My Brother’s Bible

Do you have a “Comfort Item”? I never thought about that term until a friend posted about her hospital shirt and how it brought her comfort and peace. After reading Mrs. Melissa Henderson’s post (https://melissaghenderson.com/2019/12/16/the-hospital-shirt-finding-comfort/), I thought about things that bring me comfort.

My first thought was of my wife Diane. She is a great source of peacefulness in my life. We’ve grown comfortable together, which is not to be confused with complacent. We know each other and can more easily recognize triggers, signs of stress, need, etc. I love how we so often complete each other’s thoughts and sentences. I also thought of how God’s word identifies the Holy Spirit as “The Comforter” in John 14:26 (KJV). Both bring me peace and comfort, but they are persons and not things. My wife and the Holy Spirit are both “help mates” who come alongside me in this journey called life. So I continued thinking.

Next, I thought about the Bible. “God’s word brings me great comfort” I thought. “But wait, Hebrews 4:12 tells me God’s word is living.” Yes, it brings comfort, but it’s not an item or a thing. Then, in His still small voice, I heard a single word deep in my soul; “Paul.”

I sat there wondering to myself, Why did God remind me of “Stretch” right now? That’s when I realized, my little brother’s Bible was both God’s living word and an item that brings me great comfort. My brother Paul, who at six feet five inches tall, we called “Stretch”, was tragically killed in a vehicle incident in 2016. His loss was a time of great personal grieving for me. Without question, we could celebrate his death because we knew it signaled his arrival in heaven. Making the arrangements and speaking at his funeral was perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

Paul, legally blind and epileptic, was a champion barefoot water skier in his division. He trained with the Powell family in Lakeland, FL (multiple championship skiers in their own right); and some of our favorite memories as a family were those spent skiing in the Chain of Lakes near Winter Haven. The sheer joy on his face when he was skiing was the same one I saw when we worshiped. He lived out the lessons of faith our mom and dad taught us.

More than anything else, from the time of my adoption into his family at fourteen, Paul was my model for living a life of faith. He taught me to worship and praise God. Even though he couldn’t read, he would listen to the Bible every day on cassette tapes. Sometimes, when we were swimming in Mr. Gallemore’s pool or preparing to close up the family service station at night, we would talk about scripture. He would pause whatever we were doing and ask a question. We spent many hours discussing a particular verse; what it meant to us, and how we might apply it in our lives. I guess it only natural after his funeral, as we dispositioned his meager estate; there was only one thing that had any real value to me. It was the large print Bible he had carried for so many years.

Unable to read its pages, my brother knew and lived by the power of its words. Paul faithfully carried it to each service at his little country church. His wife Sharon would look at the bulletin each week and mark his Bible so he could quickly turn to it when the pastor read from the Word of God. “Stretch” couldn’t read, but he could sure memorize scripture and Jesus’ parables; often quoting them to me almost word for word.

After his wife could not leave home to attend church, he still went every time the doors would open. Neighbors and fellow church members would transport him most nights as it was just too unsafe for him to drive his ATV in the dark and cross the sometimes busy highway.

Returning home from his funeral, I unpacked his Bible and placed it on a shelf in the bookcase behind my desk; between photos of him and our mom. A few weeks later, grieving my little brother’s loss, I carried it to church with me one Sunday morning. I looked through the bulletin from his church, stuffed in the front pocket from the weekend before his death, and found a handwritten note. Knowing this inked note was in his “chicken scratch” printing, I ran my fingers over it. I remembered how he always signed the parts tickets from the pretty girls who delivered auto parts to our service station “Love, Paul”.

The referenced scripture verse brought me to tears. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:2 NKJV) (emphasis mine). It was as though my sweet, gentle brother had asked God to reach down from heaven and let me know he was happy and okay. I knew then how all the sadness and grief he had felt from losing his dear wife of over thirty-five years was gone. He was happy, most of all for being in God’s presence. I think also because it reunited him with his mom and wife; the two who loved him more than any others.

Do you have a treasured comfort item in your life? If so, how does it connect you to God? Click To Tweet

Each year, on or near his birthday of September 3rd, I wear his cool camouflage shirt with the flap in the shoulders and carry my brother’s Bible to church. I loved having his Bible near me each day as it brought a sense of comfort; reminding me that his memory would always keep him near. I miss the nightly calls I used to have with him after his wife, Ms. Sharon, died. We laughed, cried, celebrated each success as he learned to live more independent; and we prayed. More than anything else, I miss hearing him ending our calls with “I love you too bonehead.”

These days, my brother’s Bible is bringing comfort to our dad back in Florida. Each week, Dad attends Sunday morning services carrying Paul with him to church in the form of his Bible. I know it will return home to me one day, when dad goes home to be with those who have preceded him. Until that time, my brother Paul continues to bring comfort to our family as only he can. I love knowing my brother’s Bible is helping to meet our Dad’s spiritual needs; just as Paul’s examples of faith helped meet mine all those years ago.

God’s blessings,

40 thoughts on “My Brother’s Bible

    1. Awww… thank you Ms. Marilyn. When a book I’ve written is released, you’ll find a wonderful viewpoint on wealth and treasure as we were taught to see it. Although he ended up living on SSI Disability and what help our family could offer, my little brother left this earth a very rich man indeed. Heavenly riches were awaiting him I’m certain.

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Loretta. I call his life “A Legacy of Love.” In my life, I’ve never met anyone with a heart for service and giving than him. Whatever he had, be it small or great, he always gave freely to the best of his ability. Our family called it “Investing in Eternity.” Am grateful my adopted family taught all of us children that important lesson.

  1. Wow! That is so beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes. I’m inspired by your brother’s devotion to the Bible he couldn’t even read. He didn’t just settle for memorizing Scripture, he wanted to hold it in his hands. What a blessing for him to now be able to see with his own eyes the Living Word.

    I’ve been using different Bibles over the years because my goal is to have filled enough Bibles with thoughts and notes and treasures of truth that each of my children and maybe even my grandchildren can have one as a reminder that God’s Word is to be treasured above all.

    Your post really touched my heart and has reignited that passion to pass on a deep love for God’s Word. Thank you, JD!!!

    1. Amen Ms. Jean. What a wonderful way to capture his spirit ma’am. Paul didn’t settle for memorizing scripture, he lived it! God’s blessings ma’am. Sounds like you will leave a wonderful legacy for your family my friend. Thank you for sharing this great idea.

    1. This is J.D. I’m certain Ms. Karen clicked the Enter key too soon; and if she sees this she’ll come back to add comment. If she doesn’t, you can be sure of one thing. It was a sweet, God-honoring, and humble comment. 🙂

    1. Paul was certainly something Ms. Ann. We used to tease him when he would put on an 8-track or record in his room, plug in his headphones, and sing along with the latest worship group (The Maranatha Singers comes to mind). Mom, Dad, and I would sort of chuckle at each other and one of us would inevitably say “Paul’s killing another cow!” In reality, I think he was slaying another demon. 🙂 Near the end of his life, the little church he belonged to would have “Fifth Sunday Night Sings”, and anyone who wanted to could worship in song. Now my little brother was every bit as tone deaf as I am, but I was given some of his CDs and a couple of videos of him singing. You’ve never heard anything to terrible and beautiful in your life. 🙂

    1. Thanks Ms. Kathy. Never really think of “Stretch” as inspirational, as he was just my “Little Brother”, but I think in many ways he did inspire me. When I look at all he overcame in life. Disabilities, preconceptions, etc. and I see all that he accomplished, that’s pretty inspiring. Sure made me want to try harder when I would fail at something.

  2. My brother Don, my mom, Naomi, my step-dad, Ray. All these have left precious memories with me. I can’t list them here now – my eyes are too blurry with tears to type.
    Thanks!

    1. I pray those were tears of joy as you remembered their special and unique gifts and looked forward to spending eternity with each one sweet friend. God’s blessings Ms. Jackie.

  3. Thank you for mentioning my blog post about “The Hospital Shirt”. I am glad God gives us comfort in many ways, including a shirt and your brother’s Bible. Thank you for sharing your memories with us. God bless you and your family. Happy New Year!

    1. Ms. Melissa; the idea for this post came from yours ma’am. Thank you for sharing your wonderful lesson just a few weeks ago. We are a blessed lot aren’t we ma’am? 🙂 Happy New Year ma’am.

  4. This is a beautiful tribute, and I’m so thankful to have read it. Across from the chair where I often read sits my Nana’s Bible. My great-grandmother and the family farm where she lived was very important to me, and seeing her Bible every day brings me joy. It’s tattered and fragile, but it still contains all the newspaper clippings Nana thought important enough to put in its pages. Thank you for sharing your story and allowing me to share mine, brother. that too brings me comfort.

    1. Thank You Pastor Joshua. Loved reading about your Nana’s Bible. Am so pleased to see how so many of us can look at something from our past and find God’s peace and comfort within the memory. God’s blessings my friend.

  5. What a beautiful story, J.D. Thank you for sharing about your brother. I can see the joy on his face in the photo you posted. What special memories you must have with “Stretch”!

    Blessings to you, friend.
    Tammy

    1. Such kindness. Thank you Ms. Tammy. “Stretch” and I were truly best buddies. We fought at times, as I think all brothers/siblings do, but when it came time to “fish or cut bait”, he and I were always there for one another. I miss him.

    1. He sure was special Ms. PJ; in so many ways. One of my fondest memories of him was his laughter. He couldn’t laugh without his eyes dancing and he would clap his hands down the fronts of his thighs and then wring his hands. His smile just made you want to smile too. 😀

  6. Jim – This is exactly what I needed to read today. What a beautiful expression of enduring family love and faith.

  7. J.D., you painted such a beautiful picture of your beloved brother. I feel like I know him, and in knowing him, know you a little better, too.
    My brother preceded me in life and in death, so I have yet to meet him. I’m comforted, though, knowing that I will, one day.
    I did have a brother in law, though, a man my husband prayed for for 26 years to get saved. One time he even threatened to punch David if he mentioned Jesus again. When lung cancer stripped him of his strength and independence, he humbly surrendered his life to Christ and faithfully followed Him until he died four years later. His Bible sits on my shelf, a glorious testimony of God’s saving power.

    I wonder if our brothers have met yet in heaven? It’s a big place. If so, I bet they like each other 🙂

    1. Yes; heaven’s a big place Ms. Lori, but one we’ll never fill to capacity. Have our brothers met there ma’am? I’m certain of it; why else would God have seen fit to bring us together as friends if a familial relationship didn’t already exist in heaven my friend. 🙂 Thinking about your brother-in-law; that is one of the things I look forward to upon heaven’s call. I can’t wait to see all those who I helped in some small way find their way to Christ. I think that will be among my greatest blessings. Dr. Charles Stanley often speaks of “coming to the end of ourselves.” It amazes me how far that has to take some of us, but gaining Christ makes it worth the journey ma’am. God’s blessings.

  8. A beautiful keepsake from your brother. I have a red sweater that belonged to one of my older brothers when he was a teenager. I can no longer wear it (I grew too much ) but I’ve kept it all these years. Not sure why except I wanted something that belonged to him, and I love the color red!

    1. Our keepsakes are special indeed aren’t they Ms. LuAnn. I know his Bible contains the same “living word” as mine, but there’s a special connection I get as my fingers scroll down the same pages his did. Glad that makes sense to you my friend.

    1. So sweet to say Ms. Robin. I think my brother Paul, were that he could look down from heaven and see us, would be so pleased to see our dad back in church each Sunday. I know it’s a challenge for him, but to know he’s spending time with God again every day is a tremendous blessing. My brother and I used to speak about this a great deal. One of our favorite memories was Sunday afternoon drives in the “Queen Mary” (a long black Cadillac Fleetwood) after church; where we inevitably ended up at a steakhouse in the Clearwater, Tampa, St. Pete area. Paul and I owned the back seat. 🙂

    1. Awww Ms. Beckie. I never meant to cause tears ma’am; but I pray they were cleansing ones. Thank you for your kind words ma’am. Paul was a special young man indeed. Sixty-one was far too young in my book; but our God knows best.

  9. I enjoyed your interview on PJ Net Live tonight, and the discussion about your brother in this blog. Thanks for sharing it with us. It’s important to tell these stories of our loved ones.
    I especially related to the comfort item. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the MS Gulf Coast, many children experienced traumatic events during those hours of the storm and in the days following. We counselors began to offer small groups to help children cope with the post-traumatic stress. One of our activities was making a “comfort cloth.” They used fabric markers on soft cloth squares to draw their experience: what it was like, who helped them, what made them feel better, etc. The adults who participated needed it also I still have mine after all these years.

    1. Thank you Ms. Dottie. Am not sure how many folks saw it, but hope I didn’t embarrass myself too much. Wish I was a better writer and speaker, but God hasn’t given up on me yet, so I won’t either. 🙂 Those “Comfort Cloths” sound special indeed. I hope you’ll do a post on those one day. I love seeing your “heart for God” in action by helping out in that crisis. I remember how it impacted the Northrop Grumman (at the time) shipyards. Many of us donated our PTO hours to our fellow employees impacted by Katrina so they could continue drawing a paycheck.

  10. Thanks for the beautiful story of your amazing brother. You have also inspired a future blog! (Still hoping you will write for me soon.)

  11. What a beautiful memory, my friend. Paul lived the example of a wonderful brother; truly showing how to share the love of Jesus with others. I think he would love your tribute, but I picture him smiling and saying, “Aww, brother, just trying to keep you on track until you join me here.”

    1. I agree Ms. Katherine. I know he’s watching over me, and helping guide me on the path to join him one day in heaven’s glory. I bet you’re just like me; in that some days it seems like we just can’t wait any longer; yet, we must persevere until God’s predetermined plan.

  12. Beautiful, my friend. I had to painfully release my attachment to ‘things’ with sentimental value when shortly after my mother died, and I received some of her special jewelry, we were robbed and all of it was gone. It was extremely painful for a young mother. They were insured but irreplaceable. Over time I learned to let go of ‘things’ knowing that the memories are in my heart and can’t be stolen. However, I find great comfort in the cross I wear every day. Besides my wedding ring, it is the only jewelry I wear and reminds me whose I am.

    1. Am so sorry for your loss of your mom’s items, but I understand my friend. While my brother’s “Comfort Items” don’t bring him back to me, they do help me to relive wonderful memories associated with them and to look forward to sharing new ones with him in eternity one day. Hmmm… thinking about it; we’ll have no need for memories in life eternal will we? 😀 God’s blessings sweet friend.

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