The air felt crisp outside, slightly cold like only the onset of fall could bring. Sun shone down and peace flooded my soul as I stepped out of my house to catch the bus to the university. Jesus walked with me and I heard him say, "Willy's going to be okay, you don't need to worry about him."
My younger brother's high school graduation approached, and my dad and Willy came to that same front steps just three months earlier. I could see into Willy's soul. It was so empty and desperately sad. Seeing as I never used drugs, I had no idea what he was on--simply he was on something, and it was literally ripping the life from him. My heart broke into a million pieces, just like it would on that horrible Thursday; because, when I peered into my brother's eyes that spring of 2003, I didn't see a junkie.
I saw my brother.
The one who I would play soccer with in the front yard to inevitably be crushed by. The one who would stand in my place if someone dared hurt me.
He would writhe in pain as he was coming down off the heroin laying in my mom's bed. I prayed, and sang music to help ease his pain. I came home to my friend's wedding absolutely ripped to shreds.
In the evening of that crisp fall day my dad called me. "Kamille, I went to visit Willy at Teen Challenge and he didn't know I was there. I sat in the back and saw him in the front, full of joy and praising Jesus. He came to me and said, 'dad, I'm going to stay. I want to stay.'"
Jesus was right. He gave me peace, because just days before Willy said he was going to leave Teen Challenge, it wasn't for him.
God met him in the form of an 82 year old man to sit with him and talk to him. Willy with his bags packed, and there Jesus stood in the gap. He met Willy and for the first time in years, Willy turned from himself, away from himself and turned full facing his Maker to accept the kingdom life He had always been offering.
Thursday was like any other morning. Ben returned late the night before from a business trip, and was heading out the door to work in usual fashion. I noticed a call on my phone from Caroline with a voicemail. I almost didn't answer it; but, saw it was super short. Seventeen seconds.
It's amazing how in seventeen seconds you can tell something is forever going to change your world.
My dad, except it wasn't to tell me Willy would be alright. It was an urgency to call back. Panic.
Honestly, I thought my brother was arrested as he has struggled on and off with addiction with pharmaceuticals. I wish it were arrest.
My dad answered, his voice broken, shaking, "Kamille...(pause), Willy's gone." All I can remember is shouting out, "NO, NO, NO dad, he's not. You can bring him back. He's not dead. Willy's not dead! NO, NO, NO!"
Two nights before Willy told my dad, "You don't have to worry, I would NEVER do heroin again." And it would be Thursday morning when my dad would bust down the door to find his firstborn son crumpled up dead to perform CPR and not respond. Because, he would turn away from Jesus and believe the lie Satan would whisper, "You can handle one more shot of heroin. You know it's the best high you've ever experienced. You need something more to numb the pain."
I sit in the aftermath along with my family. Willy left a son Lucas Arthur and a daughter Annabelle Virginia. He left a mother and father who love him. He left a fiancee Caroline. He left a sister, me and a brother Andrew. He left three stinkin' adorable nieces. He left a brother in law Ben. He left beloved cousins, aunts, uncles and a whole bunch of people who loved him.
Here's the thing...we are not named by how we die. We are named by so much more. My brother had a problem with addiction and it killed him. His struggle with drugs is ever more separating from God as is my struggle to numb on Facebook and block out being present with my daughters.
There's lots I don't know about death and how it works.
What I do know is that Jesus was there when Willy shot up. He was there on the cross taking it upon him. I believe in Jesus' righteous and grace as he watched Willy continue to struggle for the last time say,
"Oh Son, you were made for so much more than this. Don't you see the kingdom life I offer you? I can't have you live like this wrecking yourself and those around you."
Fall is coming again. I have had those crisp mornings of late like I did in 2003; but, this time, I cannot hear the reassurance of my older brother Willy on the phone saying he's choosing the kingdom life. I'm not hearing Jesus tell me that Willy is okay this side of heaven. Rather, I'm seeing him live in full splendor of his Maker, worshipping him with complete abandon, going further up and further in. He's not afraid anymore. He's not numbing himself. He's walking with God.