Once upon a time if asked “how long would you like to live?” I would answer without thinking: “as long as I want. Forever… or at least until I feel I’ve done it all. At least 10,000 years.” I knew that to live such a long life meant that you would likely outlive all of the people you loved, but the thought of my own mortality held too great a sway over the thought of such loss.
Back then (which wasn’t all that long ago, early June 2010 to be exact) I thought dying was my greatest fear. I had truly lived a blessed life. I lost all of my grand parents when I was young, but that was really it as far as my experience with my family’s mortality. I can remember that even as a young child the thought of dying would send me into a panic. I had known people that died, and I had seen people die. I had helped to try and save a few people who died despite my efforts. It had always been traumatic, but it was always something I could eventually shake off.
I always had a healthy respect for my own mortality and even though I participated in dangerous activities such as riding motorcycles, hunting, deep sea fishing in Alaska and many dangerous military activities I always made a reasonable attempt to be safe. For instance, I would not play golf or fish if it happened to be lightening outside, or I always wore a helmet while riding, even in places with no helmet laws. I didn’t want to be injured or killed, so I tried to think safely.
Times change. Life happens all around you and then one day everything you thought you knew is different.
I’ve always been bad with times and dates. I basically remembered three birthdays in my family, mine, my mother’s, and one of my nephews. I was able to remember my nephew’s birthday because it was on Halloween. Dates can mean all sorts of things to people. Some are exciting and joyous, some are important dates to be remembered or observed, and some are dates that mark life changing events.
The times and dates that changed my life are: June 12th-16th, and June 17th, 2010, 5:05 p.m., and 6:02 p.m.
June 12th through June 16th was when I was supposed to drive back to Louisiana to spend time with my Mother and my Brother, but was unable to leave town because of car troubles.
June 17th is when my Brother died. It was a Thursday and he died at 5:05 p.m., and I found out at 6:02 p.m. 6:02 p.m. on that Thursday afternoon (a day which had been pretty good for me up to that point) of June 17th, 2010 is when everything I thought I knew and felt about life changed. It changed in one horrible second after answering my cell phone. The world became a different place, family gained a new meaning, and I became a different person. They say you never get over something that terrible. They say you learn to live with it and each passing day becomes unnoticeably easier than the day before. They say that eventually you start to remember the good memories and are able to laugh and smile. They say a lot of things, but none of it means anything until you get that call or knock at the door. That’s when the terrible wisdom of the ages rushes into your mind and heart like a runaway train.
June 17th at 6:02 p.m. is when my forever became “no more” and everything I thought I knew about death and loss became real in my mind. I’ve often heard of older folks or terminally ill people saying that death no longer frightened them. They somehow had come to a place in life where it wasn’t scary, and to some it was even welcomed. I thought they surely must be insane. Now I know better. The thought of my own mortality no longer frightens me. I have faith in God, and I believe in the supreme sacrifice that Jesus made for me so that I could enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. I also have faith that my Brother Jake is now in Heaven. The thought of dying isn’t scary to me anymore because I have faith that the moment my soul loses it’s spark and my body expires, I will open my eyes and see that lopsided grin of Jake’s. I long to see Jesus and truly know God, I long to have the wisdom of the ages availed to me, and I long to be in eternal paradise… but I so long to see my Brother again. I dream of walking side by side with him, sitting with him, eating and drinking, laughing, talking. I long to be in the glow and warmth that Jake’s amazing soul had always put off and surely now must be innumerably more intense.
Today my forever is no more, but I know that someday it will be back, and it will be real. It will truly be forever.