My brother and his wife moved back home at the end of October 2017 and that same week my brother was taken to the local hospital Senior Behavioral Unit. My purpose here is not to go into all the details leading up to this tragedy or to detail all the miscarriage of medical treatment. My desire is to tell you, the reader, about his spiritual journey.
H. was the eldest son of five children born into a very violent and abusive home. As is often the case, the abused became the abuser and H. was filled with hatred and mistrust of people in general. He seemed to have a death wish and raced cars nationally with all the violent energy in his body. He was also a man of excellence, but the hatred and feeling of not being accepted lead to him hardening his heart and treating people badly, particularly his wife and children.
When he was taken to the behavioral unit he tried to find ways of persuading the personnel to release him but nothing worked. He was allowed to return to his new home for only a few days before being taken to a nursing home. When he was at home I sometimes stayed with him while his wife ran errands and I began immediately to talk to him about my emotional healing from abuse – and I did use those terms.
I spoke of the importance of forgiveness and how hard it was for me to understand how to forgive, for I hated with as much passionate violence as my brother did. Then I read a parable that Jesus told about a rich man who canceled the debts of several of his servants. So, forgiveness was canceling people’s debts! I understood that very well and desperately wanted freedom from the bondage of anger and resentment and rebellion.
The Lord forgave me but I still had the grief and pain of the wounds, so I found the Scripture in Isaiah 53 about Jesus taking our griefs and sorrows, and I began to petition Him for healing of the gaping wounds I carried. He came and gave me the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. I couldn’t get enough of Him.
My brother was doubtful but too polite to say that. He did listen without comment, though.
I began to visit my brother twice a week in a nursing home about 25 miles from his home. Twice a week required gas money and I didn’t like to be on the highway especially during subzero weather in snowy and icy conditions. But I had a mission and it was to persuade H. of God’s ability to heal and restore him according to His plans for him.
One time I pointed out that marriage wasn’t as popular in America as it used to be. That didn’t mean it would ever be abolished because it was, indeed, God’s idea. Because it seemed to be failing didn’t mean it would go out of practice because it was a symbol of God’s love for His people; and His commitment to His promises would never fail.
The same thing was true for LOVE. The Scriptures say God is Love. He will never fail to be Love regardless of how little love can be observed around us. H. said he didn’t feel God’s love. So I prayed for the sweet, intimate Holy Spirit to manifest His love to my brother. I asked H. later if he noticed God’s love and he said yes, a little. So I smiled and kept praying for more love.
One day a couple of months ago H. was waiting for me to come. Would I please pray with him for salvation? He had already prayed but he wanted to be sure the transaction was fully completed. So we prayed together – repentance and a request for forgiveness. Then he asked me to pray blessings on every church congregation he had ever attended. We couldn’t remember every congregation, so we prayed some “blanket” prayers of blessing over the many churches he had cursed. Lastly, he asked me to not forget to pray for his family when he was gone.
He worried about his wife being on the highway alone during winter. He asked her to find a nursing home in the town where they lived but no nursing home would accept him. He told me his wife had been kind and considerate of him even though he had not been good to her. He was pleased and grateful for her faithfulness to come every day to be with him. She often brought home-cooked meals and treats for him. And she read the Bible to him since he couldn’t read it for himself. She washed his clothes and decorated the room according to the holidays.
Those were the last conversations we had before he became unable to express himself very well. What a sacred relationship of trust we built and what an incredible payback on the investment of time and love poured into somebody else’s life. But it was worth every mile of time and gas money, tears of petition, and patient, humble self-control on both our parts. I told him how proud I was of the changes in his character: his obvious self-discipline when a CNA didn’t come when he needed one; or humility when a young woman had to help him in the bathroom. I saw a quiet personal dignity develop that I knew was a reflection of the gentle Savior living inside of him.
All of H.’s siblings had a part in expressing love to a helpless man who needed to be loved and honored for who he was and most of all, as Jesus’ child. I’m so happy he is surrounded by God’s Love and is rejoicing in Heaven now as he never imagined possible.