Last November a very close friend of mine died. Brad and I were part of about a dozen very close friends in high school who played football together and went to parties together. We were “The Fellas.”
Brad left behind two young children and a professional banking career that would put him in the upper-middle class in any American suburb. He loved to golf and he loved college football.
But somewhere along the way he became addicted to alcohol. It cost him his marriage. It cost him his job. Ultimately it cost him his children, the only hope he had left. After that he was beyond help and his march towards death began.
I was honored to be asked to read from Romans 8 at his funeral. While it is true that nothing can separate us from God’s love it is certainly possible for us to be separated from the love of one another. Far too easy in fact.
As I gathered with my friends in Texas to mourn we consoled each other and tried to make sense of the events. Weeks later when the pain started to soften one of our group sent the following letter to us all. It was brave and loving and truthful. I asked him if I could share and he agreed because our story is not unique and sadly it will probably happen again somewhere.
In a world full of machismo and attitude I hope we can humble ourselves to serve one another and show some genuine caring before it’s too late.
All is not Well…
Losing Brad has affected me deeply since his funeral. I am so upset by Brad’s choices that led to the end of his life. I get angry just thinking about it. His funeral was so sad to me to watch his kids and know that Brad could have been a phenomenal dad to them.
When was the right time for Brad to “get help”? On May 15th I sat in the hospital room with him and watched Chad plead with him to stop drinking. He was committing suicide before our eyes. Brad’s hands shook and his body trembled. He had been bleeding and the doctor told him his body could not handle any more alcohol.
It just seems like Brad chose death years ago. Like when he would drink before coming home after work or wait until the family went to bed so he could drink till he passed out. I am sure he thought he is an adult, it is his choice, and he isn’t hurting anyone. Brad did have a choice back then but lost the power to choose this past year. In the end, it was impossible to get him to help himself (so many tried). He saw no value in changing or even value in himself. Brad viewed his life as unimportant to the point of choosing death.
Death did not quietly or swiftly take Brad away. Death deliberately and violently dismantled Brad. Death ripped us off. No more lunches, emails, golf rounds, Aggie games, watching kids’ sporting events with Brad. We all lost.
We have lost a friend to ALCOHOL. That makes me mad. If he died of cancer or heart disease I’d feel so different. ALCOHOL destroyed Brad. You saw his body in the casket…he looked terrible! He looked twice his age. He wasn’t the Brad so many loved- fun loving, inquisitive, competitor.
Normal life is scary, boring, unfulfilling, exasperating, and lonely sometimes. But HOPE, often found in our faith, family, and friends carries us through these things. This confidence in the unseen or incomplete around us is what makes life meaningful. It proves over and over that problems grow character, and finally that something good can come out of something bad.
What good could come out of Brad’s death?
- One big thing–None of us again die of alcohol related causes. Our funerals need to be a multigenerational celebrations of a full life not destroyed ones.
- We commit to live life sober and alive, for others not ourselves.
- WE LIVE! These should be the best years of our lives.
I will fight for life within our group. We are the Fellas. We are stronger together than apart. I was reminded of how important that is this month. We are life-long friends. I am grateful for you. So even when it’s awkward and painful to say… I will fight for each of you if necessary the same way I fought for Brad. Why, because I love you and would hope that if I was in the same dark spot like Brad, one of you or maybe all of you would help me to choose life. That’s what friendship is to me at least.