Some of my favorite books are biographies, or autobiographies. I love hearing about other people's lives, about their stories. There is something about the realness and the truth of something that has actually happened. There is something so encouraging about seeing the way someone else has lived, it is like for a moment their story somehow changes yours.
And my brother Darren's story did change mine. I watched it in real life. It was the most defining moment in my life, watching him die with the hope of Christ. And over time it has been easy to forget about that defining moment, so much has happen between when I was 15 until now (that's 15 years!) and so much has been hard, which only further blurs the memories of my brother.
In reading these letters from my brother and sharing them on my blog, people that I haven't heard from in years have made comments or shared thoughts or stories of him. It is incredibly meaningful and special, that even for these people the impact of my brothers life, 15 years ago, still matters. I received an email from someone who used to be very close to our family, I can't even remember that last time I have heard from him so I was so shocked to receive such an amazing email from him about my brother.
I want to share with you all some of what he said (he gave permission) because this was from a persepective that I never knew. So please, get to know my brother a little, he was awesome!
"Darren was friendly. Always. I don’t ever remember seeing him without a smile. There was something different about Darren. It was Christ. It was so obvious. I grew up in religious schools (all but 1.5 years), going to church every week, and being immersed in Christianity. There were tons of kids who talked the talk and a few that had the glow, but Darren was different still. He wasn’t preachy and he never acted holier than thou. I think he was just honestly hooked in. Something lit him up in a way that was obvious. Before I got to cool for it I used to play basketball at the hoops off Skyway by the Mexican joint (I can’t remember the name). The game was rough and there was always older guys there throwing their weight. Talk was rough and I’ve seen people get shoved down quite a few times. Obviously, it wasn’t the hood or anything, but it wasn’t ‘nice’ play. Darren would show up sometimes. I remember leaving once and thinking about how different he was. He walked onto the court with a huge smile dribbling his ball and waiting to see if a team called him in. They did and called someone else from the park to the other team. They treated him differently. They played just as hard but people didn’t curse as much. They didn’t push as much. I remember watching this KNOWING that everyone there felt he was different and respected him for it. That blew my mind then. These were people that if they found something to poke they would POKE. They didn’t with Darren. They totally respected him for who he was. When the game was over and Darren said his goodbyes and left with his friend, the cigarettes lit up and the ‘talk’ started again. I think that’s when it was really obvious to me that everyone was acting on their better behavior cause Darren was there. Half of these guys didn’t even go to school with him. They just knew him from playing ball a few times.
Darren and I weren’t super close but we talked openly. I would like to think we liked each other. I had a lot of respect for him and have talked about that even before he was sick. He was SO good to you guys. He always had one of you crawling all over him. I never saw him push you aside to do something else. He was always smiling and happy to play. He was never in a rush. He was real and had a mature honesty through all his goofiness.
At his memory service / pizza party (he wanted his friends to celebrate his life) it blew me away. I remember a big attendance. People stood up and told stories and talked about how he touched their lives. I get a choked typing this. It was amazing Jenni. I have never felt a high like it. There was an energy there that I have never felt before or after. It was such a strong current. I think that’s why I wanted to message you. I have been to a few memorial services for people young and old, close to me and not so close. There was something so different and I wasn’t the only one who felt it. Darren might have been here for a short time but he shined bright. Really bright. He touched people. I remember thinking in my teens, that out of a lifetime in church culture, he was one of the truest Christians I had met. I think that is what was so different about him."
Blessed to receive this.
"hope is just a ray of what everyone should see" Phillip Phillips.
I wish everyone could have seen the ray of hope that my brother was.