When it’s late and it’s quiet, I listen to The Ballad of Love and Hate by The Avett Brothers. Over and over again. I wonder what my life will look like in five years from now, in ten. Sometimes I drive or walk, the gentle pulse of nighttime making space, making room for movement turned stillness and peace. The sky looks so low above our apartment, low clouds white or orange, lit up by the city, parking lots and stretches of industry, and then I’m down at Fort Fisher where it’s only the wind and I can’t see to step and the earth is lit up by the sky, a sort of turned-upside-down globe.
Josh would have been nine and there was a meteor shower and we got two sleeping bags and zipped them together, laid them on the ground in the darkest corner behind the trailer. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen and it was so thick they fell every couple of seconds and there was this one that must have been really low because it burned this really bright almost green color and it lasted several seconds longer before it exploded. That’s what I remember. All bundled up in the sleeping bag on the ground, waking up to the birds, my hair damp from the dew.
The trailer was actually two trailers with a room connecting them, an H or I, depending on how you looked at it. The back one was older, more drafty, but it had a tin roof and when it rained hard enough you had to shout over it. I was home sick the day the towers fell and I watched them from that back trailer, saw the second fall live, the woman’s face as she was reporting and it happened. There was the surgery I had, my appendix, and the collection of wine cooler bottles in the front trailer inside my mom’s room, colors like peach and yellow.
It was an in-between year if there ever was one, not quite what our lives would turn into but not what they’d been, either. For Josh it was something else. Everything changed.
I’m remembering these things, but lately it’s different. They don’t seem as close anymore. It’s hard to not think about what might have happened had things been different for my brother, but the rest of it—before, it was hands cupped with soil, our lives growing out of it. Now it’s this place my life has touched, has passed through, but it’s rooted in something deeper than that, something more stable. I don’t think I ever thought to identify myself or my brother or my family as anything other than where we had come from, what we had been through. We were what we had made it to the other side of, how we had grown from that. I realize now that it’s partly true. It’s not fully true.
It’s easier some days than others, but we aren’t what God’s saved us from. We aren’t even what we’ve become because of that. We’re children of God and that’s it. We’ve seen pieces of things and lived parts of others, but if I look at it the right way, I see that in one way I’m as nomadic as I always thought: I’m not rooted in the places I grew through. I only grew through them. My brother, too. And at the same time, we’re transplants. Transplanted from rocky dirt to some thicker, richer soil. Given new life, saved from death—I mean that we are adopted into the family of Christ, and the story of my brother, of myself only serves to be a reflection of the spiritual one.
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…”