(*originally posted on my facebook page as a link to a google doc. Keeping a copy here too.)
Thoughts on a broken heart, faith, pain, and how you put the broken pieces back together when you lose your closest friend – my little brother who always worried so much about me.
What do you do, what do you say, how do you continue when you lose the person closest to you? We were twins somehow separated by a few years, loved all the same things, and near always together. What to say without writing a book and still leaving things out?
This world is a painful place, where hearts are broken and shattered into thousands of pieces all the time. For my family, for so many friends, our hearts gained new cracks – or an old one broken once again – when, in June, we got the news that my brother had cancer once again. For awhile it seemed as though we’d easily have the pieces put back together. We’d made it through once, of course we could do it again. But then all too suddenly it changed and it was getting so very hard to keep the heartache from becoming too much to keep together. Thursday night, after the news that there was nothing more that doctors could do, we likely thought we’d fallen so far that there were no pieces left to break our hearts that were already so shattered. Yet, early Saturday morning there was more still. Just before 5am when my brother passed away, we lost a piece of our hearts that can never be replaced.
When something breaks, falls into pieces – it will take time, it will take effort, but it CAN be put together again. It will likely hurt as you pick up the pieces, the memories and ‘wish-I-hads’ cutting and sharp as you try to get up again from the fall that broke you. The worse the break the harder it is to fix, the more visible the cracks are. There may be pieces you can’t replace, you can try to patch it up with other things, but it’s never the same. Yet, still, it can be put together again, though the cracks are always there it is no longer broken.
Kintsugi or kintsukuroi is an old Japanese art of repair; using gold, silver, or platinum to fill in the cracks and make the broken whole again. It highlights the places where it was chipped and broken, because it is an important part of its history. It has gone through much, yet continues to be of use, the cracks now the most shining part of it. The places it was broken, now part of what makes it all the more beautiful.
In the Bible, in the book of 1 Peter, we are told that our faith during trials of life is like gold tested in fire, “though your faith is far more precious than mere gold”. And so, for the Christian, it is our faith that fills the cracks and holds the pieces together again. We prayed, we wept, we begged for healing, for a miracle… it would be easy to give up now. But what kind of faith is one that is destroyed as soon as trouble comes? Faith is not an assurance of life free of trouble. No, faith is needed most when there is trouble. God IS there when we are broken, He’s there with us to make it through.
Back in August, I wrote this:
“My brother’s optimism and faith are so inspiring though. He’s the one sick again, but just like last time, he’s more worried about all of us being okay. When the doctors’ explained about the bone marrow transplant, his first question was if the /donor/ would be in any pain from it. When he had to get blood transfusions he just joked about being a vampire. He’s mentioned before that he’s not really too worried about everything. He trusts God is in control of it all, as one song says “even if the healing doesn’t come” (“Even If” by Kutless), and he knows even if the worse were to happen he’d be in a better place.
I pray to have that faith, faith that handles the ups and the downs. It’s hard though, because when the hard times come, often it’s all at once, and it IS so much more than we can handle alone. But, WITH Christ, we can get through it. My dad said sometimes instead of praying for the mountain to be moved, we need to pray for the strength to climb it.”
For a while, when it got harder I had forgotten what I’d written then. My faith was weaker than ever. Two songs in particular seemed to speak for my broken heart when the pain was too heavy to pray. When I was crying so much that I wasn’t sure I could remember how to breath and felt so alone. “Oh, how you worry/ Oh, how you’re weary, from fearing you lost control / This was the one thing, you didn’t see coming / And no one would blame you, though / If you cried in private / If you tried to hide it away, so no one knows / No one will see, if you stop believing / Oh, my soul / You are not alone / There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know / One more day, He will make a way / Let Him show you how, you can lay this down / ‘Cause you’re not alone” (“Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns ).
So many nights I cried and questioned in these past few weeks. “They say it only takes a little faith / To move a mountain / Good thing / A little faith is all I have right now / But God, when You choose / To leave mountains unmovable / Give me the strength to be able to sing / It is well with my soul” (“Even If” by MercyMe). I didn’t think I had the strength.
Every time I was so close to giving up, God sent what was needed to keep me going though. Songs (those two especially), friends (in person Chris, Nikki Faith, Nikki An; and online too many of you to list, but especially lately when I needed it the most Callie and Lukas [yes min bror, I do believe God used you whether you believe in him or not]), family (church family too, but especially my Dad with his steadfast faith that I look up to so much and wish I had even half of), even a stranger (a hospital employee we’d only just met who lived her faith so well she prayed for us and did everything she was able to just make it even a little more comfortable).
We’d joked many times before that I couldn’t survive without him. He told me Thursday and many other times “stop crying / it’s okay / everything’s going to be okay” and I didn’t understand how he could worry about me yet again when he was the one dying. He didn’t seem to get mad or sad about any of it, the one time he said something to one of the doctors (not even because he was mad so much as he saw how upset our mom was that he snapped in defense of her) – even in the middle of all the pains and medications – he made sure before we left he reached out to that doctor, grasped his hand and apologized.
I’m trying to figure out how to end this, how to stop writing when words don’t want to stop coming. So here is what I wrote later on that Saturday, to a group of people on a site where I’d always considered them family yet at the same time thought no one noticed me – I was proven so very wrong though, every time I went there and asked for prayers and friendship I was so constantly overwhelmed by it, and especially now:
“We got him home last night, it’s what he wanted most to just go home. He was so happy and excited to get out of the hospital and finally go home. The clearest song on the staticy radio on the way home was called “Home” (by Chris Tomlin) it said I’m coming home to which dad was like you hear that Juni you’re going home. But dad and I both I think kind of realized that the song was saying home as in heaven. And I’m not sure if Dad thought the same but as we continue driving home I’m starting to feel like maybe that’s what bro has meant all this time or maybe he meant both his home here and his final home.
several people from church stopped by and prayed and sang over us. So much love from so many people. When they left we all as a family already kind of felt it would be soon. too soon. Sis and I were sitting by him and had just checked not long before if we could still hear a heartbeat and then we stayed next to him and talked and then we noticed his color had faded. And we didn’t want to check even though we knew. We woke up dad to do the hard part.
sis and i are sure his face was a more neutral expression when we noticed, but when all of us were around him (mom, dad, sis, me, and brother in law) we looked again and he had such a big happy smile. He looked the best he has looked in weeks. He looked so peaceful finally finally free of all this horrible pain.
oh my poor wonderful sweet kind little brother. he just had his 20th birthday in September, in the hospital. he had to suffer through so so much. He just needed rest. He just needed to go Home now.
Even though I’m crying typing this and I so desperately begged him not to leave me. my sweet brother who always worried about me and said he’d always take care of me. who i always joked with about how I couldn’t survive without him. Even still I know it’s okay, just like he kept insisting on telling me while I cried the other day at the news. Its okay because he will never have to feel such horrible pain again. Pain so horribly visible in his eyes when he could barely speak because it hurt so bad. I want him here with me so much but not like that. so it’s okay. it’s okay because I’ll see him again and he is never ever going to be in pain again. I love him so much so it hurts just as much. but even with the tears I’m at peace with this. even though it hurts so much. it’s okay.”
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
– Revelation 21:4
To everyone who loved him so, everyone who shares in our pain and sorrow at losing him: THANK YOU for being his friends, his family. Especially, to the boys who were basically his brothers. Even if most of you were never able to meet him in person, you all knew him so well. I’m sorry for all the times I was selfish and kept him from you. I will miss so much the sound of his constant laughter and happiness when talking with you all every day. Thank you for loving him. Thank you for worrying about me, just as he would, and letting me join the group too.
This was one of his favorite songs, and I think he lived up to it more than enough: “Let my life be the proof, / The proof of Your love / Let my love look like You and what You’re made of / How You lived, how You died / Love is sacrifice / So let my life be the proof, / The proof of Your love” (“The Proof of Your Love” by for KING & COUNTRY)
– Danica Newlin
In memory of Fred Clark Newlin III, my only brother, so loved by many. Known by several names from Fred, to Juni, to Silverwind, to SJunior; but best known as son, brother, and friend most of all. You are always loved, and I know I’ll see you again where there is no more pain and no more tears. I’ll see you when I make it Home too someday. You wanted to learn to lead the worship music at church one day, but I know you are already doing it now.