Woman checking phone while working on computer

Can I Have a Do-Over?

By Sheryl Madden |

I answered the phone the other day, and now wish I hadn’t. The call was from the police department, because I’m listed on some piece of paper as my brother’s emergency contact. I knew he hadn’t broken the law; he just wasn’t that kind of guy. So why were they calling me?

There was a history between us, as there are in all sibling relationships. Our early childhood was great, but when we reached the teenage years, our home life turned upside down. Our dad was employed as a traveling salesman, so he was gone a lot, and our mom slowly started drinking more and more, eventually ending up a raging alcoholic. She was the sweetest person during the day, but the meanest drunk at night. I remember praying she would pass out each evening, because if she did, life would be peaceful. If not, either my brother or myself was the target for the venom that spewed out of her mouth.

She was the sweetest person during the day, but the meanest drunk at night.

My best friend’s mom left the door to their house unlocked and a sleeping bag on the floor for the nights when Mom decided she didn’t want me around and would kick me out of the house. I was maybe eleven or twelve the first time that happened. My brother played soccer in the wintertime, and if he came home with a muddy uniform, Mom wouldn’t let him in the house until she hosed him off in the driveway. In November or December. She would yell and scream and tell us it was our fault she drank.

During all the chaos, my brother became my worst nightmare. He took advantage of no adult supervision and molested me for years, with threats to do worse if I told anyone. I didn’t. I remember thinking he could have been my hero during that time, but chose to be my abuser. As with many victims, eventually I blocked out the trauma and forgot all about it. Or so I thought.

I later married, and when I was pregnant with my second child, something triggered a flood of memories. I ended up in counseling, remembering those earlier years. A lot of my odd behavior and fears began to make sense. When I confronted my brother with the truth, hoping for an apology, at first he denied ever doing anything wrong. He did eventually admit it, but never said he was sorry.

I ended up in counseling, remembering those earlier years.

Mom died young, and Dad followed ten years later. So that left the two of us. By then my brother was on disability, the result of working in a toxic environment as well as stuffing his emotions and dysfunction for decades. He chose not to face his painful past or any truth that would cause him to actually work on it and heal. Instead, he went to doctor after doctor after doctor, seeking a pill or two or ten that would “fix” his problems.
We became close again after God called me back to Himself. Fifteen years ago, I forgave my brother and allowed him back into my life. I didn’t trust him fully, but we were mending.

And then the phone call came. His neighbors notified the police when none of them had seen John for a few weeks. Or maybe it was because of the aroma emanating from his condo out into the hallway. Either way, the police had to break down the door, where they found his body. He had been dead a week.

And then the phone call came.

And now I want a do-over. I want a childhood that wasn’t so messed up. I want memories that aren’t skewed by abuse. I want to go back a month or two and be nicer to him, more patient with him. I want more years with him, years that I would view him as a friend, not a duty; a brother, not a burden. At the very least, I want Jesus to raise my brother from the dead, just like he did with Lazarus, so I can tell John I love him. I want one last meaningful conversation.

I can’t tell you how many times in the past month I’ve reached for the phone to call my brother, only to realize he won’t answer. Mixed in with the sorrow is guilt. When my parents were on death’s door, I made sure I did everything within my power to serve them so I wouldn’t have regrets. I don’t. But with John, there was no warning, no sign that he was going to die this soon. He was simply there one day and gone the next.

So I sit here today and thank God for restoration of relationships. Without Him, none of this would have healed. I laughingly say God tricked me into taking “Making Peace with My Past” at Northshore, because I thought for sure I’d be in there dealing with my childhood, but I worked on other issues instead. I may have to take the class a few more times to get to that peace-filled place. Or maybe now I should take “GriefShare,” as that sounds appropriate. All I can say for sure is, without this church, without God’s love and guidance and compassion, I would be more of a mess than I am today.

Northshore is offering Surviving the Holidays a gathering for those who are experiencing grief from the loss of a loved one on November 11, 2018. All are welcome.

Click here for more information about Recovery and Support Groups.


 

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1 Comment
  • Kathy Farrow
    Posted at 11:05h, 27 October Reply

    Thank you for sharing your journey. Our family is facing a simalar situation. My brother in law was found dead in his bed on Tuesday after probably being dead three or four days. His childhood was a mess. He was an alcoholic, but his mom visited him a few weeks ago the last words he said to her was “I have Jesus Mom:

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