How can a person you’ve never met change your life so drastically?
My older brother, Nathan, passed away when he was three-and-a-half years old. I was born about 11 months later. Today, on June 8th, he would have turned 34.
We never met, but…
. . . that didn’t stop me and my Big Sis from imagining what sort of brother he would have been. (Perfect, of course.) All growing up I would write stories in my journal of big-brother Nathan and how he would have stood up for me, been nice to me, never argued with me, and he’d give me advice.
Big Sis and I talked about how handsome he’d be and what sort of girls he’d date (our best friend, of course!) I kept pictures of him in my room and little trinkets that used to belong to him in a special Hello Kitty tin box. My mom would share stories about him while showing me old photo albums.
Nathan unknowingly sent me to college.
I watched videos of him doing speech therapy so he could learn to communicate. Then I went to college for speech therapy. I spent six years of schooling thinking about Nathan and studying the things that might have helped him communicate. Always, my mind was creating stories and thinking about my older brother. In a way, he was one of my top-teachers in storytelling. (Tweet this)
Then one day somehow all those stories gave me a wake up call. I’d spent so much of my life thinking about what a great older sibling he would have been, only I didn’t think about what sort of older sibling I was being. I have a younger brother and a younger sister. When I left for college, they were ages 14 and 9.
Suddenly my perspective changed. I wanted to be to them, what I’d wished Nathan could have been to me. So when I visited home on breaks, I took every opportunity to apply this new revelation. I played video games with them, read them Harry Potter, taught them how to travel to Imaginary Land (which eventually got overrun by the green gremlins.) We rode (and crashed) 4-wheelers and raced through the snow in bare feet. We created our own Butterbeer recipes and decorated entire sections of the house in theme for Lord of the Rings marathons.
We still fought — physically and verbally — and slammed doors or drew blood. We’d tattle on each other, frame each other, say “I hate you!” and then somehow end up laughing and apologizing. Now it’s years later. We’re all grown up. And . . . we’re friends. We have our own friends and we hear about how they don’t talk to their siblings, or how they were never friends, or how they never did anything together. I thank the Lord that we can’t relate.
“Do you ever wonder?”
Sometimes I tell others about Nathan and they might say, “Do you ever wonder what it would have been like to have an older brother?”
Yes, sometimes I still do. But mostly I realize how much not having Nathan shaped me to be something more. I didn’t ever want my three surviving siblings to wonder what it would have been like to have a nice sister, or an invested sister, or a sister who cared about them all. I hoped they’d never ask those questions and that I could, instead, be the example.
I don’t know why God decided to take Nathan up to golden streets before the rest of us, but I know it changed my life and shaped a lot of who I am. So now I’ve told my story . . . and you know why my second book, A Time to Speak, was in memory of someone I never actually met.
Happy birthday, Nathan.
Who is one person from your childhood that helped shaped who you are today? (Tweet this)