My Coldest Night and Warmest Truth

People often tell me not to let the death of my brother define me. While I would not have his death be the only thing someone knows about me, it is inevitable that it had changed me. That cold night was one where I experienced something I would not wish on my worst enemy. But there was something else that night.

As Michaela finished up her high school courses, she had to write an essay on an especially significant time in her life. She chose to write about the night her brother died. I asked if I could share it here and she was willing to have me to do so. I hope it will encourage you as it encouraged me.

The night my brother died was a cold one. So cold it was that I refused to go out with my mother for our nightly walk. Instead, we stayed inside with my father. He was sitting on the floor with a bucket of smelly beige paint, while my mom and I were chattering excitedly about my brother’s upcoming trip home with his fiancée.

Then Mom got that text.

I remember her face paling as she stood up, her phone clutched in her hands. My brother had collapsed unexpectedly and inexplicably while he and his friends were playing a game of kickball at college. I remember the panic rising inside me as I watched her pace, calling my dad to come sit on the couch. Hours seemed to pass as we waited. Then my dad’s phone rang. We all stared at my dad’s phone for a moment, the rhythmic ringtone crashing through the silence in a wave of noise. My dad picked up the phone and answered in a trembling voice.

Nick’s heart had stopped, and both the students present and the paramedics had been unable to resuscitate him.

He was dead.

I remember screaming as my dad spat out the words, his shocked voice breaking. I flung myself from the chair I’d been sitting in, my feet carrying me from the living room and into the kitchen before I collapsed on the cold floorboards, begging someone to tell me it wasn’t true. My mother’s equally anguished screams echoed through the hallways as she too ran from the room. Soon after, I crawled back to my father—who sat unmoving on the couch—my entire body shaking. Why, why I wondered as I sobbed, horror buzzing through the air of my small home like an electric current.

“How could God have done this?” I cried. “How could this have been His will?”

When I heard my pastor would be driving to our house, I stood outside in the freezing night air and waited, my shaking arms wrapped around myself to conserve what little warmth I had left. My mother tried to get me to come inside—but I didn’t. The night air was fresh, the sky appearing pitch black and remarkably clear from our home in the city. Our pastor eventually arrived, alarmed to find me standing out in the cold, my breath billowing around me.

“My parents need you.” I croaked when he hugged me tight.

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