Tomorrow is my brother Mike’s 60th birthday. I haven’t seen him in 38 years and I don’t even know if he is alive. I’ve tried to locate him several times over the decades to no avail. He’s a heroin addict who has been in and out of the state pen 3 times. He doesn’t know his mother died in 2014 and he doesn’t know his father died this past February. My last communication with him was sometime in the mid-1990s when he sent me a birthday card asking for money. I sent him a Bible with a short note in return. In the note, I told him that he would end up like Steve if he didn’t change his life and added that I hoped he would find Jesus while he in prison. I asked him to please turn his life around so that my third, and only living brother, wouldn’t end up dead like the others. I never heard from him again.
The last time I saw him in person was in 1983 at David’s funeral. I don’t remember speaking to him or anything, I just remember that he was there. When our brother, Steve, died from a drug overdose in 1992, Mike was unable to attend the funeral because he was in prison. He’s not a nice guy, definitely not someone you want your children to be around. He spent time in solitary confinement while he was locked up! Life is about choices and I made my choice early on in life that I wasn’t going to turn out like my brothers. I have never tried illegal drugs and I’ve done my best to live a good life. While I am far from perfect, I think I’m doing okay.
In 38 years, his birthday has come and gone without much thought, but this year is different. While I search the obituaries a few times each year and tried to get contact information in 2014 and again when my dad passed away this year, I really have just continued to assume he’s living the same life of crime and drugs he’s always lived. Sixty is a big birthday, though. Many people don’t make it to 60– random accidents, a stroke, a heart attack, etc, and they are gone. I can’t imagine a life-long heroin addict would have much of a chance of living to the age of 60, but until I hear otherwise, I have hope that he turned his life around and is living out his days drug-free and happy.
With my dad’s passing, I have tried to run background checks again to no avail. Mike has virtually no online trace. He got out of the pen in 2007 and then just disappears. If he died anywhere his body could be found, there would be finger prints and dental records to identify him, right? There is no trace of him– no address, no phone number, no social media accounts, no employers; it is as if he just doesn’t exist. Chances are that he is dead, probably from some sort of violent crime related to a drug deal gone bad, if I had to guess. No one would ever realize he was missing and thus never report it to the police. This is all purely speculation on my part, of course. It is, however, entirely plausible.
He is part of who I am; he is my brother and there will always be a connection. Good or bad, I am connected. I have prayed for him a lot over the years, prayed for his salvation, prayed that he would change his life and truly live the life God has given him to the fullest. It is easier to think that God has answered my prayers, that he has sobered up and gotten his life together rather than the alternative. Sadly, the last time my parents communicated with him over 16 or 17 years ago, he tried to kick my mother and was violent. They never spoke to him again. His biggest concern each day at that point and time was getting home in time each day to watch Scooby Doo on TV. He became infuriated because they were late and blew his stack. That’s what drugs do a person.
It’s hard to thank God for these trials, because my human brain cannot comprehend the why’s or the how’s or anything of the sort. I know that God didn’t make my brother an addict, Mike chose this path. Mike chose to turn from God. What is the good that comes from this? My life is a testimony to what God alone can do. I grew up surrounded by drugs and could have chosen to do drugs at ANY time I ever wanted. God protected me. I cannot explain how I managed to avoid drugs and a life of crime other than God protected my heart and protected me (my brothers were kicked out of public school, committed robberies, etc., as examples). I never had a curfew growing up and could have run wild if I had chosen to do so.
On his 60th birthday, I will pray for him, I will pray for his salvation, just as I do on many days when I think of him. I will thank God for protecting me and guiding me. I will count my blessings and thank Him. While I wish life had been different for Michael, it just wasn’t. This is part of who I am. It is part of the tapestry of my life–and when I look around, I can see how God used this bad situation for His glory and somehow brought forth good from it. He and my brothers are of some of the many the reasons I was so strict with my boys growing up. I was far from the perfect mother, but so far, two of my three have graduated from college and last one graduates this year. They have jobs, and as far as I know, have steered clear of drugs and crime.
It is hard to see good in bad situations. It took me decades to realize that God really does bring forth good from the horrible things that happen in life. While I would never have wished for my brothers to choose the lives they chose, God gave them free will and I have to accept that THEY made choices. Each of us has to make choices every single day. I am not responsible for their choices or actions, I am only responsible for mine. I chose to allow their lives to motivate me to be a better person. I knew that, with God’s help and hard work on my part, my life would be drastically different than my brothers’. It’s all a part of the ride, the uphill part of the journey. If you are facing a terrible situation, remember that it is only a temporary part of the journey. Life, despite its ups and downs, really is a beautiful ride