I normally use this blog to focus on ministry, but as you can tell sometimes just share what’s going on in the adventure of life.  We’re whole beings, after all, and I think that all of life should be centered on Jesus–the mundane and epic, the trials and the victories, the day in and day out.
Today.  There was ministry stuff.  There was me videoing myself reading books to a 3-year old audience I can’t see.  But that’s not what I want to focus on in this post.  Today is my little brother’s birthday.  He would have turned 30 today.  
Still learning how to grieve, but it’s helpful to remember and celebrate life along with shedding tears.  For that reason, I‘m going to post the “family reflection” I gave at the funeral service as a way of remembering and honoring him on this day.  Once again, a big thank you to so many who continue to pray for my family.  It has truly made a difference.
Note: Couldn’t get the formatting (spacing) right.

I’m speaking on behalf of my entire family and would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming response of love that we’ve received from all of you this week.  We’ve been inundated with visits, food, flowers, phone calls, cards, texts, prayers, FB posts, and offers to do anything.  Thank you so much.  Thank you especially to St. Michael’s Church who has been incredible.  It’s really helped carry us during our time of need. 

I remember my parents telling me, Ashley, and Frederick right after Hurricane Hugo that my mom was going to have a baby.  What a surprise, but how special and exciting it was to us when Brad was born.  

When Brad was little, we would take turns trying to put him down for a nap.  My tactic was to tell incredibly long and uncreative stories to lull him to sleep by boredom.  One time when he was around 3 years old, Ashley and I were together with him on the bed.  I made up that some character was taking a very long road trip and started listing every state I could think of very slowly.  I started with SC, NC–about that speed–and went up along the coast.  His eyes were already closed, and he was drifting off by the time I got to the northern states.  When I said New York, his body jolted and eyes sprung wide open, and he said, “New York City!,” a line from the Pace Picante Sauce commercial.   

That was so Brad.  He was quick and so funny even at that age.   He had a way with words and could make everyone around him laugh.  That’s one thing I’m going to miss so much is Brad’s hearty laugh along with his sheepish smile.   

He was intelligent, way smarter than me.  He had the ability to memorize large amounts of information and then regurgitate it, even verbatim.  He was incredibly thoughtful and caring, especially in his gifts, which he often made himself, including the choker that I’m wearing right now. 

He was also protective.  The first memory I have of this particular trait was when Brad told a lifeguard at the pool that I was 16 instead of 21.  At first I was bothered that he would lie and asked him why he would say that.  In front of the guy, he said, “I didn’t want him talking to you.”  Then I knew that my little brother at age 11 had my back.  Speaking of backs, he was a sucker for back rubs.  His hugs were great, another thing I’ll miss about Brad.  

There were hard times—some really hard times—that we went through as a family, but we had some fun, special times as well.  We shared vacations when we were younger and many holidays and birthdays together.  This past Thanksgiving was especially memorable sharing childhood stories in front of the fire.  Like when Brad was on a hunting trip in Africa with Dad at age 12, and Dad got Brad to have a little fun with his fake tooth retainer.  Brad convinced the African children he had magical powers when he smiled with a mouth full of teeth, then discreetly removed the retainer so that the tooth seemed to disappear.  

Brad worked really hard to overcome the past and to be involved with family.  He loved children so much, especially his niece Grace and nephew Nicholas.  He had such an incredible heart for people and for animals.  His dogs, Gypsy and Obsidian, were everything to him.    

I’m thankful for the one-on-one times with Brad when he was younger, but especially the past few years swing dancing, the Pour House, Farmer’s Markets, and Pho Saigon, the Vietnamese restaurant on James Island.  I didn’t join him for any camping trips and music festivals he loved, but I know that many of you here have lots of memories from that. 

I knew before, and I know now that Brad loved me and my family.  He made sure to say that he was proud of me, and I made sure to let him know that I’m proud of him and love him.  I admire his endeavors to learn about greenhouses, growing different types of vegetables and herbs, owning his own businesses, but I am equally proud of his side jobs delivering wine and washing dishes because he was displaying humility and taking on responsibility. 

Within the past year, Brad shared with me how he really wanted to help people who had been in his shoes, so to speak.  He didn’t want people to have to suffer and knew firsthand the damage that addiction can do personally and relationally.  I really admire his heart to help others and try to make the world a better place.  

I wish so much that Brad could have known the peace, love, and acceptance that only Jesus can give while He was here with us on earth.  But I know God to be a God of hope and of infinite last chances.   Brad’s last week of life, he made every effort to make peace with friends, family, and God.  Brad literally reached his hands out to my parents and asked them to pray for him, which they gladly did and affirmed their love for him.  He contacted so many friends and family to settle things and make sure there were no problems with anyone.   

 When I learned what happened, I was devastated and even felt a little angry and definitely disappointed at God because I really believed in Brad and especially in God to get Brad through.  When I reread a poem I wrote for Brad in 2011, though, the Lord gently reminded me that we only truly reach our full potential when we join Jesus together with all of those He has rescued because that is the real destiny that God has for us: to be in relationship with Himself.  That is when we’re complete and the only place where we’re whole, free of pain or sorrow, full of perfect, pure love. 

While it’s so painful to lose Brad when he seemed to be okay and planning his future, let’s thank God for the good times.  Let’s thank God for Brad’s life and all who he touched during his time here.  Let’s thank God that there is hope, and let’s go to God to heal our pain.

We will love you, forever, Brad.