My brother Matthew is the handsome man in the middle – it was his wedding day. He’s younger than me so he’s my kid brother whether he likes it or not. Our oldest brother is Greg who would rather not be getting his picture taken.
I once coerced Matt to get on a sled when he was six and dared him to make it to the bottom of the hill without falling off. Of course, the challenge lay in the path we had selected. We had pounded down the snow, created little snow banks to help maneuver in and around the minefield of trees, and it was definitely going to be a speedy run. He climbed on, looked at me, trusting as always, and away he went. A little dude in a puffy winter coat screaming down the hill.
He did a great job on the first turn, a real pro, probably a thirty degree change of direction to the left. I was really impressed as I ran and skidded after him to see how he would manage the next corner. Yep, you heard it right. Corner. I think it’s safe to say I did not do a good job in setting up the course. I was twelve for god’s sake! Ninety degrees to the right was a bit much – okay, impossible. But how did I know he would be breaking the land speed record as he hit that next turn.
So, since the laws of motion are what they are, he and the sled parted company. The sled did okay as it turned out, but my baby brother slammed into a rather large tree trunk. He was definitely airborne when he hit and as I got to him, his little burrhead exposed, his snow cap beanie ten feet away, he was holding his arm.
I told him he was fine, you can’t just walk away after a crash, you gotta stare that demon right in the face and get back on the horse. Even a pained six-year-old can roll his eyes at trite clichés, so back up the hill he trudged. Two hours later he’s wearing a cast.
Mom and Dad were not happy.
About fifteen or sixteen years ago, for no real reason that I can remember, we spent a weekend together. We went hiking and as the endorphins kicked in, Matthew asked me if I was proud of him, again trusting me in what I might say. I won’t share why he felt compelled to ask me that. But none of our lives are straight tranquil lines; events and choices – good and bad – that characterize the human experience always create a succession of peaks and valleys unique to every one of us.
Here’s what I didn’t say, but I should have.
Matthew, of all the people I’ve known in my life, no one has a more magnificent heart. A soul is our greatest treasure and God blessed you with a remarkable one. Unfortunately, like so many blessings – and you are a cherished one – they get lost in the fog of life, such as mine I’m disheartened to say. But please know that I’m not only proud of you, I’m in awe. You’re a very good man.
Lord help me. Our Matthew died today. No warning, he was mountain biking. His glorious heart gave out – mine is broken.
Mom and Dad, he’s yours now. He’s going to need all your comfort. Brother, I know you’re watching. We love you.