Death, Love & Unfettered Friendship

I’ve been in a place of confusion and despair for the past two years. I’ve been fighting internal battles about life and love and Christianity to the point where I stopped recognizing my own self. I felt like I was an outsider watching someone else live their life, and the entire time I wanted to talk to that girl and tell her to slow down or take it easy. Other times I just wanted to scream at her, hoping that I’d jolt her into action or inaction depending on the scene unfolding before my eyes, but the girl I was watching would have none of it. She’d become a bulldozer of sorts; her mind loud and her walls seemingly impenetrable. I didn’t recognize her and I couldn’t because she wasn’t who she used to be. Life changed and it changed her. She’d become someone else, someone new, someone foreign. She was me, and I didn’t know what to do with her.

When my brother died in 2016 I became a zombie of sorts. On the outside, I maintained my happy, bubbly demeanour but inside I felt shattered and confused. For a long time I didn’t cry or grieve, I simply busied myself to the point that I barely had time for sleep. All the while, ignoring the dearth of emotions bubbling beneath the surface, waiting to explode. I had stopped praying because my prayer would always lead to me reminding God that my brother was dead and me wanting to ask Him why. I continued to avoid God and all things Christian for a while and one day I finally realized that I wasn’t avoiding God because my prayer was static, I was avoiding Him because I was mad at Him. I blamed God for my brother’s death. I should digress a little here to give you context to why I’d be so mad at God. You see, I had this wonderful relationship with God at one point. I loved Him unconditionally and I communicated with Him constantly. Because of that, I lived fearlessly and boldly, believing that things would always work in my favour because of the powerful God I serve. For the most part, once I became a Christian, life was good. I had my fair share of trials and triumphs but in everything, I knew God was with me and I had a peace about life that I still can’t explain with words. But then June 6th, 2016 came and I got the call that my brother had drowned. Drowned. How could he drown in a sea that my God controlled? That didn’t make sense to me. The more I processed that thought the angrier I was at God. Maybe if he had died in an accident or someone killed him or even from illness, I could have dealt with that, but how could God allow HIS sea to kill MY brother? MY BROTHER!

Keem and Ayden

Akeem (my brother) and Ayden (my nephew). This was the last Mother’s Day dinner we shared together.

If the term “self-righteous” is running through your mind right now, I’m not going to hold it against you because that’s exactly what was happening. I was so consumed by my expectations of God that I genuinely believed He was obligated to do everything possible to make me happy, all the while forgetting that the message of salvation never promised me eternal happiness on earth or a warranty that guaranteed I won’t face loss or experience intense pain.

All the same, I intentionally rebelled for as long as I could. All the while hoping that God would get fed up of my foolishness and destroy everything that meant anything to me. I wanted a different kind of pain, one that would help me forget the pain of losing my brother, maybe one that would make me numb enough to not care about love and losses. Here’s the problem with that though, I don’t serve a vindictive God. I guess grief makes you irrational because during this period I completely forgot that the reason I followed Christ was because of his ability to love me the way I needed to be loved at every stage of my life. You see, when I became a Christian I worked on building a relationship with God. I spent time reading the bible, I would sit quietly and have coffee with God each morning, I’d commit everything to Him; constantly seeking his guidance because I wanted nothing more than to be close to Him, understand His love and replicate it in my life. So naturally, when pain and disappointment came and I no longer trusted God, I figured all I needed to do was stop doing those “Christian” things and that would be the end of my relationship with God. So I stopped. I stopped praying, I stopped reading my Bible, I stopped listening to worship music, I stopped doing anything that made me feel I was being a Christian.

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly for that matter, God never checked out of our friendship. When death shattered my expectations and left me void and hopeless to the point of relinquishing my ties with everything Christian, He stepped in and being true to character He loved me just the way I needed to be loved at that point in time. When I reflect on the past two years I marvel at how many times I was protected, many times from my own self! I see God’s hands in the friends I made, the communities I became apart of, the opportunities I was given, and every success I’ve had in the last two years. In my weakness, His strength was perfect, not because of anything I did, but because of who He is and I will be eternally grateful for that.

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Keem and I at a family reunion 🙂

June 6th is fast approaching and the closer I get to that day the more I feel hurt, and frustrated, and confused. I don’t know if this pain and this hurt will ever go away because I loved my brother so very much and it still feels unfair that he had to die this young, that he had to die at all. What I am not, this time around though, is angry. I can’t say that my anger won’t return (I’m genuinely hoping it doesn’t though), but for now, at this moment I find peace in knowing there is life after death and I have hope that I will be reunited with my brother. I said all of this to say that we don’t always understand why things happen the way they do and in our confusion, it’s easy to blame God or not want anything to do with Him and that’s alright. God doesn’t abandon us because we abandon Him. He’s not vindictive or cruel towards his children and He’s more than capable of handling our hurt, disappointments and even anger. And just like the prodigal son, when we decide to return He’s there to welcome us back with open arms. I don’t think this would be the last time I turn away from God but I do believe that when my humanness causes me to err He will continue to be my guide, my strength, and my friend. I don’t deserve this kind of love but I am so grateful that He gives it anyway.

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What do you call this?

My thoughts are scattered today so if my writing lacks cohesion and that irks you or causes dissonance of any kind feel free to step out of mind for now and return at a later date when I’d be more inclined to follow the rules of good writing and storytelling.

I’m a sceptic. I doubt things and people. I don’t believe anything is ever what it seems and I look at what isn’t being shown and listen to what isn’t being said. Scepticism has kept me sharp and protected me many times but there are days when I wonder what it feels like to embody an easy-going, naive existence. Today I’m thinking of death and deceit and celebrations I’d like to have but can’t because my resources are limited on this island. I’m conscious of my emotions and my capacity to wreak havoc with my words if should let them loose on those who are naive to my potential. Today I wish I wasn’t an emotional intellect. I want to be naive and do as I please with the protection of “I didn’t know that’s how you’d feel” to cushion the blow of any backlash my words would cause. But I don’t have that luxury. I’m too aware of myself and others to live such a reckless life.

Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of my brother’s death. Weeks ago I started writing a tribute to him but I can’t seem to finish it. I’m so angry with him for leaving us without warning. I hate that he fell in love and sacrificed his life for the woman he loved.  I wish she had died instead. I know that’s not what I’m supposed to feel. By society’s standards I should celebrate my brother’s heroic act and feel proud of him but I don’t feel that way. I hate that he drowned saving that girl’s life and I hate that his death corrupted the place where I’m most at peace. I hate that I don’t have closure because I couldn’t bear to see them pull his lifeless body out of the water so I didn’t go to see it, and now every time I go into the ocean I expect his body to bump into me as though he was never pulled out and never buried. I’m angry, bitter and sad. I want to scream at him and hit him so hard! I want to tell him how stupid he was to go into that water. I want to ask him if he thinks it’s fair that he broke his mother’s heart the way he did. I want to be the big sister that sets him straight and stops his foolishness but I can do none of these things nor be that big sister to him anymore because he left me. He loved a woman and chose to give his life for hers and didn’t care that he was shredding my heart to pieces in the process.

Today I’m tired and tomorrow will be worse. Wednesday, there’s a hope that Wednesday will be a better day (fingers crossed).