If we are not our brother's keeper, at least let us not be his executioner.
Last Friday I flew out to Oklahoma to spend a short weekend with my older brother, Cameron, and his new wife. It was a quick trip, but one that was full of activity, tender moments, fun, and one that brought back some memories as I recounted a few stories that only a brother could share to embarrass and harass his older brother.
My brother and I have an interesting relationship, probably not unlike many other brother/brother relationships.
He was the first and oldest sibling. I came two years after him, which I think crimped his style. All of a sudden, all the attention was turned away from him for a time, and ever since, he has had to fight to remain at the top. I always looked up to him. I guess that is what little brothers do. They want to be like their older brother. I see that today with Dallin and Logan. Though, there is a difference between Cameron and I and Dallin and Logan.
Dallin and Logan are split by a sister and four years. Cameron and I didn't get that. I was often old enough and big enough, to somewhat compete at some level with my brother. And we became bitter enemies, at times, because of this. Fighting occurred, jealousy ran rampant, and pride took over. And that was just my side of the equation. You see, my brother was just about better at everything than I was, and sometimes I struggled with that. Part of it was the two year difference, but more of it was simply that he was just better. There were times that I didn't want to live under his shadow. It happened all the time. Even after he had graduated high school, coaches would talk about him around me. Sometimes it drove me bonkers. Other times, however, it brought great pride.
You see, we weren't at each others throats all the time. Being two years apart not only meant that we could somewhat compete, but that we had similar interests and could understand one another. There were many times that I could say we were best of friends. Probably more often than we were enemies. That he could drive when I was 14 meant him and I spent more time together as he drove me places, or simply hang out with him (I think Mom made him take me a few times, maybe as a chaperon, or maybe to just get me out of her hair, or something). There were many nights we would stay up late talking to each other. And each time we did, a greater bond was created. One wherein a younger brother continued to look up to his older brother.
I think a capstone of our relationship happened during the Christmas of '94, just days away from him leaving on his LDS mission. He had always been quite the athlete and had lettered in many sports through high school, and, as was the case, he wore his Letterman's jacket with triumph and pride (as all athletes did then - though I assume it is still tradition today).
Earlier that year I had lettered in Football. My first letter (truthfully, I did letter in band prior to this, but you don't just go buy a Letterman jacket for a band letter - but that is beside the point here). I recall after receiving my letter, and wanting to be 'cool' like my brother, I recall going to purchase a jacket. But once there and finding the price of the jackets way out of my price range, my dream took a rain check to reality.
One other note, before I go on, was that my brother and I rarely ever shared clothes. And when I say share, I mean me using his clothes. I admit, at some point around 12 years old I got tired of hand-me-downs I always received from him. But somewhere at 15 or 16, I noted the coolness that he dripped of and wanted to be like him insomuch that I wanted to wear his clothes. He never let me, though I think there were a couple times I went into his closet and 'borrowed' a thing or two, but only if I could get it back before he would notice. I think I was caught one or twice.
Well, making a short story longer than I should, Christmas in '94 was going as many go, generally unremarkable, though fun and exciting as all Christmas' are. At the end of all the gift giving, Cameron said he had one last gift to give. To me.
The fact that he was leaving in a few days away from the family for a couple of years, the first to do so, heightened the mood of this event and even more tender than it probably would have been in any other situation.
He had a box that he gave me, and a letter. It was a multi-page read. I recall a few tidbits here and there, but mostly I recall my eyes moistened as I read, and read, and read, to myself. With all the family's eyes on me, waiting for me to respond about what the letter said or what was in the box, they watched, and before the box was opened, most, if not all, eyes in the room were glistening, as if they could all sense of the magical moment being unfolded in front of them.
Inside was his Letterman jacket. But instead of his name on it, he had my nickname, 'Fred', blazoned across it. A name he gave me a few years earlier, a name to which many of you may have heard of, but few know of the importance it has had on my life. The jacket meant a lot to him. The whole family knew it. And as much surprise as it was that he was giving it away, we all felt the sacrifice he was making to give it to his younger brother. A sacrifice of love.
My brother has gone through some life struggles over the last few years. But recently, it would appear, that good times are coming back. With a wonderful wife next to him, I expect that will continue well into the future.
I went out to be with him as he made religious commitments that we both seem to better understand now having gone through 30 some odd years of life's ups and downs.
And again, I feel deeply grateful, that he invited me to be there with him. To participate with him. To share that moment with him.
Because, after all, who is my brothers keeper, if not me?