The songs were old and beautiful, tearjerkers actually. “It is well with my soul.” “This World is not my Home”. This stanza especially got those tears rolling down my cheeks. “I have a loving mother just over in glory land. And I don't expect to stop until I shake her hand. She's waiting now for me in heaven's open door. And I can't feel at home in this world anymore”
On November 5th, the day Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in Texas was attacked, I went to First Baptist Church in Tupelo, MS with my brother on his 81st birthday. It was a surprise visit. Surprisingly it turned out it was ‘Sit by Me Sunday.” I didn’t know that a special day had been designed for me to come and sit by my brother at his church on his special day.
Through the years my brother and I haven’t had much of a relationship. He was 22 and married when I was born. Therefore, we didn’t grow up together. No stories to tell about playing baseball or riding bikes together. He and his wife were in the delivery room with my mother when I was born. He held the ether for her. Seems my father went off on a three-day drinking binge while mom was in the hospital. He didn’t meet me until I was three days old.
My brother and his wife kept me some when I was young. I can remember gifts from JC Penny’s and birthday cakes from Kermit’s Birthday. During my teen years Carol, his wife colored my hair for me for the first time. They had big plans for me to go to college. Instead of college I eloped and married the day I turned 18 to a man who had four children.
Because of that decision, my relationship with my brother and his wife ceased. Two years later I had a baby boy. They came to see me at the hospital and fell in love with him. Christopher spent the night with them the first time when he was a month old. For the next ten years, Bob and Carol kept my firs born son nearly every weekend, took him to church, to the mall, to dentists and doctors, on vacation. Many people assumed he was their son. They let them assume that.
Herein lay the problem. I felt they were trying to take him from me. So the visits stopped at age ten. A huge battle was threatened. My husband was furious. After that my brother and I didn’t speak for many years. My second son was born. My brother and his wife had nothing to do with him. Part of this was obviously my fault. I guess they saw how Christopher was taken from them. I suppose they didn’t want to set themselves up for that much pain again.
We reconnected through the years at funerals: our mother’s, Carol’s, our sister’s. My son, Christopher, and Bob are now reunited, despite many other hurtful things that happened during his early adult years. Forgiveness is essential in life if we want to have peace. Christopher now takes his uncle to doctor’s appointments, out to eat, to the mall. I guess some people think he is his dad. Funny how life forms a complete circle isn’t it.
I committed to having a relationship with my brother after my sister passed. I call him pretty often, but really have no idea what to say to him. I don’t know him. He doesn’t know me. It is sad because he could have been a brother who was like a father to me who I really needed in my life. Our dad passed long ago in 1971 when I was twelve years old.
I tell you all this to understand why it was such a big deal for me to go to church and surprise my brother on his birthday. A few days before his birthday I was looking through some of my mother’s things and once again looked through my dad’s old wallet. There were receipts from way back in 1963 when I was five years old. I thought of my life back then and tried once again to find a memory or two of this man. There are few.
On the other hand, my brother has many happy memories of him. He loved him, even idolized him I believe. I knew this wallet would mean so much more to Bob than it did to me packed in this box of things of my mother’s. I decided then and there I would give it to him on his birthday. But I didn’t decide until the day before to take it to him at First Baptist Church.
I walked in and my brother was sitting on a bench in the foyer. He couldn’t see me until I got very near. He smiled, hugged me, and was sincerely glad to see me. I gave him the wallet right then. I told him to slip it in his pocket and look at it later.
During the service, my brother had to go up front to stand to receive the offering. He is a deacon. As I bowed my head for the offertory prayer, I looked at my mom’s wedding ring on my finger, tears filled my eyes. I thought it was kind of like my brother had taken my dad to the altar. We were all there together, my mother, my dad, my brother and me. That never happened in the physical world, but here it was in the spiritual world bringing tears to my eyes. And possibly just as the song we sang reminded me, our parents are both waiting at Heaven’s door to welcome my brother and me home one day soon.
Life here can end quickly wherever we are at the moment, sadly even in a First Baptist Church. Be ready. Forgive who you need to forgive. Love who you need to love. This world is not our home.