To My Brother in Law

Dear Chris,

It is no secret that you are Incredible. Incredible with a capital I. I watched you serve and love and care for my sister for decades. Even before the leukemia, you were always taking care of Jen.

Not only Jen, but the rest of us too. Giving us rides. Inviting us on vacation with you. Letting us sleep over. Giving us firm, solid and truthful advice. And for me, your gentle encouragement during my awkward middle school years kept me from falling off the edge into low self esteem. I still remember some of those things you’d say to me and how they changed my whole outlook on boys, friends, drama and life. I thought then that it was because you were older and wiser, but I know (now that I am older than you were then) that God just equipped you to encourage, advise and teach young people. I am proud to be the recipient of a good bit of that and I would like to think I helped you perfect your skills.

Before you even met Jen, God was shaping you into a person with a lifetime of lessons learned and stories to tell. I have heard you talk about your childhood a number of times and I am always impressed that you’re not angrier than you are. How could I, with my pretty awesome childhood, struggle with anger more than you who has gone through so much? God made you to do more with your life than just get angry. He has been molding you into one of those diamond in the rough types that can and will change the world.

And if there was any doubt at all of your fortitude, your wife got sick and you showed us just how incredible God made you. When she first got sick, the doctors gave her weeks to live and you began caring for a four-year-old and a one-year-old on your own. Cleaning the house, feeding and caring for small children, running back and forth to the hospital. You didn’t know it then, but God was shaping you into the man Jen and the boys needed you to be. The man God needed you to be. Then she recovered and the challenges were different.

What I can’t imagine is how you survived those eleven years when Jen was sick. How did you breathe knowing any moment she could take that turn and die? Did you sit for hours just staring at the woman you love and begging God not to take her away? How did you drop her off at the hospital knowing you may get a call from her nurses saying this is it? And then how did you keep breathing when you finally did get that call? How did you get through those moments at home where you had to decide if she was sick enough to go back to the hospital? Maybe she’s well enough to sit it out at home. Maybe she’s too sick for you to handle and she needs nurses and a team of doctors to make these decisions instead of you. If you make the wrong choice, it could mean waking up to find Jen gone. How in the world did you ride the remission-relapse roller coaster for over a decade?! The leukemia is gone. The leukemia is back. It’s gone. It’s back. She’s great! She’s miserable. She’s back to normal and back to work. She’s back in the hospital.

It breaks my heart that I did not have more compassion and serve you more during those many years. How dare I wait for you to ask for help before I offer it! How dare I feel sorry for myself when you are suffering so much more! And worse yet, after Jen died, how dare I deny you happiness. I will admit that I was uncomfortable with the idea of you dating someone, especially so soon after losing my sister. I battled with the idea and even though I love Miranda, it made me unhappy. There I was again, thinking only of myself. I prayed for God to change something and he’s changed my heart. You deserve happiness and love and joy. You deserve peace and hope. After eleven years of being the caretaker of a seriously sick spouse, you deserve to do what makes you happy. I am sorry I wanted to selfishly deny you that – even if you didn’t know that I did.

I know we could never do enough. We could never make up for being faced with mortality before you thought you should have to be. We could never compensate for those weeks and months where you had to function like a single parent and then the shock when you actually became a single parent and realized those two things are NOT the same. The loneliness. The sleepless nights. The gut-wrenching cries alone in your bed. Those moments you don’t “feel” like doing something but have no choice because your family needs you. The crying children. The suffocating worry. The insensitive remarks from ignorant people like me. Dealing with people who won’t visit your spouse in the hospital because of some selfish hang-up. They don’t want to face city traffic. They hate hospitals. They don’t want to make her uncomfortable. Whatever.

On behalf of everyone who made your day worse while you were dealing with things that are so huge, I am sorry. I am sorry I didn’t at least try harder. We could never do enough to take it all away, but we could have done SOMETHING. We should still do something because the hurt doesn’t just go away.

I am excited that God had chosen you to be a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. You have so much to teach and so much to share with the students at Stevenson University and McDaniel. It fills me with hope to see you use what happened to you and Jen to point to Christ and to teach others to see beyond themselves. I am happy to support you in this FCA thing both prayerfully and financially. I know you have a message that needs to get to the world and God has blessed you with the ability to change lives. I wish I could give more.

Jen was a game changer. She waltzed into your life and turned it upside down. She taught you about patience and faith and strength and I know she is more excited than any of us about your work with FCA. You could be that game changer for someone else. You could teach someone else about love and strength and faith. You have already taught me. Does it surprise you to learn that you were teaching me about Christ’s love before you even believed in him? Like I said, you’re going to change the world and I am glad I get to be a part of it.

Love always,
Your favorite Katie