It was in June, 2003, that I found myself sitting on a wooden pew of a hospital chapel in Portland, Oregon. On any other occasion I might have wondered about it’s history, about the many prayers that had been lifted up in grief and despair. But I didn’t really care. On that summer day, three and a half years ago, I was lifting up my own prayers, filled with my own grief and pain.
Tim was only 23, and a senior at LaTourneau University. Over the summers he would stay with our aunt and uncle in Gresham, Oregon and work at an oil refinery plant. My brother had his whole life ahead of him, a life which he planned to use for God as a missionary pilot. That all changed.
I wasn’t there when it happened. My family and I were on vacation a continent away in England. Only because of a mix up with his visa was Tim not able to join us. So he stayed in Oregon, and somehow, while he was working, he inhaled a chemical he wasn’t suppose to. Less then a week later, he was in the hospital.
It was this strange, yet threatening, accident which brought me to that small chapel, where probably so many others had come before. Tim was in Intensive Care, and somehow, the lighting from the stain-glass window and the familiar church icons made me feel as though God could hear me better. While I was there I prayed for God to step in and heal him, but mostly I asked, “Why? Why is this happening to my family?” The response would always jump to my head before I had even finished the question. “Would you rather it happen to someone else?”
For reasons I may never understand, God chose not to heal my brother that day, but, instead took him from this earth. His loss hurt more then I can say, but it did not hurt nearly as much as when we learned, a few weeks later, that the company my brother had been working for had lied. They told the doctors that he had probably been exposed to the chemical antifreeze. They insisted that that is what it was and refused to allow any investigation of their plant. After his death, we learned that it was not antifreeze that had corroded his lungs, but instead another chemical, one which was illegal for them to be using. The doctors weren’t sure, but they said there was a chance they could have saved him if they had treated him differently.
When I was told of their deception, the grief over the loss of my brother quickly turned to anger. My big brother would still be here if they had not deceived the doctors. I just couldn’t understand it. How could they have lied like that, saving their company, while killing another human being? I wanted justice and could find no reason to forgive them for what they did.
Time has passed since that terrible event when we lost a part of our family. The pain and grief are still just as fresh as it was when it happened, and, just like when I was 18, I long for justice. But what I once thought I could never do, I have done—I have forgiven them. Many times since his death, I have asked the question, “Why did this happen to my family?” But, since that time in the hospital chapel, the answer that comes is different. Instead, I am reminded of another death, one that took place long before my brother’s. This death was my fault. It was because of me, because of my lies and deceit that a man died on a cross. Because of that man, I am able to do what may seem impossible. I forgive the people that took a life from me, because I believe I am forgiven for doing the exact same thing.
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