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Sunday, 22 December 2013

My Big Brother, Danny

It is with a sorrowful heart that I share with you that my eldest brother, Danny, passed away in the wee hours of December 18th.  He'd lived a difficult life, particularly these last thirty years and it's hard to believe he is gone.  I struggle between the logic of knowing he is finally at peace now and the real hurt of knowing there is never going to be an opportunity to see him again… at least on this side of life.

We five siblings and my parents (among many other loved ones) have prayed diligently for him these many years and have wondered how our merciful God would answer them.  Would it be in an obvious way?  Would it be in a way we don't understand?  Will we have the eyes to see His workings?

My prayers for him changed a couple of months ago.  As I have been studying scripture, I wanted to share the incredible findings with my brother.  My mother, two sisters and younger brother had recently shared our first Sabbath gathering as a family and have delighted at the journey of eager learning together as a family.  I wanted so much for Danny to be a part of this journey with us, too.

So my prayers shifted and I asked God "Father, you know my heart and you know my brother's heart.  If you have guided us thus far in learning your ways, your statutes, your life-giving laws so as to guide us into willing obedience into a bondage of righteousness rather than a legalistic bondage of sin, then send your spirit to prepare the heart of my brother, Dan.  I will not chase him down but instead I ask that you stir something deep within his heart that causes him to contact me.  I ask this in our Messiah's holy name, Amen."

December 2000
My brother has called me maybe only five or seven times in my life so I knew that this would be a divine sign to say the least.  Would you believe not a couple of weeks after my prayer, I was about to leave for a two-night trip with Duane only to hear the phone ring.  When I answered, it was my brother Danny!!

In shock, I exclaimed with such joy "DANNY!!  Could you feel that I was praying for you??"

He didn't seem too interested in that question.  There was a remnant of inebriation in his tone and he was obviously troubled about something…

"I had to call Dad to get your number!  I've just had a terrible dream.  It was about Elizabeth."

"Elizabeth?  Who's Elizabeth?"

"ELIZABETH!  Your daughter!"

"Oh!  Danny, it's Isabel." (Even as I type this, I chuckle while holding back tears as this was just one of those Danny-things… he couldn't remember some of my kids' names).

"Yeah, Isabel.  I just dreamed about her…"  at this point he choked up and said "she walked right up to me.  Rita, she was WALKING, and she shook me awake.  She looked into my eyes and it was as if she could see right into my soul.  She could see right into me!  She looked at me and said 'Danny, you're dying.'"

There was a brief moment of silence as I could hear him still choked up and he asked "What do you think it means?  Is she ok?  Will she and I die soon?"

Because of the prayers I'd been praying and the miracle of his phone call, I felt nothing but HOPE.  I, too, have been sensing that Isabel will be free of her disabilities soon but my prayer was that it was to be through a moment of great faith… a miraculous healing for the glory of God.  This has been my prayer.  If I could see my Isabel free from her suffering due to a miracle, couldn't this little "message" mean a miracle was coming for my brother, too?  So I answered him:

"Danny, you ARE dying!  But not for long!  I prayed that God stir something within you that would cause you to call… and you DID!  You were obedient to the Father stirring within you.  That tells me deep inside of you, you are ready to let your old self die.  I think your suffering is about to end and you will be free of it!  Don't worry, Danny, your suffering will not have been for nothing… I think it is meant to be for the glory of God!"

He chortled sadly at that one in sad disbelief and I said with great excitement and hope "Danny, we won't talk about it more right now, I know you think I'm talking crazy talk, but you'll see… I know you'll call me again and we'll talk about God in a way you didn't know!  You're about to know God in HIS way!  I believe in you, Danny, and I love you very much.  And I'm very excited for you!"

A bit of a sad pause on his end, then barely over a whisper, he answered, "I love you, too.  Give Elizabeth a big hug for me."

And those were our last words.  I so believed his surrounding peace meant he was about to become a new creation.  But I suppose in some way, he has.  But I thought it meant in this lifetime, not through death.  I know God answered my prayer, just not as I expected.  Had He not caused that stirring, I would not be able to tell you right now what my last words were to my brother.  I would not be able to tell you when I last told him I loved him.  I got off that phone with tears of joy flowing down my face.  I looked at my husband and said "God is working something in Danny!"

I feel so dumb having believed with full confidence that I was going to hear from him again.  My siblings shared with me that he called each of them including my parents and had a good talk with each of them, except my dear sister Linda.  He had asked for her number but never got his chance to talk to her.  Needless to say, this has broken her heart.  As a family, we have united to share in our sorrow, our reluctant peace…. it has felt like waves ebbing and flowing between peace and deep sorrow.

The finality of it hits like a punch to the stomach and looking through pictures brings forth sobs as we try to accept that there will never be another picture taken.

His obituary has printed in the Press today and the realness is hitting hard.  This isn't just another set of time where no one knows where he is but he pops up again… he is gone and he's not coming back.  I wrote a song and if I can find a way to upload it, I will share it.  If not, I may simply post the lyrics.

Please keep my parents in your prayers as they bury their firstborn son tuesday morning.  And my two nephews, only young men.  Sunday night is the viewing and I'm scared to see the finality of my brother's empty shell.  I pray for continued healing through whatever process each person is best suited to.  I pray an unconditional support where each one is at and a collective uplifting with each step.  I pray for a peaceful surrender and trust in the will of a merciful God whose bigger picture exceeds any of our ability to understand.

Goodnight, my brother.  Enter into your sleep and I pray to recognize you at that trumpet sound.
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  (Romans 5:3-5)

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