When my older brother Andy passed away from bone cancer at age 15, I felt like a part of me also died. The week after Andy’s death, I felt sick. I couldn’t sleep. Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Andy and I never got along. I was the one Andy always picked on. In response to his endless teasing, I did my best to be the most annoying little brother around. So why did I feel so horrible when Andy wasn’t here anymore?
At night I spent hours tossing, turning, and staring at the ceiling. Thoughts of Andy kept going through my mind. My 12th birthday would be in a few days. I wasn’t a baby anymore, but after a short prayer, I felt Mom would know what to do.
“Mom,” I said as I gently shook her awake. “I can’t sleep. I have a headache, and it’s hard for me to breathe.”
Mom didn’t know what to say. She had lost a son a few days before. I could tell by her bloodshot eyes and sad face that she wasn’t too excited about my new problem. “We’ll visit the doctor tomorrow morning. OK, Steve?”
Morning came. My brothers and sister went to school while Mom and I left to see Dr. Freestone. He was familiar with us. With Andy, we had a family of six active boys and one girl. Dr. Freestone was the one to put arms in casts and stitch us up. He had a way of making things right.
I had visited the doctor’s office several times; the visits were not good memories. I looked around the room uneasily. Finally the doctor came.
“Hi, Steven, what seems to be the problem?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I have headaches, and sometimes I can’t breathe at night,” I mumbled.
“How long have you been feeling like this?” he asked.
“It’s been about a week,” I answered slowly.
He conducted his examination and asked many questions. After several tests, the doctor sat down. He studied his notes and then looked at me for a few seconds before he spoke. “Steven, I can’t find anything wrong with you,” he said. “You say you’ve had headaches though?”
“What have you been thinking about when you get these headaches?” he asked.
As I thought about the question, tears welled up in my eyes. “Well, I am usually thinking about Andy.”
“Do you miss Andy?”
I had to nod. I couldn’t speak, and my eyes had turned into waterfalls. Mom also started to cry. Dr. Freestone, getting a little teary himself, said something I’ll never forget.
“You know, Steven, Andy loves you. And just because you can’t see him anymore doesn’t mean he isn’t there. Andy is happy where he is right now, and I know he wants you to be happy too.”
Everything he said made perfect sense to me. I needed to remember that I didn’t really lose my brother. He would still be with me in spirit. Mom put her arm around me as we said thank you to Dr. Freestone, wiped our tears, and went on our way.
I had always believed in the plan of salvation, but at that moment it became real to me. I would see Andy again.
I had never even thought I liked Andy, but as soon as he was gone, I missed him more than anything.
I slept that night knowing that Andy loved me and wanted me to be happy—just as he was.