you were already gone, but your chest was rising and falling from machine-induced breathing and I was comforted. That was the last I saw you. I guess I have never gotten over the miracle of a body breathing.

31 years ago I remember pulling over to the side of the road and sobbing on the one-month anniversary of your funeral…

November 29.

I remember thinking I was going to sob on the 29th of every month for the rest of my life. I haven’t, of course. Grief lessens with time, though is strikes with a vengeance any ol’ time it feels like it. 

But God heals.

In 2006 we adopted a son.

November 29 of 2006.

Yes, I have a son. You have another brother. He is named after you. He has your picture and asks questions about you. You live on in the names of all three of my children, actually. Each has “Dan” somewhere in their name.

I have never stopped loving you or remembering you, my brother.

Love, Laurie

Picture Explanation:

From our family photo album…back when photos were on paper and placed in big, clunky albums.

© 2017 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.

2 Responses

  1. My daughter entered my bedroom this morning with a question she had never asked before: Holding up a picture of my mom, she asked me to confirm that it was her, then she asked if I miss her. People don’t often talk about those who have passed before us. Even though she was referring to her own grandma, she had never asked one thing about her. They never met her, so I understand. But I took the chance to say, “Yes, I don’t think about her every day, but I do so miss her.” She told me that she would miss me every day if I were gone, and then she left. Perhaps it was your blog which prompted this unusual conversation. In any case, thank you for making it okay to talk about death, missing someone who has died, the desire for assurance that loved ones are still alive, and the miracle of a breathing, sleeping child. I can relate. If other readers never had a loved one die, know that at times, even decades later, it’s nice for the family members to know someone else remembers his or her name and acknowledge how that passing changed the norm. I’m thinking of Dan with you today, Laurie.

    1. What a tender response. Thank you for letting me know that my remembrances of Dan are appropriate and beneficial. I am sorry you lost your mom at a young age too.

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I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6

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