Though I often acclaim my first year post grad as the most “wintery” season I have experienced, it goes without saying in my heart that the winteriest of them all will forever be the season of losing Blake.
Watching someone I loved so dearly lose a battle to a disease I could not heal was the most heart wrenching feeling that has lived in my skin or visited my heart in all my 23 years. It is one filled with too many tears, too many memories, and too many unanswered questions.
On Saturday, December 14, it will be 1,096 days since Blake first stood before his Maker. And today marks three long years since we rushed home at a moment’s notice, caring not about impending exams and final papers. Our brother was on the decline and the three-hour stretch of cow pastures that stood between our university and our hometown had never felt so long. Ahh, yes, three years is three years too many to not share with my sweet little brother, and I would give the world to have him back if I could.
As we celebrate Blake’s 3rd Heaven Birthday this weekend I’m reminded of the sweet way he led me to the throne with his gentle disposition and unending joy.
More than his life alone, through the tragedy of his untimely death, I learned the value of community and what it looks like to truly take care of the ones you love.
It was the Saturday before finals week in the fall of my junior year. Mom called with bad news about Blake’s status and quietly spoke the chilling words, “I know you need to study, Honey, but if you don’t come now you might not be able to say goodbye.” Within 30 minutes Shane, Kelly, and I had packed overnight bags, filled the gas tank, and were on the long road home. We made it back that evening in time to give Blake a hug + kiss before he went to bed. He looked better than we expected, but was tired. We waved goodbye with a promise to be over first thing in the morning.
But, we never got the chance. Blake plummeted in the night and was taken to the hospital an hour away. (We praise Jesus that he hung on long enough for Kyle to finish exams in Tennessee and make it home to say goodbye.) We returned to West Palm to take our exams, and to solemnly wait for the phone call that Blake’s cancer would be gone + he would be Home.
When I arrived back at my apartment that Sunday night, my roommates had transformed our living room into a cozy cave of mattresses, pillows, and Christmas lights. They made my favorite coffee, and had cookies in the oven. We slept on the monster bed we created and neglected exams to watch movies that would distract my anxious heart. We were just waiting for the call. Everyone would stir at the sound of each phone call and text message alert, knowing that bad news was not far off. I somehow stumbled my way through two days of exams. All was a blur. All was coated with pending heartbreak.
When the call finally came that Tuesday night, Shane and I were surrounded by that precious community. They held us. They cried with us. They showed us love in one of the most vivid + beautiful ways I have ever experienced.
Death hurts. Though Jesus healed the sting, his victory over death didn’t take away the ache of loss. There is a hollowing empty that accompanies death and kills the anticipation of continuing life on earth with someone you love. It hurts. And it’s okay to let it hurt.
Like the snow of winter freezes the earth beneath in order for new life to someday grow, so death freezes parts of our hearts and allows them to be made new.
We like to say that Blake didn’t lose his battle with cancer.
Though his life on earth came to a close, we know that full healing is found only in the presence of our sweet King, the presence in which he will forever reside. And even three years later we rejoice in the promise:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”