Are you sure Lord? Me? I’m no theologian. Why choose me to talk to Steve? What if I don’t know what to say? What if I blow it? This is too important. Laurel lay in her bed but her heart was pacing. She knew the answer. She knew when she saw her older brother lying in that hospital bed 2 days earlier that he was dying and he needed to make his peace with God. She fell asleep assured of what she needed to do. Over the next few days she took whatever opportunities she could to talk to her seemingly incoherent brother and led him in prayer Saturday morning.
Monday morning the hospital called her mother first and then her. Steve was failing rapidly and probably wouldn’t make it past noon. It was about 7:45 when she got her page. She returned the page right away but he had coded. She had signed the do not resuscitate order the day before. She raced to her mother’s home to break the news. Taking a deep breath she rang the bell.
“Let’s go.” Laurel’s mother started to step out onto the porch.
“We can’t. Steve’s gone.”
“Did he leave the hospital AMA* again?”
“No Mom. He coded and they had to let him go.” Laurel followed her mother back into the house. She didn’t say anything else but walked silently to her room and shut the door. Laurel didn’t know what to do. Glancing around the living room her eyes fell on the God Cares plaque with the scripture verses on a scroll. She knew Steve had gotten it for their mother when he worked at the House of Praise, a small Christian gift store, when he was a teenager. Sighing, she once again asked herself the same question she’d been pondering the last 15 years: why? She clung to their faith when their father died but Steve became an alcoholic. Why?
Her mother didn’t want to talk so Laurel decided to call Steve’s best friend Jack before leaving. She punched in the numbers that would connect her to the man that was like a second brother. They talked for a few minutes and Laurel assured him she’d let him know about funeral arrangements as soon as she made them. She left her mother’s house then and drove to the cemetery. As she drove she thought of this war on alcoholism she’d fought. It was her brother’s addiction and supposed to be his battle but he didn’t report for duty. So she and her mother were left to be prayer warriors.
In 1992 there’d been a glimmer of hope that the war was almost over and the process of peace could begin. Steve’s alcoholism was no longer manageable and Laurel thought he’d finally join the battle. He wound up on the streets and dropped out of her realm of influence rather than go to rehab. Laurel was sure that if he just went to rehab the war would end but instead it lasted and in many ways got worse. The weather was now a major issue in the war. Laurel worried that Steve was too hot or too cold.
Now it was 1997 and there was a small graveside service for Steve the week following his death. Laurel’s mother seemed to just be going thru the motions as was she. She felt so much turmoil The war was over but she wasn’t at peace. She wasn’t sure Steve had prayed. He was non-verbal that day but he did seem to be moving his lips. It would be months before peace would come for Laurel and it would come from an answer to a question she wasn’t sure she should ask. She’d asked God for a sign and in His Graciousness He’d given it and there was no doubt that Steve was Home in Heaven.
*Against Medical Advice
Rest in Peace
Paul Stephen Burkholder
Yes, this is based on a true story
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