|Courtesy of Cousin Winnie|
I got the sad news at sundown. My brother has just died. It was a heart attack.
A heart attack? I don't know what to think. He was years younger than me, the youngest, save three, of us twelve siblings. And as far as I know, he neither drank nor smoked... nor indulged in affairs. He was always working to make ends meet. Life hadn't been easy for him, not with a wife and four kids to support. As if that wasn't enough a burden, he also adopted a little baby, a relative from his wife's side.
Perhaps it was this trait—this generosity—that drove him to part with his money as soon as he received his wages. He’d buy gifts just to make kids happy. He'd use his last dime to pay for a trip to visit our ailing mother—the mother who didn't actually raise him (for he grew up with my paternal aunt's family, a day's train ride away from our village.)
Oh Julian! What happened to the cute baby boy who joined us at our aunt's house when he was about a year old? What happened to the chubby cheeks and beautiful, round eyes peeking from under a thick fringe? The twinkle in the eyes was still there and the ready smiles too, when he talked of happy things but one could see he had too many cares, too much to think about now that he had a growing family to take care of.
There was a time, long ago, before he reached adulthood, when he was a carefree boy doted on by my aunt and growing up on a farm and I paid a visit. I'll never forget how he made feel. It was the first time we met after many years of separation. I couldn't understand why he seemed so pleased to see me but it felt good to be very welcome. As though he wanted to share his happiness, he led me across the bridge to a relative's house on the far side of the river. And he introduced me to this family, his face glowing with pride as if I had accomplished something great or I was an important person and not merely a long-lost elder sister.
Now that he has gone, it's too late to wish we should have slowed down and spend more time in each other’s company. I will miss him, my humble, unassuming, kid brother with a big heart.
Goodbye, Julian, and May the Good Shepherd guide you home.
You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them. DESMOND TUTU