You would’ve been four the year I was born and my only older brother. That’s not how it turned out, huh? It’s crazy to think that you died during birth, unable to experience even a breath outside the womb.
You were only a word frozen in time to me as a child. I heard your name and your brief, heartbreaking story. But the anguish wasn’t mine like it was for our parents. You mattered. A lot. There’s no other way to think about you than to realize that you were very valuable.
How do I know? Dad and Mom grieved for you terribly. Everyone else moved on with their lives after a few kind, gentle words to them when you left.
Dad didn’t talk much about it or express how he felt but it hurt him deeply. Mom felt responsible for your death because of the cult. She couldn’t get help from the doctors. She’s struggled so much. They both have. A big part of them died the day that you died.
They visited your grave a few years ago for the first time since your body went into the ground.
Jeffrey, please don’t take it to mean that they didn’t visit because they didn’t care. They stayed away because of a sadness they couldn’t silence. After all those years, the hurt was still there.
Thirty-five years later, they stood there and wept for you like it was the very first day. “It shouldn’t have happened,” they said through tears. “It shouldn’t have happened,” they said again and again.
I’m crying as I write this. I feel a little silly but it makes me feel better at the same time. I guess it hurts to know how much our parents hurt, especially now that I’m a dad.
I think if someone were to read this letter they may think that I’m just writing to the wind. That I’m just writing for therapy, to make myself feel better. That may be partly true, I guess.
But the older I get, I know with every cell of my body something higher, something much better. No, I’m not merely writing in my journal.
I’m writing to you because you live, because you understand. I’m not writing to a baby. I’m talking to you as a man talks to another man. And I have no doubt that you are the better of the both of us. Yes, you are far better than me.
In an hour, you could sort out every problem that’s plagued me all my life and show me how to fix it. You would speak with authority at the stupidity of my sin and, most of all, of our Father whose love is beyond understanding.
To those who doubt this, I would instantly object. Doesn’t a father’s character rub off on his child? But you’ve lived in the presence of your Eternal Dad for forty years now. Surely, you’ve learned a thing or two. He oversaw everything for you from baby to maturity.
I know that your Dad has taught you well—That you are always with Him and constantly learning things from Him that are beyond my grasp.
Jeffrey, I am the real one to pity. I’ve made the heart of God weep and you had a front-row seat to my shame. I willingly ruined my soul. Others helped to darken it too just as I helped to darken theirs.
You never had to know that kind of darkness and for that I’m so grateful. God must reserve a special place in Heaven for those who come to Him as babies. Will they shine brighter than all the rest? I wouldn’t be surprised.
But you know the other side of the story better than I ever will on earth. You know that there’s a way for someone with a ruined heart like mine to be cleansed of all evil. To enter His presence without a hint of sin because of Jesus. And so, I have hope that it won’t be long until we meet.
You, dead? No! How funny I used to think of it all. You are the embodiment of life. I’m like a crippled person who drags himself along from place to place the best he can. You probably just fly or break into a sprint with no thought of fatigue.
I wish that my parents could see the man you’ve become. They’d be so proud. But that must wait. I know that the last thing you want is for Dad and Mom to grieve for you anymore. You are out of the perpetual war zone we call home.
You’re whole. You’re ok. There is nothing you need that you don’t have. You aren’t perplexed or worried in any way.
No, we shouldn’t fret about you. Instead, we should watch out for everyone still here and make sure we all make it safely Home.
Will God allow you to see my letter? I believe He will at the proper time. Either way, there won’t be a need for letters much longer. That will be such a happy day!
Whether I die young or old, I know that I’ll see you soon.
Jeffrey, I’m sorry I never said it before now but I love you.
Your little brother,
If you’d like to hear more about Jeffrey’s story, check out my post on How I Lost My Hand and Escaped a Cult.” His story is part of my story and my story part of his.
Here’s a poem by one of my favorite poets (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). Every time I read it, I think of Jeffrey.
The Reaper And The Flowers
There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,
And, with his sickle keen,
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between.
“Shall I have naught that is fair?” saith he;
“Have naught but the bearded grain?
Though the breath of these flowers is sweet to me,
I will give them all back again.”
He gazed at the flowers with tearful eyes,
He kissed their drooping leaves;
It was for the Lord of Paradise
He bound them in his sheaves.
“My Lord has need of these flowerets gay,”
The Reaper said, and smiled;
“Dear tokens of the earth are they,
Where he was once a child.”
“They shall all bloom in fields of light,
Transplanted by my care,
And saints, upon their garments white,
These sacred blossoms wear.”
And the mother gave, in tears and pain,
The flowers she most did love;
She knew she should find them all again
In the fields of light above.
O, not in cruelty, not in wrath,
The Reaper came that day;
‘T was an angel visited the green earth,
And took the flowers away.