My Brother’s Legacy

My brother Dean (47) died last Monday, August 8 and I’m processing the fog of the past week. All I keep thinking is that I am so proud to be part of this family. On Thursday, there was a viewing of Dean’s body for a small group of family and friends before he would be cremated. After a couple weeks of battling infection and being stubborn about going in to see a doctor, my brother’s body lay there bloated and his face not quite right to look at after death.

My mom walked into the room and went up to him and for moments was barely able to stand as she cried out, “My son, my son. I don’t know how I can let go of my son.” Brother Shane and I and Uncle John steadied her, and then like she always seems to do, she rallied with a supernatural strength. She was so compelled by having to anoint her son’s body with oil, like she had done for my Dad and for our Auntie and for others. Her tremendous depth of grief in her voice shifted and strengthened as she took out the anointing oil and started speaking words of praise to our God.

She touched his cold forehead as she thanked Jesus that we do not have to grieve without hope because of what he did, and then she strung together scripture after scripture of glory and praise and honor to the Lord and his resurrection power while she released Dean in her heart back to him. Then as we all held each other tight, she strengthened and went about the work of comforting others. Who does this sort of thing?

My mother amazes me. She allowed the Lord to minister to her and refused depression, and walked through the week with waves of overwhelming sadness that was completely undergirded and consumed authentically by the hope of glory. What mother would ever want to see the day that she would have to say goodbye to her own child? This woman has had to put too many loved ones down in her life, but my Lord, she is a walking testament to what it looks like to receive and give a strength that is not her own. She CHOOSES to praise and release the revelation of a good God, despite the hurt. Don’t be mistaken–it is not denial; it is true processing. There are no religious platitudes to be found with her, only genuine outflow of a heart connected to the Father’s love and wisdom that renews all of our minds. How many people know how to do that? My mother does. I am proud to be her daughter and hope I can be half the woman she is one day.

On Saturday, we had a memorial service for Dean at his favorite restaurant lounge at a golf course. More than 225 people packed the room to pay respect to my brother. You saw demographics of people represented there that showed he treated the guy down and out just as good as the CEO of a company who wore a nice suit. He valued people based on his value system, not based on their status at all. As I worked my way from table to table meeting everyone I could, I can’t think of one person who just said, “My sympathies, I’m so sorry for you loss.” No, person by person launched into stories of how my brother impacted their lives–profoundly.

One man said it so well. He said, “Your brother was so big. I’m not talking about his body; I’m talking about his reach. Just look around this room. Like a huge blanket, he was just big enough to cover us all.” Seriously, most of us have 8-10 in circle of close friends that we can really care about and invest into. My brother had multitudes of people that he cared about and that cared about him. The stories were completely congruent from those that knew him from the construction world, to waitresses, to family friends, to strangers that through his kindness he made into friends. One after another came…

“I always knew I could depend on Dean to be totally true to his word, a man of full integrity–you just don’t find that level of character in this business”; “I worked for Dean and even if he needed you change something or you did something wrong, he had a way of making you feel better about yourself than you did before he brought it up”; “Your brother saved my life. I was going down a bad road and he got me a job, he believed in me and he showed me how to be a better man”; “I remember a time I was riding with him and we pulled into the Taco Bell and he ordered 50 soft-shell and 50 hard-shell tacos that he went and gave to homeless people…I was was with him one time when he got 30 sacks of food at the Jack in the Box and put $20 bills in each one and took them to the homeless… There was a homeless dude holding a sign that said, ‘I need a beer,’ and Dean pulled over and gave him $20. I asked him why when he’s just going to drink, and Dean said, ‘I really appreciated his honesty'”…I remember when your brother came into the restaurant and saw a big group of red hat society ladies and he called me over and said, ‘I want to buy all of those ladies their lunch–bring me the bill”; “Your brother told the best stories and was the total life of every conversation. He would have everyone laughing and just made you feel good about yourself”; “Dean always had the answer–he had a gifted, brilliant mind that didn’t forget a contact and just knew how to get it done–problem solved every time”; “He was the kindest man I have ever known”; “He was like a brother to me” (x20).”

On and on it went, and my other brother Shane who was his business partner also got similar words said about him–as he who has spent more time with Dean than any one person in this world, goes forward brokenhearted yet even more driven to step into all he was made to be. That’s my family. My brothers. The words about Dean were similar to what people had to say at my Dad’s funeral. Integrity, generousity, kindness, respect, laughter, and life–that’s a legacy to aspire to! My brother Dean did not have a lot of money, but he was generous beyond belief and would give you his last dime if you needed it. Dean was a leader and brilliant, creative man, even though he only had a 9th grade education and his facebook page said “studied at the school of Hard Knocks–graduated with a bucket of crap and a shovel.” His hard work and determination and tremendous way of connecting with people caused him to excel in great favor.

 He saw people’s heart, called out their potential, and valued you them with dignity beyond conventional ways. This guy loved Jesus so much, but wasn’t accepted by many church people because of the way he looked and his tatoos and biker-dude appearance. Yet, he walked around and shared a glimpse of what Jesus thought about the value and worth of people by the way he stopped and heard them, and then sought to make life better for them in any way he could. I’m so proud of him. That’s his legacy.

So those of us that are left here who saw the way he operated and hear the stories of the fingerprints he left on people’s hearts that show he was there have some things to consider about ourselves. At the end of the day, all the stuff we accumulate goes back in the box or out to the trash. But what we release everyday to people themselves multiplies blessing and makes a difference in this world. My brother wasn’t perfect and no one can be, but he lived to give–time, honor, value, conversation, money, dignity. I just want to live with arms wide open, eyes wide open, fully present like my brother did and go about with my personhood investing in and blessing PEOPLE.

Dean loved and took care of so many. He was so devoted to family and was simply true blue through and through from beginning to end. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my family and the legacy each one has left and will leave behind. I’m proud of what the younger generations have watched and learned from and will hopefully incorporate the “best ofs.” Dean is free from this old tired body and walking with Jesus on streets paved with gold. Thank you Lord, Mama and Daddy for your influence on our family. You done good.

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