On Saturday morning, I received the sad news that my dear friend Brigid's big brother had lost his battle with cancer.
It's rather odd to grieve the loss of someone you've never met in person...but that you feel you know well, because of his sister's occasional stories about him.
I confess, he sounds very much like the kind of big brother I would have liked to have, except that I have that small problem of being the eldest child in my family. (I've had to "adopt" big brothers.)
This was somewhat unexpected news, but unsurprising, since I knew that B's Big Bro had been fighting stage 4 cancer for quite awhile. He was on my personal prayer list, and I knew how deep the love between Brigid and her brother was. I hated the thought of her facing another loss, especially so soon after losing her dear Barkley.
And so I prayed for Big Bro, as I thought of him, for his healing. For his family's strength. For their dad, who is also in frail health. For Brigid's strength and peace as she watched from so many miles away. For Partner in Grime, as he supported Brigid through whatever might come. For Big Bro's wife and kids...it doesn't matter how old you are; losing a parent is like losing a part of yourself, and a very scary prospect.
As I read the email Brigid sent me, my heart dropped. The odds that I ever would meet her brother this side of glory were slim to begin with, although I would have liked that. I had a physical ache in my chest, for I could only guess at how deeply Brigid was grieving. Like me, I know both she and Big Bro have a bedrock-deep faith that assures this "goodbye" is really just a "see you later," but that only slightly eases the pain of having to wait an indeterminate time before that "see you later" reveals itself.
I had no doubt that God had answered my prayer. Big Bro had been healed, spectacularly so, and was whole again—no more pain, no more nausea, no more failing body, no more ravages of the disease that claimed him too soon (not that there's ever a good time to lose one you love). Was it the healing we all wanted? I'm pretty sure I can safely say no. But he's healed all the same. The Big Bro I am confident I'll meet someday has his glorious red hair back.
I'm sure Barkley is wiggling all over Big Bro. There's been a joyous reunion with Big Bro and Brigid's mom and stepmom. And, in the meantime, we on this side grieve and wait.
Big Bro died on Good Friday...in a way, oddly appropriate. Even as my heart broke for my friend and her family, I couldn't help but acknowledge the hope that we, almost 2000 years after the crucifixion of Christ, know is embedded in the pain and despair of Good Friday itself. Without Good Friday, there would be no Easter Sunday, no resurrection of Jesus, putting Death in its own grave. It is because of Jesus's resurrection and triumph that we know death here is not the end.
It's how I can say with absolute confidence that they will meet again, the next time in a place with no sorrow, no pain, no death.
Big Bro, thank you for helping to shape Brigid into the woman she's become. I'm honored to call her my friend. In a way, I miss you. I look forward to the day when we meet. Until then...