Today I feel a strong and persistent call to write about my big brother, Joshua. What limited knowledge I have of him comes primarily from early childhood memories, so much of this will be written in the past-tense. My parents tell me he isn’t doing well. He may rally, but he may not. The thought that he might not be long for this world made me surprisingly emotional. I know that sounds… hardened, but it isn’t; perhaps pragmatic. Josh is blind, doesn’t speak, is self-abusive and deeply autistic. It is very difficult to comfort him, to treat his pain. I believe that when he goes home, it will be incredibly joyful for him. But I will mourn his loss. His contribution to my life has been worth more than I can say, but I’ll try anyway.
Josh helped teach me about compassion. It would be easy to pity him. My parents had compassion for him. In my mind there is a vital difference. Pity has no hands or feet. It is counterproductive, even demeaning; not that I’m immune. I pity people sometimes. It is a helpless feeling. Compassion recognizes humanity. It inspires us to show humanity. Of course my folks saw his limitations, but they saw his personality and capacities, too. They loved and included him and taught us to do the same.
More importantly, Joshua taught me about the value of people. Though he could not speak to me, see me, respond in typical ways; though his behaviors were odd and never socially acceptable, I felt his soul. I know that sounds terribly melodramatic, but truly – he had gentleness. I always thought he was special. I love him.
Josh also reminds me that death need not be a fearful thing. He may feel miserable and unhappy here; it’s easy to look at him and feel that something better awaits, but sometimes I forget that I am, more or less, in the same position. We all are. While our lives here can be very precious and beautiful to us, fear, confusion, misery and brokenness are also parts of our realities. I can’t imagine much greater contrast than that between those feelings and pure, uninhibited joy and peace.
And so I thank God for my brother. Thank you for reading about someone who is probably a stranger to you. If you feel so moved, prayers for his peace and comfort would be wonderful.