My life has been most impacted by two boys, both named Luke. Many know our son Luke, the child who flung me into adulthood the moment he entered the world. But few know of my brother, the one for whom our son is named. He has been at the forefront of my thoughts these past few days. He graced my life only briefly but has been impacting it ever since his move from this life to the next.
At nine years old, my parents had already surrounded me with three brothers. I knew I’d likely spend all of my days outnumbered. When I learned my mom was pregnant again, I saw an opportunity to at least improve my odds. I spent nine months with my fingers crossed, and on February 28th, 1992 the baby decided it was time to come into this world. In addition, he decided to be a he. Another brother. I knew then that finger-crossing was a crock. I was disappointed for only a moment before I quickly decided he’d probably still be pretty cute and that I would likely love him as much as I would a sister.
His birth had been a flurry of hospital activity. From the moment he arrived, it was evident that he wasn’t well. After much testing, he was diagnosed with a terminal illness called Trisomy 13. He had three chromosomes on his 13th pair which would result in a very short life.
My parents named him Jonathan Luke but told us we would call him Luke. He was sweet and tiny. I knew his time with us would be short so I tried to soak up every moment I could with him. I remember, as a child, thinking he knew that he wasn’t going to be here long. He may have only been a baby but he came into this world with purpose. His life was brief yet profound and the ripples of that little life continue to this day.
When his time came, he had been with us just over four months. His health had rapidly declined over the few weeks prior. One morning, I happened to wake up much earlier than anyone else in my family, an anomaly for me. I decided to get up and go sit with my tiny brother. Some family friends had spent the night with him so my parents could get some much needed rest. Once I was up, they asked if I would mind sitting with him until my parents woke. They walked out the door and God decided it was time.
Sitting beside him that morning, I looked down and talked to him for a couple minutes. He looked up, bright-eyed and peaceful, at me. I looked away for a moment and when I looked back, it had happened. He was gone. Frantic, I scooped him up and rushed him to my mom. I knew the truth but refused to believe until she confirmed the reality of it.
Twenty years later, our son is his namesake. He was named in honor of God's redemption. My brother’s life changed my family. Before he came into this world, my family was on the precipice of breaking into a million pieces. After that little boy joined us, there was more peace in the house than there had been in years. In the place of conflict stood love, not only for that baby, but for each other. We were unified through caring for him and for each other durning that time.
When he left, we were sadder than we ever knew was possible. We were sad but we were changed. As a child, the situation was black and white. I wish I maintained more of that perspective as an adult. Luke was sick. God could make him well but he might not. Then, he became extremely ill and God swept him up, out of that broken body, to be with Him. It was sad but it was simple.
On paper, the story of my brother is nothing but tragedy and trauma. Where is God when a baby, born ill, dies in the arms of a little girl? It sounds awful, even reading it myself. But when I think about my brother’s life and passing, I see only goodness. I see his passing as the beginning of a story, not the end.
God alone knew what I would face in my lifetime. He knew how best to care for my family and He knew how best to prepare me for things to come. He knew better than I ever would. And, he knew our separation from that baby boy would be only temporary.
During the past few years, through encounters with tragedy and with hurt, and there have been many, I have thought of the gift God gave me in a baby brother named Luke. The gift he gave in allowing me to see what goodness is possible in the wake of misery. I make no secret that anger and sadness abound. In fact, they are often overwhelming. But the hurt is the beginning of a story, not the end. The hurt can be replaced with healing.
In the most heart breaking moments, the moments during which even the most steadfast and resolved might ask, “How can I believe in a God that would allow this?” I know, if I really search, if I allow the story to fully unfold, I will see that this in only the very beginning and goodness will follow. For in the end there is only goodness.