A Tale of Two Brothers

 I was staring into the mirror testing phrases for my writing about our son Robbie when the phone pierced the soothing hum of my Remington shaver. My wife Ruth Ann answered it.

"Who's driving the Bronco today?" our neighbor Diane blurted. "It's been in a real bad accident right in front of our house. Come right over!"

Ruth Ann reacted, her voice twisted by anguish. "Oh, no! Rod's in an accident by Diane's house--a serious accident. O God, not another son!"

Our son Rodney, then a college senior, had just left for class.

We fell into the family station wagon. Hurrying out the drive, I got that I-can't-believe-this-is-happening, suspended-in-time feeling. I tried to prepare myself by picturing best and worst-case scenarios. From the sound of Diane's phone message, at best Rodney was headed for a long ordeal in intensive care, or the worst--again. All the heart-rupturing hurt of two decades earlier flooded us. It seemed too much like that day 20 years before when our oldest, 8-year-old Robbie, was hit by a car.

That day I picked up the operating room phone, and Aunt Peg's voice quaked a terse message: "Robbie was hit by a car and is on the way to the hospital in an ambulance. Ruth Ann is with him."

"Robbie? Hit by a car? Not my Robbie!" My gut wrenched into a knot. "How bad is he? Is he...? Is he conscious?"

"He's hurt, Bob. I don't know how bad. That's all I know."

I raced down the back hospital stairs to meet the ambulance. I'd met many ambulances at that spot, but nothing like this.

After an eternity the ambulance screeched to a stop, and its doors flew open. Ruth Ann, sobbing and pointing to our bloody, motionless son, collapsed into my arms. I peered over her shoulder as the attendants slid Robbie out. I desperately wanted to start treating him and make him well. I wanted him to move, to say something, even "Daddy, help me." But he was perfectly still.

After an anguishing wait, the emergency room door swung slowly open. A surgical colleague emerged sober-faced, with a vacant expression that said it all. "I'm sorry," he murmured, "nothing could be done. It's likely it was hopeless when he arrived."

Only an hour earlier, full of life and zip, Robbie had said, "Hi, Dad!" at my bedroom door. Now my colleague's words just bounced off my skull. I wouldn't let the news enter my brain.

"Do you want to see him?" a somber nurse asked. Ruth Ann and I exchanged glances and nodded.

For the few moments we stood there at his side, time stood still. The earth stopped spinning so I could get off and spend timeless moments with my Robbie. At that point nothing, nothing in the world meant anything to me except my little, lifeless boy lying there. I felt empty, all the life drawn out of me.

Why couldn't it have been one of those close calls or a near miss? If God really counts the hairs on my head, how could someone as precious as Robbie just fall through the cracks by accident? Robbie loved God, prayed at family devotions, read his Bible, enjoyed going to church and memorized Scripture verses. In fact, on his very last Sunday at our church he memorized John 3:16 and recited it to his Sunday School teacher.

John 3:16--what an awesome thought. God loved me so much He chose to let His one and only Son die for my sins. I tried to envision Robbie in heaven, snuggled up next to God. It helped the hurt, and it reminded me that my ultimate parental goal was to see all my children in heaven. In that sense Robbie's life was very successful, just completed earlier than expected.

My healing came gradually, the scars remained tender.

Now, 20 years later, my wound was ripped wide open as we approached the scene of Rodney's accident. I gasped as I said, "Look at that Bronco! I just hope he's still alive; at least we'll have a fighting chance."

Neighbors lined the road. The smell of leaking gasoline from the steaming wreck cautioned them to stay clear. Flipped on its caved-in roof, there seemed no way for Rod to have escaped a crushing death.

Ignoring the signals of police and firemen I strained to focus on the driver's seat. I searched for an arm, a leg--expecting fractures and blood. By reflex I accepted the worst-case scenario--again. But inside I silently screamed, O God, not another one! Please, not another son!

I glanced to my left. Standing there as if he were one of the spectators was Rodney. No visible blood or broken bones, he looked only a bit subdued. I jumped out of our wagon, crossed the crunchy glass and gasoline-strewn street, and unashamedly wrapped him in an Olympic gold medal hug. After a quick roadside exam, I relaxed. What relief!

Later I went back to my office to resume writing about Robbie. As I stared at the computer screen, the words blurred into an image of that awful day when I stood alone along our road looking at skid marks and blood stains, measuring the one more step Robbie had needed. Then that image faded into Rodney standing unharmed a few steps from his smashed Bronco.

I pictured Robbie reciting John 3:16 and realized God could have saved His own Son too, but He chose to sacrifice Him so He could provide us who believe in Him forgiveness and eternal life. By faith I accepted that God in His eternal plan had a purpose for taking Robbie home--and in saving Rodney from a violent death.

' Then I thought of near misses I'd had. God obviously has spared me for a purpose too. With that I quickly scrapped my I'll-always-be-alive attitude. Suddenly my office seemed wallpapered with good intentions and half-finished projects. I began to hear my time-on-earth clock ticking, and I felt supercharged and vitally alive. I dug through my files for the projects that would fulfill my purpose--to make an eternal difference.

A tale of two brothers: Robbie in heaven, and Rodney on heavenly assignment here on earth. But aren't we all?