As Michaela finished up her high school courses, she had to write an essay on an especially significant time in her life. She chose to write about the night her brother died. I asked if I could share it here and she was willing to have me to do so. I hope it will encourage you as it encouraged me.
The night my brother died was a cold one. So cold it was that I refused to go out with my mother for our nightly walk. Instead, we stayed inside with my father. He was sitting on the floor with a bucket of smelly beige paint, while my mom and I were chattering excitedly about my brother’s upcoming trip home with his fiancée.
Then Mom got that text.
I remember her face paling as she stood up, her phone clutched in her hands. My brother had collapsed unexpectedly and inexplicably while he and his friends were playing a game of kickball at college. I remember the panic rising inside me as I watched her pace, calling my dad to come sit on the couch. Hours seemed to pass as we waited. Then my dad’s phone rang. We all stared at my dad’s phone for a moment, the rhythmic ringtone crashing through the silence in a wave of noise. My dad picked up the phone and answered in a trembling voice.
Nick’s heart had stopped, and both the students present and the paramedics had been unable to resuscitate him.
He was dead.
I remember screaming as my dad spat out the words, his shocked voice breaking. I flung myself from the chair I’d been sitting in, my feet carrying me from the living room and into the kitchen before I collapsed on the cold floorboards, begging someone to tell me it wasn’t true. My mother’s equally anguished screams echoed through the hallways as she too ran from the room. Soon after, I crawled back to my father—who sat unmoving on the couch—my entire body shaking. Why, why I wondered as I sobbed, horror buzzing through the air of my small home like an electric current.
“How could God have done this?” I cried. “How could this have been His will?”
When I heard my pastor would be driving to our house, I stood outside in the freezing night air and waited, my shaking arms wrapped around myself to conserve what little warmth I had left. My mother tried to get me to come inside—but I didn’t. The night air was fresh, the sky appearing pitch black and remarkably clear from our home in the city. Our pastor eventually arrived, alarmed to find me standing out in the cold, my breath billowing around me.
“My parents need you.” I croaked when he hugged me tight.
He didn’t hesitate to walk inside. His wife eventually managed to coax me back into the house behind him.
We sat in the warm house, and he prayed with us, asking God to be with us in this excruciatingly difficult time. His crackling voice filled the air, and my tears dripped from my chin and onto my trembling hands clasped in my lap.
I remember wondering while he prayed: how could God still be good after this?
Soon after, I was told to pack a bag. When I asked how long we would be gone for, I received no response. I wandered around my room, my mind having turned to a muddled mush. My memories turn vague and blurry for a while after that—like someone painted a foggy mist over my brain. But I do remember being strangely composed. In my shock, I packed a single black dress and shoes in my suitcase, along with other essentials. I emailed my teachers, telling them I wouldn’t be in class for a while.
The cold night consumed us as we sped off into the sky in a tiny jet toward America several hours later. The sky was clear, and as we moved away from the city, stars began to appear. Silence filled the air around me as the sound of the jet engines faded into the background. I stared out the window at the vast night sky above and all around me, tears coming to my eyes once more. I realized, suddenly, that I would never speak to him again, or get to hug him before he left for the airport. Never again would I hear his laughter in person, play soccer against him, or even have him jump out from behind a door and scare me into hysterics. Sorrow, greater than anything I’d felt before, filled me as I realized that I could no longer claim to have two living siblings.
He would never get married to his fiancée, who had been present when he collapsed. As hopeless grief filled my mind, the plane we sat in suddenly banked sideways, and a glowing light exploded through the windows. I squinted, my watery eyes taking a moment to focus before I realized what I was looking at.
It was the brightest full moon I’ve ever seen. Its blinding beauty not unlike that of the sun exploded from the night for all to see. The perfectly round shape was reflected in my father’s eyes as I glanced across the seat at him. Time seemed to pause there for a moment, the salty tears stopping their race from my eyes to the bottom of my face. In that one second, the beauty of that light astounded me. And as we sat there, rocketing away from my only home and towards the city where my brother had just died, I remarked at God’s ability to create such a spectacular thing. I realized, in a shocking moment of clarity that I have not experienced since, that a being capable of creating such beauty would never allow anything to happen outside of his control. I even smiled, thinking that God was so good to let me know this, even in my darkest of moments. I leaned my head against the cold plane window and resolved that whatever had happened, whatever would happen, I would always remember that God is good. His creation was beautiful, and his plan was perfect.
People often tell me not to let the death of my brother define me. While I would not have his death be the only thing someone knows about me, it is inevitable that it had changed me. That cold night was one where I experienced something I would not wish on my worst enemy.
But there was something else that night.
The night my brother died was a freezing one. So cold it was, in fact, that it chased all the clouds from the sky. But that revealed something far more beautiful than lacy, white-edged puffs of water ever could.
And I learned that if I ever need a reminder in my darkest days, I need only look around —night or day, cold or warm, cloudy or clear—to see the beauty, the hope, and the warm comfort of our truth.