At our 11am service I was just getting ready to speak when I felt my phone buzzing. Strange…most people know what I do and so to call me at 11:45 on a Sunday is either you don’t know me…or it’s an emergency. I joked about it with the congregation and just as quickly dismissed it. It rang again a few minutes later. I had finished speaking and the congregation had been praying (great service by the way!), and then folks began to slowly disperse. I checked my phone and noticed an email had come in…from my brother, Brian, who was in Kiev, Ukraine on a mission trip.
I quickly scanned the email and sat there stunned as I read the words that my brother’s second son, Brandon had died suddenly on Saturday. Stunned, not only because of his age – it’s just that this is not the way life is supposed to unfold – not this way.
All kinds of emotions came rushing in. I sat there totally heartbroken for my brother and his wife, Marg and their other children, Graham and Erin. I could sense the helplessness Brian must be feeling being half way around the world and not returning until this evening. And then all the questions and feelings of unresolve. You see, Brandon had chosen to distance himself from the family. Not really sure why and I’m not about to judge or guess either. I will say this…we don’t know the crap that he has had to deal with in his life. The battles that have gone on in his mind, along with all the confusion that life may have thrown his way.
And so instead, this week I will remember him…remember his life as seen through my eyes.
I always wondered what went on in his mind. As a young boy, mischief was written all over him and when you looked into his eyes it was there too. I would swear there were times when his eyes would be inviting the sliver of mischieviousness that was in me to come out and play. He liked to have fun and could be witty with the best of us. He could poke fun and receive it, however, you always knew that he would probably one-up you.
I remember during his high school years seeing a side of him that I didn’t even realize existed in our family. He could draw brilliantly, and I remember the one day when I saw one of his first drawings. There in his bedroom on the wall was a drawing of some sort of action hero that was his own creation. As I stood there and admired this creation, I could detect that hidden within that drawing was a true artist. Of course the one drawing that stands out for me was his extremely detailed drawing of a loon on a lake in northern Ontario. What a gift Brandon had…he definitely had the wow factor!
Some would say that Brandon was an enigma…especially when after graduating from high school he enrolled in a math program at a university. I have always wondered why someone with the artistic ability that he had would enrol in such a program. I remember hearing that Brandon figured there was no money in art, and so choosing something like math was the ‘logical’ thing to do.
Brandon was a thinker, and I believe a deep thinker, which meant that he asked questions about everything. I remember about eleven years ago when he visited our church one Easter Sunday, afterwards we had a good conversation, and it was clear that he was exploring his faith in Jesus Christ. I realized then that he had a lot of questions that the church had answers for. My guess is that Brandon wasn’t looking for ‘answers’ as much as he was looking for a place of authenticity…a place where he would belong.
Brandon McKinnroe is definitely a ‘Roe’ and I’m proud that he was and will always be a part of our family. He has touched lives and has given us all permission to be the person that all of us long to be…simply to be ourselves.