Could Have, Should Have…Can and Will

I received a phone call October 4 that set my heart pounding… a dear friend in Canada informed me that my older brother, Lawrence had died…. This was totally unexpected. Immediately began the dizzy whirl of activity that accompanies a loved one’s passing. The next ten days were spent in my hometown, planning and participating in the memorial events and then emptying my brother’s house in preparation for listing it with a realtor. There were many tears, but never much time for grieving because the urgent simply crowded it out.
Since my brother knew Jesus, there is great peace in knowing that the moment he took his last breath, he was with his Savior in heaven. He had once said, “How great would it be to die in your sleep? One moment asleep here, the next you wake up in heaven! What could be better than that?!” And that’s what happened. He had written instructions for his memorial service a couple of years earlier… “My funeral should be a celebration! Jesus wins!!”
All of this gives me great comfort. Still I miss him so much. A week ago John and I were at Times Square Church in New York City. The music and sermon were incredible. I found myself thinking, “How I wish Lawrence could be here to hear this.” Then suddenly I was smacked with the thought, “Why on earth would he want to hear this? What he’s enjoying now is immeasurably better than this!” I had to smile at my own short-sightedness… how very enmeshed I am in this world. How important to remember what lies beyond this planet.
So, I wouldn’t wish him back… but what I do wish is that I would have done more with the time I did have with him. I think every day about the things I should have done, or could have done for him. I could have called and e-mailed him more frequently. We could have visited him more. I should have invited him to spend more time with us. I should have fixed his favorite sandwich for him when he was at our home in July. I should have just talked with him more.
But the could haves and should haves can’t happen. Those opportunities vanished just as quickly as my brother’s spirit flew from his body to heaven.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) It occurs to me that though death closes the door to many things, it cannot destroy the lessons learned from a person. My brother kept a daily journal, in which he summarized each day’s events, ending each entry with, “Another good day. Thank you Lord,” or “Praise you Lord.” Hmmm… I can learn to be more thankful. He also maintained a detailed prayer list. My name and the names of many others were on that list. Hmmm… I can be a more faithful pray-er. He read Scripture every day and made note of the main lesson from that day’s passage. Hmmm… I can spend more time in God’s Word.
I think I observe a silver lining in the dark cloud of loss. Though I can never go back and do the things I should have or could have done, I recognize I can learn from yesterday and DO better today. By God’s grace and spurred on by a big brother’s lasting example, I CAN and WILL do better. And then, as Paul added, “the God of peace will be with me.” And that, I believe is true comfort!