The other day I saw a great picture quote on Facebook that I wanted to repost, but I was scared too. Well, maybe scared is too strong of a word. I was unsure how it would look, if people would consider it a lie coming from me. I wanted to comment, “My mom was telling people this 35 years ago.” But then I wondered whether my brother’s suicide negated the truth of it, negated her teaching, negated her mothering.
One Wednesday night this fall, I got a phone call. I had no idea who it was. The woman was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t understand her words. I asked her to repeat herself. “Juo is dead!!!!!!” she wailed. I still had no idea who this woman was and why she was saying such a thing about my brother. My mind played through the possibilities. It didn’t sound like anyone I knew. Could it be a wrong number. Could it my ex-sister-in-law with a really confused idea of a joke? I sagged to the floor in the middle of the kitchen as the realization dawned that it was my mom.
For years I had been waiting for that phone call.
When we were children, a failed invention or a skirmish with the neighbor kids would have Juo shouting, “Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. You never wanted me.” Then he would turn and race for the house. I’d sprint behind him, pass him up and throw myself in front of the knife drawer, blocking his way.
Fifteen years ago I had a dream that I was standing on a mountain top in Nepal and the Lord told me that my brother Juo was dead. “What happened, God? Was he in some kind of accident? You know he has always been a bit of a daredevil.” “No, ” He assured me, “He chose to die, but he is mine and it is okay.” I spent the next few weeks listening for the phone.
Juo always felt things so strongly. There was no weak emotion with him. Everything was seen in absolutes. The world was wonderful or it was awful. He was either a genius or he was stupid. People either loved him or despised him.
I wish that we had spent more time together as adults. He had some amazing ideas, I recently read some of the journals he left behind. His grammar and spelling were not great, he learned to read as an adult, but he had an amazing faith and a profound depth of insight into people. I never really got to know those aspects of him.