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My brother with four of his grandchildren a few weeks ago.

My brother with four of his grandchildren a few weeks ago.

This is not the post I planned to write when I sketched out blog ideas recently.

I intended to write about my heart’s connection to Holy Week, which begins this Palm Sunday morning. I was going to invite you to take my hand and step into the drama of Christ’s sacrifice with me, our spirits journeying toward the humility of Maundy Thursday, the grief of Good Friday, the triumph of the resurrection that fills our lives with hope.

Everything changed last Sunday, while everyone wore green—or pinched those who did not—and made jokes about imbibing too much St. Paddy.

Last Sunday morning, while I got up and went to church the way I always do, my brother died on his bed. We will never know exactly what happened. A few hours later my mother found him. (This brother lived with my mom to help her remain in her home.) I spent a day making phone calls that yanked gut-wrenching sobs out of the depths of people I love, and a second day arranging my life to be gone for an undetermined period of time.

I flew to Florida, where another brother had already arrived. Together we are here for our mom and to try to figure out how to bring closure to Phil’s affairs and what is best for Mom now, along with thoughts from four other siblings we will see soon.

Then on Friday Mom went outside for a few minutes, felt like she might faint, managed to get in the house and sit on the couch—and then she did faint. Now she has been in the hospital for three days while they test her heart and brain to understand why, though I’m quite sure heartbreak and subsequent lack of appetite will be the final conclusion. I’m writing as she dozes in her bed.

She is better nourished now, but heartbreak does not heal in a hospital.

My brother was one of those luminous people who light a room by entering. His garb was humor, creativity, curiosity, delight, and diet Mountain Dew.

As Holy Week dawns and I look at the days ahead, I see the arrival of one sister and her husband later today. I see the work and details of preparing the house for sale. I see research and seven-way conversations to discern what next steps will best support my mother’s health through this valley of the shadow of her son’s death. I see a funeral that has come too soon. It seems doubtful I will get to church at all, much less plan my week around immersing myself in the passion drama.

Yet it is a holy week. Pushing through the practical matters to tend, emotions to embrace, and imperfect options to choose among will unquestionably reveal the power of presence, the richness of incarnational sacrifice, and the indescribable bonds of love. Each odd job, each errand, each phone call, each patient reply, each next decision—they are all sacred moments of grace we share as we make this passage from being a whole set of siblings to living with the hole we will always feel.

I am in utter darkness of body and spirit. And yet the Easter garden will be there in morning’s light. The tomb will still be empty even if our eyes are blinded by grief. We grieve, but not as those who have no hope. We listen for the trumpet call of hope that announces the ultimate power of God over death.

Peace to Phil’s memory.

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13 Comments

  1. Brooke @ i blog 4 books on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

    Olivia,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your brother’s passing and your mother’s hospitalization. Praying your family will feel comfort and peace that can only come from our heavenly Father and that the hope of the resurrection is more personal this week in the midst of your family’s grief.

    Brooke

    • Olivia on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

      Thank you, Brooke. The one week mark has been a difficult day, but we hold fast.

  2. Rel Mollet on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

    Dearest Olivia ~ praying for you and your family as you grieve your dear brother. With much love xo xo

  3. Beth K. Vogt on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

    Olivia,
    I am so sorry for the grief you and your family are experiencing. I am praying for you and your family — that God’s peace will surround you.

  4. Melissa on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

    Sharing this with a friend who lost her sister today and is very concerned about her elderly mother.

    • Olivia on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

      Melissa, I hope the words bring comfort to your friend somehow.

  5. Heather Kopp at SoberBoots.com on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

    Olivia, this is so beautiful. My heart breaks with you. Thank you for alerting us to this! I would hate to have missed it.

    You are in my prayers. Sending love, Heather

    • Olivia on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

      Thank you, Heather. Love right back.

  6. Rex Piercy on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

    I do not know you, nor did I know your late brother. For a while I was one of your sister’s pastors. I simply must say this is one of the most moving and powerful and deeply honest reflections on Faith an d life and death I have ever read. For all who have lost someone dear your aching heart and confident faith come what may is Holy Week and Easter!

    • Olivia on the March 24, 2013 remarked #

      Rex, thank you for your kind words.

  7. Lyn on the March 25, 2013 remarked #

    Dear Olivia, lifting you to the Father, and praying that you will be aware of His comfort, love and peace.

  8. Erin Healy on the March 25, 2013 remarked #

    Standing with you in the darkness, Olivia, believing in the promise of Christ’s light.

  9. Mercey Valley on the April 3, 2013 remarked #

    Oh Darling!

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