Posted by: karanoel | October 20, 2020

Brothers

Cole and Chase had a different relationship than typical brothers who might fight over toys or debate who’s better at burping. This probably had to do with their 17 year age difference, the result of my long spell of singleness between marriages. While genuinely happy for me when Chase was born, Cole wasn’t thrilled about having a loud, needy newborn around. Still, he graciously surrendered my attention (which had historically been his) and managed the extra noise brought by his wee little brother with the judicious use of his headphones, like the fairly mature but equally hands-off teen he was. 

But then Chase started to form a personality; one that was sweet and charming and endlessly entertaining. He adored his big brother, glowing brightly when he entered the room and eagerly conversing with him, using surprisingly big words in his tiny cartoon voice. Cole’s defenses were powerless against this animated warmth and his heart was won over in no time flat. 

Though Chase had just turned two when Cole left for a six-year enlistment as a Navy nuke, the pair had already formed a forever kind of bond. Their closeness was reflected in this sweet story in Cole’s first letter home from bootcamp: “My RDC made me open up your letter in front of her and the rest of the division to make sure you didn’t send me any contraband and when I opened it up and saw a picture of Chase, I lost it. Fortunately, everyone else was too busy with their own mail to notice me standing in the middle of the room crying like a damn baby.” “It has been really tough,” he continued, “being away from Chase (and yes, all of you as well) and realizing how much of his life I’m going to miss out on.”

Little did he know when he wrote this how much of Chase’s life he would indeed miss, not just during his enlistment when visits were rare and texts, photos and videos had to suffice, but when he chose to take his own life just shy of four years later. My heart hurt deeply for myself, but far more for my boys… for Cole who was in such a place of darkness and fear that he felt the need for such a desperate measure, and for Chase who now has to deal with the pain and fallout of Cole’s actions, something that is getting more tangible for him each year.

Here is the thing. Even though I completely disagree with Cole’s choice and wish he could have received the love and help that was held out to him so he could have chosen life instead, I feel nothing but love and compassion for him. No one does damage to himself or others, intentionally or unwittingly, without it coming from a place of fear, lack of understanding or brokenness. Cole was no exception. And while I know that it is going to take a lot of processing for Chase that I would never want to shortcut, I feel like my role is to help him know who Cole really is, to forgive him for the pain his choice caused and to enter into an even deeper love for him than he would have otherwise… because it will have to be a selfless, God kind of love at this point; the agape kind.

As Chase was processing his sadness with me on Cole’s birthday, I thought about the hurt God’s kids are causing each other in the world right now. It may not always be between bonded siblings like my boys, but between those called family by God, created with a potential for a bond even stronger than brothers of blood. As Cole experienced, it’s not always easy or convenient to have our peace interrupted or our comfort taxed by calling someone “brother” who is so different from ourselves, but what a beautiful, blessed thing it can become. And as I experienced, I have to imagine it breaks God’s heart, even more for us than for Himself, to see the damage we are causing each other by our choices of word and action… sometimes intentionally, sometimes unwittingly, but always from a place of fear, lack of understanding or brokenness. 

The same God who has seen beyond our (often poor) choices to who we really are, forgiven us without fail and loved us with relentless compassion is calling us to do the same. We don’t need to agree, but we do need to love. As with Chase, at this point with hurt that’s gone so deep, it will have to be a selfless, God kind of love. One that believes the best, is not easily offended, keeps no record of wrongs. One that doesn’t draw lines of where worthiness begins and where it ends. Because He has made us all worthy of love and it is only when we receive this gift and the grace that comes with it that we are able to see clearly, to love our brothers and sisters well and to choose life – for ourselves and others – in our words and actions.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13

If you have a chance, I encourage you to listen to Jenn Johnson, For the One:


Responses

  1. Thank you for this post and the reminder that love is endless and unwavering and pure like the one Chase and Cole had for each other. This is only a brief interruption like the one they had when Cole was in the navy. Can’t wait for the reunion of loved ones to come. We patiently await.

    • You have been such a good friend to always point me back to eternity. What a reunion that will be! Love you.


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