A lot of people ask why God would do this to a child or why God would do that to a child. After I returned home from a trip to Maui in 2013, I wrote the following Facebook post about my brother, whose August 1 birthday didn’t just make him an outlier in my family, where my mom was born July 3, my father was born July 15, and I was born July 18, but made him an outlier in other ways, too. I thought I would share that post here this morning. It might change your day.
Why God Put My Brother on This Earth
[Forty] years ago today, my mom went into labor on a hot Friday night. She was a week late. The doctor, from the smell of his breath, had been drinking. In a moment of panic, he grabbed a pair of forceps to deliver my brother, whose umbilical cord was strangling him like a noose, and applied too much pressure to his head.
Despite suffering brain damage, thousands of grand mal seizures as a result of the diabetes and epilepsy that brain damage caused, and at least four finger pricks and insulin injections per day to control his blood sugar levels; despite being exiled to another school district and bullied by the “behaviorally challenged” kids on his bus; despite being sick more days than he was well; despite breaking his hip at age 22 because his anti-seizure meds had weakened his bones; and despite the fact he would never drive, never date, never even know what that meant, and never leave his mother’s side let alone her home, he never complained. In fact, he was the happiest person I’ve ever met.
Anyone else would’ve whined about all those shots, swollen fingertips, countless hospital stays, or the limp after a nurse left him unattended, despite promising my mom she wouldn’t, and a bathroom fall post-hip surgery bent the titanium rod in his leg, leaving it two inches shorter than the other.
But my brother never so much as said ouch. Instead, he continued vacuuming the floor as he had since he’d toddled alongside my mom and her elephantine Electrolux as a baby. He continued watching game shows and cheering when people won. He continued delighting in little things and took hundreds of Polaroids to memorialize them. He also continued drawing grinning stick figures of his angry father, his exhausted mother who did her best not to cry each year as she drove us past her ob-gyn’s water-globe-worthy Christmas display, and his sister, who rarely smiled in his presence but was always drawn with one.
Many people talk about Maui’s 68-mile road to Hana as if it were a transcendental, eye-opening experience. They return home with a new outlook on life. I didn’t take that journey. Recalling everything my mom and brother endured for 28 years has taught me not to complain about traffic, weather, or what day of the week it is. Although I don’t wish tragedy on anyone, I think it serves as a better teacher than some waterfall-flanked drive.
Today, in honor of my brother’s birthday — and every little kid who smiles through pain, chemo, or some disability — please be more appreciative of your own life and be more compassionate toward others. You really do have no idea what they may be going through.