Spring is supposed to be a period of rebirth after the winter season, to not only the environment and creatures around us but spiritually as well. It’s always been very difficult for me, because fifteen years ago on April 22, 1999 the world as I knew it came crashing down around me. There were other events going on around me as well, with the news of the Columbine School incident and remembrances of the Oklahoma City bombing, and Waco incident. But that was far away to me, but I quickly found out that bad things happen anyplace.
I finished up one of my part time jobs teaching swimming lessons that evening and got the uniform on to jump in a squad with my Sergeant at the PD. Things were always interesting in a college town, and more often than not our partnership got into more trouble on patrol than the rest of the shift combined. We had just started a patrol of the local loop in town when a Deputy Sheriff radioed a driver’s license check of my brother’s name.
My brother tended to be a hell raiser, as many 21-year olds are as they are while they are learning the responsibilities of independence. So my words of “What did he do now,” to my Sergeant in reaction were more of a statement than a question. Only Sarge had been in the office monitoring the radio while he waited for me, and he knew of the call the Deputy was working as the realization struck him. “That’s who they’re airlifting…” The Deputy was looking for the information for notification purposes.
My brother had been in a rollover out in the county jurisdiction. For whatever reason, he had lost control and was sliding alongside the guardrail along the highway. The guardrail was doing exactly what it was designed to do, and was keeping him on the highway. That is, until the field road entrance, when his truck slid into a medium where physics and environment contribute to so many end results that I have also seen first hand over the years. He rolled a single time when the resistance of the field grass was too much for the tires and my brother was partially ejected, sustaining massive chest trauma.
Sarge has been my rock in so many ways, and he knew what was needed. He radioed our responsibility and we drove to my parents house outside of town. I don’t remember it, but I notified my parents of the crash, and I prepared to drive them to the trauma center. He made sure I was ok to drive as the emotions were shoved down deep so I could do things that needed to be done. His words to me of “Think!” stick with me to this very day when I am involved in stressful driving responses. And I went, with my mom and dad in the back seat of their car, holding hands and a box of tissues praying.
And I flew. I drove like my mission in life was to make absolutely sure my parents got to the hospital. God was already with us, as not only were the words of advice from Sarge so vividly clear to me, but it was also like a corridor had been cleared for me, as I didn’t have to get stopped and explain what we were doing as we got into the metro.
I knew that it was taking rescue crews a while to stabilize my brother before flight, and I also knew what it meant that the Life Flight was sitting on the ground for a bit. It couldn’t be a load and go like many others that are trying to maximize the time of the golden hour. They eventually got him loaded, and they were landing just as we arrived. Little did I know that was also when he died, and he lost his race. People ask how do I know God exists. I know because I felt him carry me through the next few days as we buried my brother. I know because through the numbness that encompassed me I could feel the comforting hands of God and the Holy Spirit doing things to guide me through it those days. We started to see that a pattern had developed with things in my brothers life, how he had suddenly reconnected with my family, and how several of our recent life’s events were tying together in preparation for this day.
I am not capable of knowing what God’s plan is for me, but it was soon becoming evident from events we were seeing, that somehow this tragedy in my family was part of God’s plan. We were seeing events come together, and others unfold that would not have been possible otherwise. We were hearing things said, sometimes by people that could not otherwise know the messages they were giving us if not for God. One such message was in the form of a card I was handed by a young boy. I returned at the end of the swimming lessons class to help with the evaluations and get back into the routine of life. These kindergartners and first-graders didn’t know or understand everything about why I had taken some time off, but one boy handed me a message that I carry to this day and one that hit me like a brick wall as I read it. He told me that my brother was a Guardian Angel now, and was watching over us. Out of the mouths of babes….
My cousin was born after my brother died and never got to meet him. Little did we know that at a young age before possibly knowing him she’d tell us she talked with him as he sat on her bed at night.
My first son born a few years later gave my parents something to live for again and help mend the hole ripped in their souls with the death of my brother, and they poured everything into mending that hole with him. But my family would be no strangers to death, and shortly after one new life was brought into the world, another would be taken with the passing of my grandmother. A couple years later as my wife was due with my second child, we were also experiencing the imminent loss of my last grandparent as my grandpa had been hanging on for three weeks for reasons unknown to us. We had many calls to come, that his time was near, but he stayed with us. Finally, my wife went into labor, and yet another new chapter of life was created the day before the anniversary of my brothers crash. We had a reason to celebrate instead of just mourn, and again we couldn’t help but wonder if this somehow also tied into all of the other various signs that we had experienced or felt some nine years before.
The announcement was passed on to my family at my grandpas bedside of the arrival of another son, and my aunt leaned over to my grandpas ear and whispered he had made it into this world safely. My grandpa let out a small sigh, and exactly twelve hours later, now on the anniversary of my brothers journey to heaven, my grandpa joined him. I didn’t know if I was supposed to mourn my loss, or celebrate that not only did Grandpa go to the paradise he believed in, but that he got to see my brother again as well.
So I write this fifteen and nine years later. It’s been a powerful week, as I’ve also come from the Line Of Duty Death funeral of a local legend of a Deputy Sheriff as well. While so many of us may mourn, there are so many reasons to also celebrate, and I am looking within to explore my own weaknesses and how to strengthen them. At Deputy Seversen’s funeral I listened to the song 10,000 Reasons from Matt Redman and performed by Craig T Olson. In this annual week of very hard emotions another message is delivered to me, and one that I’ll carry.
“The sun comes up, It’s a new day dawning.
It’s time to sing your song again.
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.”
Once more, when I need the help, words have been provided to me. Amen.