On Sunday February 7th, 2016, my brother died.  I was talking to him on the phone just one hour before the Super Bowl was to begin.  I asked him which team he was rooting for and he definitely wanted Peyton Manning’s team to win. As we hung up the phone he spoke his final words, “I love you, Jack”.  Sometime within the next hour he died from heart complications as he was going for a run on the high school track.

There are some things that are almost too big to describe.  I cannot accurately describe the agony I felt when my husband whispered the words,”Reed’s gone, Jack”.  My world spun out of control as we clung together and sought to comprehend the incomprehensible.  In just a few moments our lives were shattered… as we desperately willed that it not be true.  Not Reed.  Not now.  Not ever.  Please Lord…please no.

I adored my brother.  I simply adored him.


There is something about losing my big brother that has exposed the vulnerable 13 year old girl inside of me.  I have never known life without the knowing he was there.  He was always there for me.  The structure of my life has been rocked and there is a part of me that went away with him when he left this earth.

At the same time, I have a strong sense of knowing that Reed is still alive.  It’s as though he is living in another country – which I know is Heaven – but somehow he doesn’t seem that far away.  It’s pretty amazing. Death truly has no sting because I know that he was a believer.  The difficult part is that I am unable to talk to him until death knocks at my door.  The ache of that is overwhelming.

Death has a way of putting life into better perspective.  The things that shouldn’t matter – don’t.  The things that should matter take on more importance.  Truth is truth.  Lies are lies.  Time is more precious and you don’t want to waste any of it.  When someone you love is in Heaven, Heaven suddenly seems very close. Death makes you consider what you are living for and why.  It helps you prioritize and it causes you to be more intentional.

Through the first 5 weeks of this journey I have had a tremendous sense of God’s presence. There is something achingly beautiful as I have felt Him draw closer to me in my brokenness.  The words in the Bible pierce through my soul in a fresh and real way; church sermons have deeper meaning.  Every single day the Lord has given me something that encourages and sustains me.  As Martin Luther King once said…

“In the midst of life, there is death.  But, no!  In the midst of death there is life.”

 I am convinced that one of the finest ways the Lord does His work is through the kindnesses of others.  Lovely notes, timely emails,  willing hands, meals, and kind words sustained me when I had no strength.  My niece and her husband were graced with a visible gift as God painted a winter rainbow across the sky as they drove from South Dakota to Minnesota.  

While I have great comfort in the Lord’s presence – it still hurts.  My mind is flooded with memories that go back almost 56 years.  I have wonderful memories of him at our family cabin riding in boats, listening to music, 4th of July fireworks, and playing night games.  My mind goes back to the way he teased me mercilessly in his loving way and how he would come looking for me to go fishing or skiing. I remember the sheer terror when he decided that 1st grade wasn’t too soon to for me to learn to ski on one ski.  I didn’t like fishing and I didn’t particularly like waterskiing – but I did them both as often as he asked because I loved spending time with him.

As an 8th grade girl I thought I was the coolest girl in the school because he was one of the star senior athletes in the high school.  It made me feel special to claim him as mine.  I remember crying for days when he left home to attend college at Duke University because I wouldn’t see him as much anymore.  This time his leaving is far worse.

When I entered the workforce we had fabulous conversations on how best to get the “sale”.  And he gave me wise advice on raising my kids and told me I didn’t need to worry because they would turn out just fine.

In 1986 my husband lost his beloved brother in a motorcycle accident.  A year after his death Reed was one of the few to remember the anniversary date and  said to my husband, “I know this is the day you lost your brother last year and I know it’s hard.  I’m sorry…”

My entire life he encouraged me, cheered me on, praised me, told me he loved me, and insisted that I deserved the best.  He was a great big strapping 6’4″ guy and his heart was bigger.  

I think one of his most unique qualities was the how he was genuinely interested in other people.  He loved hearing about what was going in in their lives and he delighted in their accomplishments.  He recognized strengths in others and gave out compliments.  He had a way of letting people know that he respected and admired them and he loved learning from their lives.

A few times a week his daughters received voicemails from him reminiscing about a fun memory, telling them how much he loved them and how proud he was to be their Dad.  What a tremendous gift he gave them.  I, too, was the recipient of many of those phone calls.  He left nothing unsaid – and nothing undone.  He accomplished his bucket list of dreams and he left behind a myriad of people who knew they were loved, admired, appreciated and respected by him.  And he sought to live a life that would be pleasing to God.

I cannot help but think of how amazing it must have been for him to meet his loving Father in Heaven and to hear the living God say the kind of things that Reed said to all of us.  “Way to go, Reed!  You did GREAT.  I am so proud of you.  I love you. Well done.”  It makes me happy to think of that.

He laughed easily and he lived hard.  He lived as though he could die.  He knew that we don’t have forever.

Death will knock at each of our doors.  Losing my brother has made me painfully aware that I need to be ready when that day comes.  I truly believe Reed had completed the work that he was called to do.

Whenever I become overwhelmed with sadness,  I am hanging on to the promise that the best is yet to come. I have the assurance that he is now experiencing all the wonderful things that the Lord had stored up for him.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9

I have learned that the more you love someone, the more it hurts when they are gone.  There are moments when I just want to crawl into bed and put the covers over my head in order to hide from the pain.  But I can’t.  I won’t.  One of the things that Reed taught me since I was a little girl was to be a good sport.  To have a good attitude, to be strong, and to make the best of every situation.  And I am going to do just that.

 I refuse to curl up in a ball.  Instead I am going to concentrate on my many blessings – the blessing of having him for my big brother as long as I did and  the blessings of my husband, kids, grandkids, my family, and my friends who have held me together when I felt like falling apart.

My younger brother said this to me, “Jack – now I understand the meaning of life.  We are put on this earth to prepare for Heaven.  Those of us who believe in Jesus – who make Him Lord of their life – have a call to fulfill.  We had better get busy – we have work to do…”  I love that.

So I am going to keep going.  I am going to be sure about my call and do everything I can to fulfill my purpose.  I have memorized a verse to spur me on in the moments when I feel shaky…

“Strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet…”

Hebrews 12:12

And I have a song that I will listen to when I need to level my paths.  I pray that it blesses you as it did me.

Trust in You

Until next time,