Acorns From Oakes

Seeing With Our Father's Eyes

He Died Alone

I can’t ever completely shake it. Sometimes it comes over me in the middle of the night when I awake…sometimes it chills my heart when I am driving along…sometimes it happens as I am sitting in my office trying to think of something helpful to say or to write. My brother died about a year and a half ago. I live about two hours from where he lived. When I learned he had been taken to the hospital on Friday night, I went to visit him the next day. The stroke had affected his swallowing and he couldn’t hear us. I was to begin a gospel meeting the very next morning in a little town about three and a half hours away from the hospital my brother was in. So I left that afternoon and went to my appointed post. He bravely said, before I left, “It’s in God’s hands whether I live or die.” And so it was. That’s how it came to be that my brother departed this life that very night…alone. If I had known…if I had only known…what was coming in just a few hours, I would never have left him alone. It haunts me still. And it really doesn’t help that I asked him, before I left, if he would be okay…or if he needed me to stay. He assured me that he would be fine. Only…he wasn’t. And in that critical hour of the ending of his life, I, his older brother, was not there for him.

I know he wouldn’t hold it against me. He had plenty of things he could have held against me in life, but he never did. He just couldn’t find it in his heart to begrudge me anything. That’s the way it was between us…him looking up to me…him being taken for granted by me…him not holding it against me…and me not being there for him.

So, I was wondering…what does one say to this kind of sorrow that keeps washing over a soul? And…what does one do…that really helps…in the face of such regret?

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7 thoughts on “He Died Alone

  1. Doug I have to say I just don’t know, except we know that we have to keep on keeping on. I hated losing Adrian and what Doug talked about I hate we were not there when he needed us in his passing. Doug I just know that God was there with him in passing and that helps me. I know this seems too simple but I just don’t know completely how to get over this one cause’ it hurts a lot. Our little brother Adrian that we loved and know had a hard time in this life with things.

    I know time has helped soothe the wound some. I know still waters go deep and I know it is not easy to keep this sorrow from washing (or you would say waves) that would hit us every so often. God says he loves and is nearby in the sorrows we have. Love you for the thoughts about Adrian Doug.

    • oakesclan on said:

      I suppose there are some wounds we never really get over. We just try to figure out how to take one more step. God has strengthened us to remain engaged in our lives and with our loved ones who remain with us yet. Maybe the wounds help us to more tender with others as they sweep us into the fellowship of the hurt. Maybe they help us not to be too much in love with this life, while becoming much more interested in the next. Anyway, I know One Who’s up to the challenge of providing us comfort in the ways and at the times we most need it. I love you, sis.

  2. I know a little bit of that overwhelming sorrow that one feels when you feel like you let someone down when they needed you most. How does one get over it? I don’t know that you ever will completely. But, I have found a way to cope. Just days before my aunt died we had gone to the lake. She and I shared a room and it was my responsibility to help her walk to the bathroom, to take her water, and basically just be there when she woke up to do whatever was needed.

    She seemed to wake up every hour or so. I was exhausted. Just as I would doze off, I would hear her calling my name. I did what needed to be done, but my attitude was horrible. She was dying of cancer right in front of me … and I just wanted to sleep. She and I had a little bit of a falling out about a year before she got sick. So when she became ill, I had a hard time knowing how to treat her. Once she died, I began to feel an overwhelming sorrow, overwhelming guilt.

    My cousin started going through my aunt’s stuff. She ran across card after card that I had written, and she had saved. My cousin would call and ask me about things she was finding … I knew my aunt better than anyone so I was able to tell stories about her and remember some of the best times. One day my cousin came to town and she gave me a small gift bag. I didn’t open it for quite a while because I knew it would make me cry. When I finally did … I did cry … but I found comfort. As I looked at letters I had written her over years and years I realized that she knew I loved her … she knew I appreciated her … and she knew that I considered her my best friend.

    Doug, I don’t know if you have anything like that. But if you can even just remember times that you shared like that … times where you are positive that he knew what a cherished brother he was … think of that … face the sorrow with that memory. It has helped my heart begin to heal … it might just help yours.

    • oakesclan on said:

      Dear Paige,
      You are a good friend…because you have a good and willing heart. I like your willingness to go a little further…to really put yourself into the sorrows and situations of others…to feel their feelings and then to give something of yourself that sheds light on their darkness. Your thoughts here reflect that fact. Thanks for the honest sharing from your own experience. It does really help. Please know that the comfort you found…and shared here (as I’m sure you have done elsewhere) is continuing to bless and provide rest and relief. Saying thank-you doesn’t feel like enough…but I guess it will have to do. You helped me.

  3. Email girl on said:


    I know that it must be very hard to live with that nagging regret of what could have been. But I couldn’t help but think of a similar situation I (we) were in when my mother in law died. We’d been with her 24/7 for about 7 months…one of us was always with her in her illness. She had been having strokes…several of them…and was slowly losing her quality of life…each time becoming less and less responsive to treatments. Time wore on and she seemed to even out a bit. We began to wonder if she was going to get somewhat better. She had severe dementia but otherwise could still get up with help and eat meals etc. One awful day, her oldest daughter died suddenly of a heart attack and we had to leave her with a nurse we knew very well so we could go out of of state for the day to attend her funeral. Several hours later as we were at the funeral home attending her daughters funeral we received a cell phone call that my husband’s mother had just died. An awful time became even worse and it was one of the toughest times of our lives. But when I was able to stand back away from it and look at it with clear eyes what I was able to see kind of amazed me. I’m just about convinced she was waiting for us to leave so she could go. As long as we were there she wanted somewhere inside of her to be our mom. When we finally left her she finally let go. I couldn’t help but wonder when I read your story if maybe your brother wanted it to be that way. I didn’t know him or you for that matter…but I wonder if it crossed your mind that Adrian could have been waiting for you to go. I don’t know….it’s just a thought. Consider if you want…or don’t if you don’t want. All I really know is that you loved your brother and I think he knew that. That’s enough…isn’t it? That the people we love know that we love them. He knew.

  4. oakesclan on said:

    Thank you for sharing this with me, email girl. Your insight on your mother-in-law’s passing seems right on to me. Since my brother’s death was rather quick and unexpected…and he was pretty young (51)…our story is different. But I was helped by what you wrote. You do a very good job communicating your heart. And the care you have shown in taking this time to share is very much appreciated. God bless you and yours.

    • Email girl on said:

      I understand Doug, I just wondered if it was possible. I too had a brother die too young (24) unexpectedly alone in a country field under the weight of a furniture truck. My rocky relationship with him has tainted the memories I have of the feelings I had when he died. I do remember, now that I think about it, those wake up in the middle of the night feelings of regret that my brother died alone. I’m sure he didn’t think that was how his life would end. Time, and the knowledge that God is in control, are perhaps the only things that ease those feelings that wake you up. I’m praying to God tonight that you find that peace sooner than later. Love to you brother Doug.

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