Tommy’s Doubt

My brother, Tommy, recently died. When a loved one dies, sharing stories with family and friends can be very meaningful and healing. I’ve been listening to memories of how he touched people’s lives in ways I didn’t know. I have also shared my own stories. One of these times was at his funeral. When I don’t have words, many times I express myself with music. So I played a piece on the piano that had been going through my head since the news of his death. It’s a piece he practiced over and over when he was a young teenager. Many of his friends had no idea he played the piano.

When our daughter was in town after graduation, she was searching for something and came across a cassette tape of herself playing piano at age seven. Finding our tape player in the basement, I dusted it off and brought it up so we could listen to her tape. But there was already a tape inside. It was of a Palm Sunday program our family offered at church in 1983. Pressing “play”, we heard my mother on the piano. Then Tommy played a piece, which made me shudder, because it was the exact same piece I played at his funeral. After our mother’s death in 1986, Tommy slowly stopped participating in things which had previously brought him joy, such as music and tennis. I believe that if we bury our gifts from God, we will not be able to find deep joy. Someone in my prayer group today felt as if striving for joy is a bit frivolous and selfish, which led to a discussion about joy versus happiness. Some people seem happy when they are really hurting inside. I think of joy as deeper. I can still feel joy even if I am having a bad day. Looking for God in both good times and bad has brought me a sense of peace and joy that shines through all darkness and brings me hope in resurrection and new life.

I will always remember how deeply my brother searched for God. One day when Tommy seemed open to deeper discussion, I took a risk and told him how unusual it was for me to see butterflies every day for a week: But all he said was, with his sarcastic tone, “That’s like when you buy a new car and then you see the same kind of car everywhere.” He wanted clear answers and never understood how simple it is. God is so close. He is always with us. We have to be willing to open our hearts and listen, look for God in everything, and be willing to embrace his mysterious ways.

When I walked an outdoor labyrinth in January, walking in, I thought of the winding path of my life. I walked over twigs and stepped on pine needles, bumps and frozen spots. The gently falling snow created the environment of a living snow globe. Walking out, a thin, spotty layer of snow covered twigs and rubber mulch in the path. The mess of winter was not covered by the white flakes completely, but enough for me to think of “new life”…baptism by snow! Then a tiny, sharply cold single snowflake touched my lips. I suddenly awakened and felt it as a kiss from God. To someone else, maybe it wouldn’t have seemed as special. But for me, that day and that moment, it was a kiss from God. And I’m holding on to that.

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