Robert, my California brother who keeps reminding me he is younger, was visiting some of the family in Georgia the past two weeks. He always enjoys being around my children and grandchildren and greeted them with the usual big Uncle Rob hugs. We ate and ate and served up lots of strong coffee with dessert as we “set a spell”. (That’s Southern for hours and hours.) Our group discussions were much like they were when my sisters and brothers and I were growing up. We sat around the dinner table and voiced our opinions with the same passion and volume a child has when trying to convince his parents he needs a new bike. We asked questions like:
- Who are the three people, living or dead, you would most like to meet?
This would trigger new questions before anyone could offer their ideas regarding Shakespeare, Michelangelo, or Einstein.
- So, is anyone ever really dead?
- What happens to the soul?
- Are our spirits and souls separated when we die or merely transported to the cosmos along with our bodies?
Once again our family gathered around the table just like days gone by. Only this time weightier, more complicated questions came up.
- What happened for 400 years between Malachi of the Old Testament and Matthew of the New Testament?
- Who decided what to put in the Bible and what to leave out?
- How do we know if the different translations are accurate?
Fourteen days of talk about spiritual and non-spiritual things were sparked by a young-ish man who sat next to Robby on the five hour cross country flight. The unsuspecting stranger had introduced himself as an Evangelical Christian to the world’s greatest antagonist. After exhaustive discussion, the man asked my brother if he had a Bible.
“No. I lost mine somewhere between childhood and enlightenment.”
Yep. That’s my brother.
An enormous Bible was pulled out from under the seat and put unapologetically in my brother’s lap.
“Here. You may keep this if you agree to one condition. You have to promise me you will read it.”
It was filled with sticky notes, highlights, and turned down pages. Obviously it was well read and cherished by someone who enjoyed studying. Robby eagerly accepted the reading challenge. The two men exchanged business cards before they left the plane and parted their ways.
Brother Rob had an unusual expression on his face as he stepped off the airport curb and jumped into the back seat of my waiting car. When we arrived at my sister’s house, everyone did the so-good-to-see-you dance and sang the missed you-so-much song.
Then it happened.
Robby smiled his diabolical now let’s talk smile then he pulled out his four inch thick, leather bound weapon of choice. He now had fuel for the much anticipated, multi-generational rebuttals that always accompany family visits. Or, so he thought. And so he said.
“I have a lot of topics I would like to discuss with my dear sisters before I go back home. First, we will set boundaries and establish rules. No name calling. No shouting. No crying. Second, we will have to respectfully agree to disagree… because you know in the end we will disagree.”
Ha. Little did he know what I have stored in my arsenal.
I was armed with the old Abrahams’ family two volume “World Book Dictionary” and my personal copy of “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible” that translates Scripture from original Greek and Hebrew to English. He simply called on Ms. Siri and Mr. Google when desperate. Although it took me awhile to find answers to his plethora of questions, time was on my side. Robby had a tendency to misplace his bifocals. 😉
On the lighter side, many hours of playing board games and Chess and occasional Frisbee for old time’s sake passed too quickly. Our days together now seem more precious and too few.
You see, five years ago, our youngest sibling, the baby of the Abrahams family, the one we always called spoiled, was diagnosed with a rare blood disease. It affected his senses of smell and taste, destroyed his facial bone structure, breathing and eventually his stomach. It is literally a miracle he is still alive, having gone through countless series of reconstructive operations and experimental treatments. His cancer was so unusual and difficult to manage, the university doctors in California called in doctors from Japan to help diagnose and treat our little brother. They are all in awe that today he is doing so well.
He is still vulnerable to infections in public places, especially in airports and airplanes. Many prayers have gone up and out for him and he even said he could feel that people were praying for him. He is grateful, but he still questions this phenomenon called God of the Universe. That’s okay. We will never stop questioning this thing called life and what it is for. And, hopefully, we will never be so arrogant to think we know all the answers.
So, we ended our time together as we started. Full of good food, laughter, and tears. The memories were shared of those whom we have loved and lost. A sister, parents, aunts, uncles. So many. We joked about what Mother would say if only four of her five children showed up in Heaven.
As we dropped our dear brother off at the Atlanta airport, we said our silent goodbyes. We didn’t need words to express our love and gratitude for being given another year where we could be together for two weeks. Life has been good to us. We have each other. Always will.