Taking after my best buds, Katie and Rachel, today's blog is a tribute.
My brother Dan would be 38 today. It's hard to believe that he would be so old - I have a brother who's almost 40!
He was a wonderful brother - he was 14 years older than me, and he was my favorite playmate when I was 4.
When he was a senior in high school, he went out for a late-night run and got struck by a car when he was crossing the street. This was by far the hardest thing that has ever happened to my family, and I don't feel that we've recovered, even after 20 years without him.
He was a salty, salty Christian, and his two goals were to show his friends that trusting Jesus Christ was the most important decision anyone could make and to become a doctor. We lived in Durham, NC, so of course he wanted to go to Duke. Which meant that throughout most of my childhood and adolescence, that's where I wanted to go, too. (Far cry from UH, huh?) I think good memories of our life in NC is one reason that I would love to move back there.
A week before he died, in a conversation with Mom, he told her that he was ready for Heaven, which was sort of a strange comment for a 17-year-old to make. And the night he got hit by a car, his last words to us were, "I'll see you later...or maybe I won't." Everyone was joking around when he went out the door for his run, but his words are still incredibly ironic.
One of my most painful memories of the night he died (January 14, 1986) was our next-door neighbor knocking on our door, bringing the news that Dan had been hit by a car. I was completely confused - whose Dan was it? Her son, who we called Danny K, was my sister's best friend, and I didn't want to believe that anything could happen to my Dan. (My family would have to vouch for the truth in this memory, but this is how I remember the evening happening.)
20 years after he left us and started dancing with the angels, his absence in our family is still felt. I can feel how proud he would be at me graduating college and getting a good job. I can see him tenderly holding my nephews and niece after they were born and loving them even in their most annoying moments. I can hear him talking patiently with Grandma, where all I have is exasperation. And I can see him beating up my Mom's stupid ex-husband - a job that Dana and I were able to accomplish somewhat, but Dan would have done it better.
And I know Dan was at Heaven's gates to welcome in my step-dad, Joe - thanking him for making us happy, but admonishing him that he shouldn't have left us so soon (a little more care on Joe's part would have saved us the grief of his accidental death). And he's partying with my brother, Ryan, who died in infancy because he was missing the left ventricle of his heart - Ryan can finally run, jump, laugh, and play like he never was able to here on earth. And he's hanging out with Grandpa, who in Mom's words, didn't want to leave Grandma, but was eager to get to Heaven and be with Dan. (Today's Grandpa's birthday as well, so they were super close - first child, same birthday, etc.)
But most of all, Dan's living it up in Heaven, praising our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He's the one who's got it good - he has a closer relationship with Him that comes from living/praising/worshipping/walking with Him 24/7, and he's living beyond all the sin and pain of earth.
So, happy birthday, Dan. We remember you each day, but it seemed extra special today when the family got together. Thank you for being in our lives, and we can't wait to see you again soon.