My Brother died last Monday morning after a brief ugly fight with Cancer.
He was born in 1952. My little sister was born 3 years later but fell ill and died in July 1956. She wasn’t even a year old yet. My eldest living sister was born a month later in August of 1956. Two years later, my second sister arrived. And I was the last born — “ laat lammetjie” in Afrikaans — 11 years younger than my Brother.
My brother was a curious, inquisitive, intellectual child that loved to read and learn new things. My Dad was like most Dad’s in post-World War II — the man of the house, stern, authoritarian, and focussed on caring for his family. Those days his mantra was, “Children should be seen and not heard.” My Mom worked nights as a nurse and so slept during the day.
Left mostly alone, my Brother busied himself with absorbing information about things that interested him. My Dad had been in the Air Force and loved planes. My Brother shared in my Dad’s love for aviation. As an ex-World War II aircraft engineer veteran, my Dad was one of the early “flyboys.”
When my Mom and Dad were first married, they lived in a government village, built next to an airport. As a young boy, my Brother grew up around Royal Air Force Spitfires, Shackleton’s and hearing the distinctive drone of the Pratt and Whitney Harvard’s taking off and landing at the airport. For a young boy with a passion for flying, this was heaven. But aeronautics wasn’t his only love.
My Brother had more influence on my life than anyone I know. From a baby, he loved me and took me under his wing. He knew that in life a person is going to need a certain amount of skills and knowledge to navigate the challenges, dips, and valleys. He could grasp the complex social, economic, and political issues we deal with daily. His enormous capacity for storing information, cross-referencing and ability to draw a hypothesis, gave him a unique viewpoint. My Brother consumed any information he could lay his hands on. His arsenal of wise knowledge would be a constant joy to tap into throughout my life. This he freely shared with me throughout his life.
More than anything, my Brother was touched by God. His deep love for his maker was evident from when he was a toddler. His relationship with God was a defining influence on how he lived his life. It is true, we were born into a privileged home and family. Having two caring, functional, present, healthy, and most importantly loving parents is more than half the battle won. Add the privilege of being raised knowing God’s intimate love for us, and you are home dry.
As siblings, we differed on certain issues and had our share of arguments. But regardless of how we finished our last conversation, the next one will be with the same love as always. For the last few years of his life, my Brother wrestled with his meaning and purpose on this planet. He questioned the legacy he was leaving, he even questioned God’s existence. He felt distant and disconnected from his root foundation.
Over the last year, my relationship with my Brother took on a new shine. It was as if he had gone full circle. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, our church started streaming daily morning messages delivered by our minister Rudi Swanepoel. Our Sunday morning services also moved online. In my Brother’s own words:
How’s my God stop the world just so that I can ‘attend’ church again!
When he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer a couple of months ago, he told me he is not scared of death. He said he knows where his soul is going. He let me know he is happy with the legacy he is leaving. His purpose on earth was fulfilled through his exemplary life of love, compassion and caring for everyone fortunate enough to know him.
My brother was my second Dad. I cannot explain how grateful I am to have had him in my life. What he meant to me and how we knew and understood each other, is something I will treasure for all my life.
“Until we meet again my Big Brudda, I love you.”
Have an awesome weekend and please be generous! 😄
As always, thanks for reading 🙏