Monthly Archives: August 2013

Saying Goodbye to My Brother

terry and tim with dogs

I have delivered the eulogy at many memorial services. I have said a few final words on behalf of friends and family including both parents. It’s never easy. Some harder than others. I buried my twin brother last week and I gave his eulogy, officiated at the memorial service and graveside, and was a pallbearer. As many of you know, he had been in poor health the past several years. Barring an accident or something unforeseen, I would outlive him. I knew it. I prepared for it. And then I did it.

Even with plenty of warning I struggled with this duty. What can you say about your brother’s life and death? He was my twin. We were inseparable through our childhood. We shared a bedroom, a birthday, clothes, friends, and our first car. He and I were so similar but remarkably different. On the surface we looked alike. Below the surface we often looked like strangers. In so many ways we were opposite. But at the end of the day, he was my brother. And I miss him.

In my eulogy I worked through a simple paradigm I offer grieving people I counsel. I ask people to complete three statements. The grieving process takes shape as the sentences fill out. The prompts are:

• I regret…
• I resent…
• I am thankful…

In my own case the answers came out like this:

I do regret that I saw him so little during these past 20 years. I wish I could have gone fishing and hunting with him more. He was in Montana and I was overseas or across the continent. The distances and finances didn’t allow for more contact. Still…I regret that we didn’t have more of those times together. Those were good times on a creek bank or walking through the woods on a snowy morning. I do miss them.

Inescapably, I resent the alcohol that stole his life too soon. I sincerely hate it. I understand that people can drink alcohol and not be addicted. I know folks have the freedom to take a drink sometimes and it isn’t a sin. Nobody forced him to drink. Really, I get it. But, I will always despise what it did to him. The alcohol stole so much of what could have been. Eternity will be enough time to get it back. I’m planning on it.

I am thankful for the relationship I had with him. I was privileged to have a twin brother. I have zero memories from childhood that didn’t include him. The dynamic between us and around us had a big part in making me who I am today. Growing up with Terry taught me how to share, how to lead and how to follow. I learned about loyalty and friendship and sacrifice. I knew it was never just about me. It was always about us. Together, we had to figure out how two people could be first. I would be a poorer man today without my brother. He enriched my spirit by his being.

When the service was over and I was the only one left at his graveside, I imagined the way it was with us. Two ragged farm boys riding bareback into the hills. Me on Cocoa and him on Shady. Bare feet clinched to their sides, riding as hard and as fast as a willow switch could drive them. I can see him ride ahead and over the hill and gone. What never would have happened in life, was a reality in death.

I carry him in my heart and I see his face every time I look in the mirror.

Good bye, Terry. I love you, my brother.

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Self-Pity Induced Upsettedness


If you are in my office, you are probably upset. That’s a given. Upsettedness (I just invented that word) is why I show up every morning. I expect upset. My job is to sort through the issues of upsettedness and encourage people toward more accurate perceptions and proactive life solutions. Numerous Christian and secular counseling strategies claim superiority for achieving those goals. I won’t debate the validity of the various approaches. That would create a really long Mission Fortnight that would draw a decisive and well deserved “delete” from my readers. However I will venture to say that while there are numerous methods that can move us through our upsettedness, there is one approach that always makes it worse. This response actually feeds and nurtures upsettedness. I am talking about self-pity. Self-pity is steroids for upset. It always increases the size and strength of upsettedness to Hulk-like dimensions.

Now, keep in mind: Pain and suffering happen. Heaven knows, the people I counsel in missions have been through difficult circumstances. Feeling upset is a normal response to the inevitable sorrows and wounding that characterize everyone’s life from time to time. On the other hand, staying upset because you feel sorry for yourself should not be a given. If you enjoy upsettedness, then feeling sorry for yourself is THE solution to your suffering. If you’d rather not prolong life’s upsets, keep reading.

The following are some misbeliefs that hold people in a self-pity tailspin. As you read these items take inventory of your own tendencies to feel sorry for yourself:

My circumstances are special. Few people can understand my unusually difficult hardships. Most self-pitying people believe that everyone else is leading a charmed existence of favor and abundance. They see themselves as being singled out for uncommon suffering.
The truth is: Everybody lives in the same fallen world. Tragedy and sorrow is an equal opportunity experience here on Planet Earth. Generally, people lead mixed lives of joy and sorrow. Nobody escapes with a pain free existence. Sorry to break it to you but you are not special. “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen” is a lie. The most honest response to hard times is: In view of the realities of what is happening, what do I need to do? Being proactive and engaging the situation is the opposite of feeling sorry for yourself.
I am constantly beleaguered by unfair people and events that cheat me out of happiness. Self-pitying people see unrelenting unfairness pouring out of everyone except themselves. They believe that fair is a universal law with their needs and wants at the center.
The truth is: Fair is a weather forecast or a fun summer event with rides and cow awards. Fair is not a God-given right that allows you to get what you want when you want it. Trust me: Your version of fair only spills over into someone else’s version and causes mutual indignation. There is no fair in this life, only grace
I am hideously at the mercy of stupid and incompetent people who refuse to see the wisdom and rightness of doing things my way. Self-pitying people complain incessantly about their bosses or pastors or supervisors or political leaders. They are convinced that they would do it right if they were in power. Until then, they feel abused by powerful people who are guilty of making their lives difficult.
The truth is: Realistically, even though small minded and inept people exist, they are not conspiring to thwart your happiness. Honestly, if you were in charge, you wouldn’t do any better. You would probably make a worse mess of things. Be a blessing to the people in leadership in your life. Your complaining and resistance is not helping anybody including you.
The mean people must be punished for hurting me. Self-pitying people are constant victims. Someone is always mistreating them. Getting payback against the evil doers is imperative. At the very least, it’s necessary to withdraw all affection and support until the bad people see the error of their ways and give you the treatment you deserve.
The truth is: You really aren’t as victimized as you think you are. Real victimization exists but probably not in your case. Sorry. It’s true. The minimum wage fast food worker who gets your order wrong doesn’t deserve your wrath. You aren’t living a Shakespearean tragedy. Payback usually ends up hurting you more than the object of your justice. Let it go and move forward. Being a victim wastes time and energy you need to actually accomplish your goals.

The antidote for self-pity is faith. Self-pity says God is unavailable, impotent and/or disinterested in my plight. I cannot trust Him or His plan and feel sorry for myself at the same time. Self-pity denies the incredible blessings that God has given and indicts Him for taking inadequate care of our needs. James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.” Prayer and thanksgiving are appropriate beginning points when you’re drowning in self-pity. Try it. You will probably feel embarrassed that you were complaining in the first place.

Final note: Most of our struggles in the USA are “first world problems”. Have a look at the First World Problems website. It is about the weird stuff we pampered Westerners complain about. Most are pretty funny and sooo true.

But gee….it’s fortnight. There is nothing to feel sorry for yourself about during fortnight. Go out and enjoy your first world problems….

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