I’ve always thought about and feared losing my parents, but never gave much thought to losing a sibling. Especially not my little brother who had recently grown into a strong and kind hearted man. So here is the reality: I have lost a brother, someone so close to my age, someone who I had always assumed would be there for most of my life, who I could share a laugh or a beautiful song with, who would be a loving uncle to my children, one who understands my childhood like no one else ever will. Now he is gone and I’m left with this thought: one day my parents will be gone and I also have one less sibling. The most precious thing in my life, my family, feels like it is being pulled out from beneath my feet. A piece of it has been mercilessly ripped away and there is nothing I can do about it.
I don’t want to talk a lot about how it happened because, to me, that is not significant. There’s so much more to talk about than what happened. However, there are some moments that will forever be etched on my mind. The night before my brother died when my dad cried out “my son, my son” and wept for hours. The moment when I saw all the lines on the hospital monitor go flat and all the numbers on it said “zero” and I sobbed, and hit the wall, and cried out because I knew it was really the end. There were also some beautiful moments amidst the pain. The nurse who held me in her arms for 10 minutes and comforted my soul. The beautiful sound of people crowded into the hospital room singing hymns to Hudson in his last hour.
What does life look like without Hudson in it? I don’t think it has sunk in yet. Every day I wake up and it shocks me again. He’s gone. My brother who was almost my twin. I remember when he was 13 and I was 14 we were at the beach on vacation. We got on the elevator at the hotel and we were both wearing baseball hats. These guys got on the elevator and made the biggest deal about how much we looked alike. They kept saying “are you twins?”, “are you sure you aren’t twins?”. We laughed and laughed and laughed. The rest of the vacation we joked about being twins. It sounds simple, but it was a huge bonding moment for us.
The memory that I keep going back to when people ask me about Hudson is our 1 month trip to France 2 years ago. We stayed with an amazing French family and had an abundance of new experiences. There’s something about being in a foreign country that really brings you close. I could go on and on about specific memories from that trip, but my favorite overall memory is simple: We laughed till we cried almost every day. There is nothing better. All we felt was pure joy as we explored a new country together. When I think about all my memories with Hudson I just keep coming back to this simple phrase, “pure joy”.
And then there is my last memory with Hudson, the most painful for me to talk about because of that sense of finality. He had driven home from working at camp during his 24 hour break to surprise my Dad for fathers day. He drove 3 1/2 hours to meet us on the beach in Galveston. For most of the time on the beach we sat under the tent and rested. He told us some funny stories about people at camp and smiled and laughed as he always did. My parents had gone out in the water with Noelle and some friends who were with us on the beach and me and Hudson sat under the tent and talked and rested some more. At some point we decided to go out into the water to meet my parents. We talked about his week at camp as we walked out into the water. Almost immediately after we walked met my parents in the water we looked up in the sky and saw the darkest cloud I have ever seen. It was moving in on us and strangely, it was nowhere to be seen on the radar we looked at on our phones. We scrambled to get all our stuff in the car as the wind was literally blowing us away and the dark clouds moved in above us. In the chaos of it all, he left in his car and ended up getting home much later than us. I never saw him again. On our way home from the beach we saw a full double rainbow, brighter than any rainbow any of us had ever seen. I can’t help but think of that storm and the rainbow as very symbolic.
I’ve always been afraid of death. So afraid, paralyzingly afraid. It may sound strange, but somehow I am much less afraid of death now than I was before. I feel connected to heaven in a way. Not in a weird way, but in a mysterious and profoundly beautiful way. There’s this overwhelming sense of peace and a voice from heaven, from the eternal God that everyone in my family keeps hearing. It whispers to us each day, each hour really, “ It’s okay, Hudson is okay”.
I want to end this with a couple of beautiful stories. “Signs”, you may call them. The first happened before the funeral. My mom’s friend was driving down from Tulsa to come be with us. She wanted to get a necklace for my mom from a certain store but did not have time to get it engraved with Hudson’s name on it. She decided to just run in and get a necklace with an “H”. The cashier at the store handed her a bucket of engraved necklaces that had been rejected. When she dumped out the bucket, the necklace that was on top was engraved “Hudson”. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
The day after the funeral my dad went to church. The pastor had chosen to sing the song “Swing low, sweet chariot” during the service. That was the song that my dad always rocked Hudson to sleep to. It is also the only song he remembers his dad ( my grandfather who passed away recently) singing to him. Not only did they sing the song once, but they sang it twice during the service. As if God was saying “ no really, I am talking to you”. What a beautiful song: “I looked over Jordan what did see, Coming for to carry me home, A band of angels coming after me, Coming for to carry me home. Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home, Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home”
There are about 15 more stories like this and I would love to tell them to you if you want to hear them. The overarching theme is what I mentioned earlier, “It’s okay, Hudson is okay”. Another thing I could go on and on about is how proud I was of Hudson. He accomplished so many things, especially in this past year. Most importantly, he touched the lives of countless people with his gentle, selfless, joy-filled, and humble heart.
My family and I have been surrounded by love and peace beyond our comprehension. The road is dark, but somehow it is clear to us that God is good. To us, we have experienced a small taste of heaven and the fullness of love that Hudson is enveloped in.
As I journey on, one foot in front of the other, I cling to this line from one of my favorite songs, “Sweet Comfort”: “He is my God, though dark the road, he holds me I cannot fall. Whatever my God ordains is right, to him I leave it all.”