All I remember from the phone call are my fatherís blunt words, ďYour brotherís dead.Ē Shock immediately took over before pain had a chance to overwhelm me. Numbness and denial quickly followed but their effects were only temporary. Enduring this loss was a horribly painful time for our family, but even out of the horror came good. For along this difficult journey, my soul found its way back to God.
Immediately after receiving the phone call, I drove to my parentís home across town. How I got there remains a blur. Looking back, I donít recall street signs or stop lights, only a road immersed in a dark, heavy fog. Many of my memories during that time have been buried along with my brother, twenty years ago. But the moment I walked into my parentsí home is as vivid as if it had happened yesterday.
Opening the front door, I entered my parentsí foyer. I could see the back of my motherís head as she sat on edge of the couch. Although I was standing in the home Iíd grown up in, I was in completely unfamiliar territory. I had never experienced a loss like this before.
Afraid to move forward, I hesitated for a moment. The foyer remained a place where denial was still possible, where my fatherís words and reality had not yet collided. I knew the moment of impact would come when I saw my motherís face and could no longer deny what had happened.
She sat completely still, frozen in her grief, and stared straight ahead. I walked over and stood before her: my pillar of strength, now hardened like a statue. Only her eyes shifted slightly and looked into my own, but what I saw frightened me. I had never before seen so much pain in my motherís eyes.
Sitting next to her on the couch, I wrapped my arms around her. I could literally feel her pain and willingly took some of it as my own. Grasping for words of comfort, my feeble attempts fell short of my heartís intention. Instead, I lay my head on her shoulder and held her hand. In the silence our hearts spoke volumes and our touch consoled.
On the table next to her, an untouched cigarette slowly burned away. I watched as the wispy stream of smoke drift into nothingness. We continued to sit together long after the cigarette had burned itself out, but for how long I couldnít say. In the pain of loss, each moment seemed an eternity, yet eternity is what was hoped for.
The evening of the viewing, our immediate family arrived a couple of hours prior to the scheduled time. When I first walked in, I could see my brother lying in the open casket across the room. I stood back and waited until everyone had their time alone. Finally, standing at the coffin, I looked at my brother and was immediately startled by my first thought, or was it my soul that spoke to me?
This is not my brother.
The reality of this truth hit me. This was only his body, an earthly vessel which had housed his soul. His soul, which is who he truly is, was no longer here; it had left his body. Although his body was dead, his soul lived on.
I had grown up in a church where I learned about an all powerful God, but God seemed distant to me. I had learned more about rules than about relationship. As a result, I had drifted away from the church and from God. But this experience woke me up spiritually. Like Thomas, the disciple who had needed to touch the wounds of Jesus before he believed, this was my moment of truth. Talk of the soul had not convinced me; I had needed to see for myself.
In my discovering the reality of the soul, God became more real to me. God was no longer merely someone I had always prayed to but had never really known. Understanding my own spirituality allowed me to enter into an intimate spiritual relationship with my Creator.
This reminder of the soulís existence was just the beginning of my journey. My walk with the Lord has continued to grow over the years. While this may have been a unique experience, it was my own. I had walked the painful path of loss and along the way my soul found its way back to God.
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