Wednesday, June 24, 2009
My Little Brother
Yesterday, I spoke these words to 500 people at my brother's funeral/celebration of his life.
My earliest memories of my little brother revolve around the red wagon. We took scads of rides, mostly me pulling him. We hauled rocks, we filled it with water, we caught crawdads from the creek and they got to go on rides too.
I remember observing his mop of curly hair drop off the edge of the porch one day--real fast--he had to see if his tricycle would fly. Sheets, fastened about our necks like capes, didn't work either--but we did discover cats would fly pretty high if we held the corners of the sheets, inserted the unknowing kitty and bounced!
We played outside all the time; forts were constructed, snowmobiles got ridden, crab apples got lobbed at cars passing by while we hid behind the wall on the front porch. We rode bikes and played hide and seek with our dog King. We played games of baseball, went fishing in our river and fought like only a brother and a sister can.
I was a senior in high school. Steve was a freshman.
He did not like being Bonnie Houck's little brother and he let me know it.
I played sports.
So did he.
I played alto sax. He played tenor sax.
I went off to college.
He did too.
In college, I made a decision that changed my life. I asked Jesus Christ to be my Saviour. Steve thought I had flipped and he told me so! I was a nut case he said!
A few years later, he became one too.
I got married.
He married Amy 6 years later.
I started having babies.
Amy started having babies too.
Then, years later, I got cancer.
He did too.
The day of my first mastectomy, he was by my side. He prayed like a warrior. He held my hand.
His encouragement became like medicine to me. He prayed over the phone with me, pleading with God to strengthen and sustain me. God did.
One of the verses he'd share with me over and over was Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."
Always, he would point out the "and do not lean on your own understanding" part. He pushed me to lean on my Heavenly Father. He set a tremendous example for me to follow and I did.
We were now encouraging and imploring one another to follow God's footsteps, not our own.
I'll never forget being in the hospital room in January of 2008, hearing the words "malignant" and "stage IV". This time it wasn't for me, it was for Steve. My little brother..
He began chemo while I was still having radiation.
Our talks on the phone became very personal.
Mixed with encouragement was an attitude of a warrior. We prayed, wept and held fast to God and His Word.
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 He told me one day he was running and this verse "hit him up side the head like a 2x4."
This spring, I stood by his hospital bed, while he recovered from cryosurgery. I don't think he remembered but I spoke all of Psalm 91 to him. I think it brought me more comfort...
"Fight," I said as he was headed home.
"Fight with all you've got."
Over the months, his body became weaker.
Yet his spirit, his dependence on God, got stronger. Our phone calls were reduced to text messages. Mom and I cherished those. I could sense his heart changing. He began assuring both of us of his love, over and over.
May 7: read a great Psalm today, 33. Thought it might encourage you. Please pray for me--the right side of my face is all droopy. think it might be bell's palsy. Love u.
May 23: hope you have a good bday tomorrow. I love you alot. You are in my prayers. You are a big encouragement.
(same day) you are a good cook and a great sister. ( I had made a german chocolate cake for him)
June 1:thanks for the card
June 15: thanks, love you lots.
(same day) just wanted to let you know because of the weight I've lost and the 2 bumps on my neck, the doc does not think my outlook is very good. PET scan on Monday. love u.
June 17: thanks for the card. You are very encouraging. I am eating over 2,000 calories a day. I know I need to be more concerned to live 4 Christ than 4 me.
LAST TEXT: love you lots.
My heart is broken. My mind still cannot absorb this. I am walking by faith one day at a time and sometimes, one moment at a time. I tell myself God is good, God is faithful and God loves me.
In the last few days I have heard many encouraging stories and statements about Steve.
"He was a good man."
"He was a great man."
"He was an awesome man."
And he was.
Please, please, remember, my brother, Steven Lee Houck, was a good and great and awesome man because he knew and loved a good and great and awesome God!!
God, You tell me You are a very present help in trouble. Thank You that You do not abandon me when I hurt so much I cannot put words to the pain.
Help me not to lash out on my family as I grieve..they are grieving too..
You are still faithful,
Bonnie Sue, Houck's big sister (that's how the correctional officer lady introduced me to all the other officers.)