My eldest brother passed away peacefully last Tuesday after less than two months of age-related illness. He was 80. I am glad his last stage of illness didn’t drag out too long and that he died in a familiar place and not all alone in a place among strangers. He was bedridden for about a month, and I am also very thankful to the caregivers at Calvaryland — the old folks home where he had lived, which is run by Calvary Church — who attended to him in his last days. On Tuesday, as was the routine, they fed (he had to be fed intravenously) and cleaned him, and then he rested. At 3pm, they gave him the afternoon feed. He then took a deep breath and then he was gone.
There is only one thing I want to say about my eldest brother, JR Linus. And that is this: God took care of him.
My brother has nothing to show in his life. He was the source of much grief to us and estranged from the family. The only person who watched out for him was my second eldest brother. He kept in touch with our eldest and was there for him in his every crisis. Me? Because of his past, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him! Until, God intervened.
I recall that morning more than 15 years ago in my quiet time, in the book of James, I read verses 12 and 13: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” I came to the last sentence, and my eldest brother came to mind.
It hit me that God chose to forgive us in Christ. If He hadn’t, all of us would be damned because He understood the human condition! Not one of us would be spared. Yet, He forgave us! If He has forgiven me, then, I thought, I should forgive others, too — my eldest brother included.
That same evening, I attended a service in church (Calvary Church) and the speaker shared something I don’t quite remember. But, I recalled the verses of Scripture I had read in the morning. And, the truth hit home that I had to forgive my brother. And, I did. After that day all my hate for him disappeared. And, little by little, I began to reach out to him, visiting him once in a while, buying him a meal and giving him some money. And, when he couldn’t manage on his own, I put him in a couple of homes, and, finally, at Calvaryland where he stayed the longest. (“This is a good place to stay!” he would say.)
He was not an easy person to live with or take care of and I would fight with everyone concerned so that they gave him the best care possible! (I wasn’t popular with those responsible!) Then, when my second eldest brother suffered a stroke and could not visit him, I became responsible for him.
After he died, sitting in the funeral parlour quietly by his coffin, I thought to myself: Despite the way he lived, God took care of him. He didn’t have a place to stay and St John’s Cathedral gave him a room until he found a job and got a room behind Central Market. By the time, he couldn’t work, God had changed my heart, and I was ready to take charge of his senior years and found a place for him to stay at Calvaryland.
Not only did I find a safe place for him stay, but I also began to pray over him and he began to appreciate my prayers for him. I would not have done any of the above if God hadn’t changed my heart.
To me it is crystal clear that this man, a “nobody” in this world is a somebody to God who made sure he was taken care of. My brother died without a sen to his name, but God made sure he was taken care of until the end.
His life counted for just this one thing: God took care of him.
We held a simple funeral service for him at St Francis Xavier’s church. It was a small crowd of our closest relatives. Their presence was such a comfort to me. In his death, I wasn’t alone. In the warm acceptance of family and close relatives, we released our brother into the hands of God who took care of him.
There is a blessing to take from my brother’s life: If God took care of this nobody, surely He will take care of all the other nobodies and somebodies as well?!