I’ve been thinking a lot about my brother Greg lately. My parents’ son. So many peoples’ friend.
The years since the car accident that took him from us have added up to more than I wish to count, but numbers don’t always correspond with experience. Sometimes I feel he is closer today than he was ten, even fifteen, years ago. Memory can be precious like that. It doesn’t age.
And it doesn’t always makes sense. Sometimes I hear a piece of music (he loved music), or spot a bird flying overhead — Kookaburra’s have always reminded my mum and I of him — and suddenly he’s there, in my thoughts. His gentle, listening eyes calling to mind wise council.
I think about him at the beach, or walking through clusters of gumtrees. He loved Sydney’s landscape, even the bushland near our childhood houses, places it took me years to learn to appreciate. He saw it more clearly: How you need to be thankful for what is right in front of you.
I think about him now as I can’t sleep, and I watch the sun rise sharp orange over Sydney, a clear crescent moon still marking the sky.
Maybe he’s in my thoughts more lately because there’s so much going on in the world that I know he would have cared about. That I know he would have had something to say about. And out of his words action would have flowed.
He was that sort of person.
That sort of Christian.
I’ll never forget my mum’s words about him, about his faith that was so quiet, it spoke so loud.
Or maybe its because my own life has changed so much recently. I have this longing to share it with him, how the years panned out like a mosaic, full of colour, and contrast and surprise. More, and less (but then the less turned out to be more) than we dreamt about, imagined together. Sometimes I look for traces of him in our kids. I think I catch it, in W’s lean intelligence. In E’s creative passion and sensitivity. In the way they build towers with lego (when they are older they are set to inherit his quite prodigious collection). In the expression in their deep blue eyes.
I remember when we were younger and our youth group leader Ken used to say to me: ‘Are you proud of your big brother?’ Strange question to ask a self-conscious thirteen year old? Perhaps. But you know what, strange as it may seem, I was.
I admired him like you admire someone who is always just ahead of you, where you want to be. Greg always made me want to follow in his footsteps, even as I knew I’d never quite get to where he was.
There are some people you wish everyone could meet, just to benefit from being on the same patch of earth with them for a bit. Greg was that person. It saddens me when I meet people who have never known him. I have this urge to tell them about him, to try and make them see. It frustrates me when I can’t.
This year marks a significant number for what Greg would have been. One of those big birthdays that usually come with parties, if you’re a celebrate-with-a-party sort of person which he wasn’t really. At least not for himself. For others, yes. And I’ve been thinking about how to mark it. And I’ve decided to write a few posts about Greg in the months leading up to November. Because, truth is, though I’ve now well exceeded him in age, I still want to be like him, same as I did all those years ago.
So, in the next few weeks here I’ll be sharing some memories about my brother Greg. A guy who lived his life to count, who loved the Lord with heart, soul and mind, and loved others as himself.
The person who first showed me what it was to meet and understand amazing grace, face to face.