Blades of dew-tipped grass captured the rays of a watery sun filtering stealthily through the early morning mist. Crystal beads on green canvas. The old oak church doors stood open, the strains of a secular pop song drifting out on a flimsy breeze. ‘If I could turn back the hands of time’. I suspected this was Jay’s choice? A final rebellion or a heart cry. Unfamiliar eyes watched as we took our seats at the front.
He had exploded into my eleven year old life like a tornado, gathering up my heart along with my sisters, his angelic face mesmerising us into his willing servants. A longed for son after two daughters, adored by our parents, he quickly learned how to play off one against the other. Dad left when Jay was two years old and Jay’s energies became concentrated on satisfying his heart’s desires. Toddler tantrums graduated into a steely persistence that could wear down granite. He was a whirlwind that never abated. We loved him.
During his early school years he was content to allow others to shoulder the blame for his many misdemeanours. His charm and fun loving personality ensuring forgiveness without retribution. On the rare occasions when the spotlight shone on him he took his punishment and bounced back like a rubber ball. A rebel without a cause, Jay would always find a problem where none existed and make it exist. He walked with a swaggering, lolloping gait, earning himself the nickname The Pink Panther, based on the famous film character. My sister and I would lovingly tease him, humming the theme tune whenever he entered a room. But he knew we loved him.
At seventeen he was the irresponsible, irrepressible uncle to my three young children, making promises he never kept, encouraging them in ways he knew were unacceptable to me, laughing at my rebukes. His popularity nurtured his outrageous personality. He was the moon in a sky filled with insignificant stars. I remember him leaving my house one evening, silver Alvin Stardust heeled boots glinting in the reflection of the street lights, hand raised in a nonchalant wave. To turn might have messed up his perfect, silver streaked hair. It was a year before we saw him again, returning home to our mother’s house in a police car, having run out of money and clothes and oblivious to the heartbreak he had caused her.
Drink, drugs, drifting from job to job, place to place, fast cars, living life in top gear, signified Jay‘s life. A turbulent marriage, two children and a divorce in rapid succession failed to capture and tame his errant ways. He would simply disappear for long periods, always returning with a lightness in his step, a lie on his tongue, certain of our love and unconditional welcome. He was a free spirit in mind only. His heart remained anchored to our love.
After I became a Christian his humour flourished with a fresh outrageous fervour and he never tired of regaling me with the wild parties he would enjoy with his friends in Hell. No matter how many times I talked to him about Jesus he would shrug it off as fantasy and disappear without trace. Until one night, when he sat quietly and listened. But it was years before he burst into my life again.
“I’m in the final stages of multiple sclerosis.”
An opening line typical of my beloved wayward brother. Yet when he gave me the address of a hospice I knew truth had pierced the darkness. I talked about Jesus whilst Jay remained uncharacteristically quiet and passive.
That song was playing again as we left the church, passing the row of beautiful wreathes laid out on the damp grass. I couldn’t contain a flickering smile at the dusky coloured, Pink Panther shaped memory, that lay alongside a bouquet of rich red roses, so reminiscent of his vibrant personality. Had he responded to the call of his Saviour? Only God knew.
Random thoughts meandered through my mind. A sudden desire two days ago to plant a flower in Jay’s memory. The almost empty spaces in the Garden Centre after an end of summer sale. A single pot containing one peach tinged yellow rose standing alone on a shelf. A yellow rose for the good times. It wasn’t until we reached the checkout that the label on the pot caught my eye.
The name of that rose…’Remember Me’. A loving Heavenly Father’s comfort.
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