Yesterday was the first anniversary of my brother’s death. John Moore was 63 when he died of pancreatic cancer. It was quick enough. He was ill for a couple of months and then at Christmas became very sick indeed. He was in Florida at the time, and hurried back to Toronto. He flew to Buffalo and took a bus from there. Given how ill he was by then it must have been a truly horrible trip.
The tumour had been growing for some time, pushing into his intestine, which is what had been making him so sick for the first months. They didn’t see it. From diagnosis to death was less than a month.
He was my only brother, and till he died I called him Little Brother. I don’t think either of us could have made it without the other. We each came away with our own wounds and our own chronic damage, but I can only imagine how much worse it could have been if he hadn’t had me to watch out for him – we lived in dangerous and depraved circumstances and by that time there was no one else to watch out for him. And I don’t know how I would have got through without his innocent, pure, and unconditional love. Five years younger than me, in a way he was perhaps my first child.
So where is he now? Somewhat battered by life, brain-damaged from fetal alchol issues, he was definitively not a Christian. He was often angry, capable, like our father, of irrational violence. Yet he took his estranged and divorced wife into his home and nursed her by hand as she died of long and utterly horrifying (to anyone but him, who just loved and held her) Lou Gehrig’s disease. That two year vigil, poking holes in the membrane that would seal her throat, helping her cope with vast bedsores, all of it woke something in him. Yes, but after that even more definitively not a Christian.
What happens to people who die denying Jesus? I knew my little brother, in some ways as well as I knew myself. I know the damage that was done to him, and I certainly have a clearer idea of that than he did. I know his life wasn’t his fault, and that the pain and damage that came through him to the people in his life weren’t of his creation. I remember that little boy, fierce fierce blue eyes, utterly resistant to tyranny at no matter what cost, standing in front of my father, full of fury, commanding him not to hit me. Pure and clear and sharp as a diamond.
If there’s Heaven, and I don’t feel clear or sure about what that might be, how could he not be there? He suffered lots, and he found a way to transcend it by selfless love.
Jesus, those little children whose mothers brought them to see You didn’t know Your name. Nor did my little brother. I just want him to be with You. How could I ever imagine a Heaven where he wasn’t allowed?