September 17, 2007
Today is my brother’s birthday. If you ever wonder if your prayers are answered, Neil is an example of one. When my sister Gloria died at the age of 3, I began praying for my brother. Every night I asked God to give him to me. Without fail, I petitioned and finally one September day, along he came. My dad was proud but nervous and Mother was beaming. Dad worried that he might be sick like his little sister before him, but with a Mother’s calm heart and do doubt the faith that the certainty of her own answered prayers brings, the reality of God’s gift to our family were evidenced in Neil’s lustful cries. I stood over the bed and watched his flailing little arms and legs and cried too. A worrier even at that young age, I thought his crying meant something was wrong with him. Mother, reassuring two children, both with different needs, cradled us both and did so joyfully. Our family was blessed with Neil.
Neil, my brother, on this fall day, the celebration of your birth, thank you for being the kind of brother I prayed for. The trevails of life have buffeted us both and they will continue, but with little exception, we have rode those waves together and I pledge to continue. Thank you for the hands and heart and mind that spent the hours restoring my bicycle; not because it is shiny and new like it was when I bought it 30 years ago, but because you did it for the freedom you knew it gave me to have it that way. Thank you for the heart of that pure of a gift. Thank you for fossil hunts, sail boat rides, low-wing airplane God’s eye views over rolling patchwork country, and for placing the hands of my sons on the throttles of a diesel locomotives. Thank you for your effort and desire for things of this life to be perfect; they remind me that expectations are what temper and try us to hope for the best. Thank you for being a good son to our Mother and for caring whether she is happy. Thank you for being a man whose love and generosity know no bounds, whether as a husband, a father, or an uncle. Neil, I love you, I still pray for you and it is my gift for you to know that I always will.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8a and 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails….And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet. ~Vietnamese Proverb