Last week, on February 24, my little brother insisted on being the first in our family to arrive at the greatest place of all: Heaven. My life has changed drastically and my entire perspective on life has shifted.
As a Christian, Heaven should already be our focus, we should already be infinitely excited for the glorious day we see our Creator face-to-face. But we’re human. We don’t always feel that way. However, Heaven just got significantly more appealing to me because I’ll be reunited with my little brother.
Let me tell you something, I don’t know how unbelievers go through something like this. If I didn’t believe in prayer, if I didn’t trust in a sovereign God, if I couldn’t run to the greatest Comforter…I can’t even imagine what I would be doing. It is the promise of Heaven alone and the confidence I have in saving grace that turns my mourning into rejoicing.
Of course I miss Christopher. Of course I’m devastated that he’s gone. Of course I’ve cried a lot. But equally “of course”, I’m excited about this new chapter of my life. Because if Christopher’s life doesn’t change how I’m living, if his testimony doesn’t bring glory to God, then I would have true cause for mourning. But that kid affected more lives for the glory of God in his 13 years than most people do in 80.
So here’s to the boldness of Christopher. A boldness to unashamedly proclaim my faith and to use Christopher’s life to bring glory to God. I still can’t fathom all that will change in the coming months. This past year has been the most (insert adjective) year of my life. I left college. My little brother died. My family’s moving to Florida. God is shaping me and giving me life experiences that I never imagined. It sort of gets me excited to see what more God has in store for me in the future.
I will run the race before me. I’m jealous that Christopher already reached the finish line, because the race is hard. But for the sake of my Savior (and my little brother), I won’t give up.
P.S. I’d also like to share with you the eulogy I read at Christopher’s memorial service. It was a beautiful service celebrating the awesome life and impact of my little brother.
Having a little brother is either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse, depending on the day. Christopher knew all the right buttons to push to infuriate me in mere seconds, yet he also had the ability to unwittingly say something that had me and everyone else rolling in laughter. Of course, once he realized his statement was hysterical, he would try to capitalize on that attention by continuing the joke…which quickly got less and less funny. Being Christopher’s big brother was a challenge—but it was a challenge that has changed my life. I would not be half the man I am today without the lessons Christopher has taught me.
Early on, I had to develop the virtue of patience. And not the “wait-for-something-to-arrive/happen” kind of patience, but the “even-if-you-bother-me-one-more-time-I-won’t-push-you-down-the-steps” kind of patience. Christopher was so full of life that he couldn’t possibly keep all his questions about words, jokes about skeletons, and random facts about the Titanic to himself—he simply had to share that with others. And share them often. Perhaps even repeating himself a few times. Oh, and did he ask you if you would play Legos with him again?
A couple weeks ago, Christopher and I had a little spat about talking when he comes home from school. I would always ask about his day and he would ignore me and eat a mac and cheese bowl. Finally we came to an agreement. Christopher wrote up a contract that read: “I, Chad Sell, here by promise and declare that I will wait 10 minutes every day to ask questions to my little brother Chris” and then we both had to sign and print our names. Teaching me patience, right there.
Over the years Christopher taught me the importance of simply slowing down and listening. He taught me the importance of spending time with someone—Christopher was thrilled when he had your undivided attention. Every moment spent with Christopher was a reminder of the impact you can have when you choose to sacrifice some of your time to spend it with someone you love.
Christopher also taught me about joy in all circumstances. James 1:2 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. Christopher was a living example of being joyful despite meeting trials a little boy should never have to endure. That’s not to say he was always happy—what kid wants to spend their 8th birthday in the hospital? Yet he still took goofy pictures with Brooke and I on his hospital bed. When I think back on all Christopher has been through—open heart surgeries, insecurities about his size, bullying—I wonder if I would have even half of the strength that Christopher displayed. I wonder if I would still close my eyes, lift up my hands, and sing “how great is our God” with as much volume as I could muster. While peeking one eye open to make sure my family was watching me, of course.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned from Christopher is also the greatest challenge that his life presents to all of us. Christopher was never one to shy away from the spotlight and he was never afraid to proclaim his faith once he was in that spotlight. He held on to his faith, he loved his Jesus, and he made sure other people understood that. More than once he decided to take on the role of the Holy Spirit and ask one of us siblings, “Is that a Christian band you’re listening to?” To which we would attempt to lamely explain how not all secular bands are bad, but he would quickly cut us off and say, “I’m not going to listen to that,” and then proceed to blare tobymac in the living room. He loved to pray, and when he did, you knew he was talking to Someone he had an intimate relationship with. His relationship with Jesus was something he was proud of; he was aware of his own faults and shortcomings in his faith, but he never stopped pursuing the God who he credited his life to. Mark 8:38 says that “whoever is ashamed of me and of my words…of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed” but Matthew 10:32 states that “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I [Jesus] also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven”. Christopher was unashamed and he certainly acknowledged Jesus before others. I am confident that when Christopher strutted into heaven, Jesus was like “Yeah, he’s mine. We’re buds.” And Christopher responded, “First things first: McDonald’s and then do you want to do a show?”
Nice Chad… I know well the up-and-down feelings that the release of a life you love is departed. I relinquished my Down syndrome daughter in 2006 when she was 46 yrs old…. her time to enter the Kingdom! Time…God….prayer….and more time. Be blessed Chad. Peggy Coffey
Thanks for sharing, Chad!
This is so beautiful! I wish I would have known your little brother. I saw a link to your blog post on Facebook. Glad I found it. I am so sorry for your loss. Stay strong.