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Baptized into Christ, a Child of Paradise 00:00:0000:00:00
Reading Time: 3 mins

Baptized into Christ, a Child of Paradise

Reading Time: 3 mins

When I hear my brother’s name, I will grieve a little. But I will also rejoice, for I know that he is with his Savior.

Five years ago, my brother Josh hung himself. He was a year, a month, and a day younger than me. We were as thick as thieves growing up. We fought wars in the woods, played football in the park, and shredded the half-pipe we built in our backyard. We even started our first jobs together, caddying at the local country club. A decade later, I went to work for him when he was running his own construction business.

Josh was strong, ambitious, and always optimistic. But at some point—in his late twenties or early thirties—that all started to change. I don’t know how to describe it, other than he seemed to approach things much more frantically. He also stopped calling to catch up or just to goof around on the phone. His marriage fell apart, too. It was around this time that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Eventually, he moved from Missouri to California and stayed with my parents, who at that time lived in a small town. But he needed a job. So, he moved to my house in southern California and quickly got one as a department manager at a local big-box hardware store. It was a perfect match, and it looked like things were getting better for him. He was making good money, living healthy, and managing his illness.

Or so it seemed. I don’t remember all the details, but after Josh had disappeared for a few days, I learned that he had been staying at a local and relatively swanky hotel. He had quit his job, emptied his bank account, and rented a conference room. He was barricaded in it when I showed up and was completely manic.

For me, totally unaware of the extent of his mental illness and, at that time, convinced he could get better and live a normal life, what I saw at the hotel that night was a game-changer. I finally realized just how sick he was. The next several months were heartbreaking. I started going with Josh to his psychiatric appointments. On more than a couple of occasions, I took him to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. On one of these trips, he was forcibly admitted for a three-day evaluation, which turned into an even longer stay.

At some point, after his discharge from the hospital and a new diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, my folks and I decided to move him back to their house again. But, as is so often the case with those suffering from such diseases, he refused his medication and continued to pursue his delusions of grandeur. After a bit of time, he eventually went back to Missouri. It was there, on October 22, 2014, that he took his life.

I remember the call from my father. It was awful. The thoughts that came flooding to my mind broke my heart. It was all the typical stuff, I suppose. Had I done everything I could for Josh? Had I been too stern when he tried my patience? What could I have done differently?

When I hear my brother’s name, I will grieve a little. But I will also rejoice, for I know that he is with his Savior.

I sometimes wonder what was going through Josh’s mind while he fashioned the noose he used. He had two children. His family all loved him. My parents did everything they could to help him get back on his feet. Had he done some sort of calculus and figured the world—his kids, parents, brothers, nieces, and nephews—were better off without him? Why wasn’t anyone there to stop him?

He didn’t leave behind a note. I don’t know that he could’ve written down anything coherent anyway. His mind was scattered. He made up stories, saw things that weren’t there, and was starting to believe things that were downright bizarre.

It was hard to watch Josh’s mental health decline those years before he died. It is equally hard not to think about him just when he was sick.

Remembering the good years—before his illness—helps. I imagine I’ll always grieve, but I will also always rejoice for Josh around this time of the year.

It’s almost All Souls’ Day or The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. Many churches will observe it on Sunday, November 3, by reading off the names of those family members and friends of the congregation who have died in the faith.

When I hear my brother’s name, I will grieve a little. But I will also rejoice, for I know that he is with his Savior.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). Josh was certainly poor in spirit, but he knew his Savior. I will never forget him sitting in the pew one Sunday morning, snuggled up next to one of my daughters, singing the following stanza from the hymn, God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It (LSB 594):

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise.
Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.

A part of me wishes Josh were still here, but a bigger part looks forward to the day when I’ll be with him and the rest of the saints. This is the great and final hope of all Christians. Death cannot end our gladness. We can all sing, “I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!”