It's been 4 years now since my big brother passed away. He had been chronically ill for years and had really defied medical predictions. He fought a good fight against Crohns, Diabetes and Lupus. Lupus took the final shot and his heart just couldn't keep up anymore.
My brother was a very talented artist, both with a canvas and a comical tongue. He was a big brother- all the way. He took his job seriously. Teasing...there was plenty. Actually tormenting would be a more appropriate word. In all of the teasing though my sister and I knew we were loved.
He was a tough act to follow. Really. The first day of school my 4th grade year I had Sister Irene. She called out roll, came to my name and said it out loud. I sat up tall to say shout out "here" like all of the other kids. She gave me a glare from over her bifocals and shocked me into silence.
"Kevin Junod's little sister?" she asked. I got the distinct impression that maybe it wasn't such a good thing to be Kevin Junod's little sister. I managed to squeak out a yes I think. No one informed me of my brother's legendary jokester status. Would have been nice to get a head's up. Like I said, a tough act to follow.
I could tell the story about the time he left me up in the tree house until dusk but I'll save that for another time. (I was too afraid to climb down myself...so there I sat. Like I said, another time)
I would rather tell you a story about my brother's neighbor. He was kind enough to tell me how important my brother was to him. It was such a touching gift of a story that he told, it made me so proud to be Kevin Junod's little sister.
My brother's neighbor had battled cancer for many years. It was very aggressive. The man told me that Kevin's attitude inspired him so. Kevin would ask him how he was doing and he would stop to wait for an answer. He really cared and wanted to know. They spent many conversations talking about coping with illness. They must have created a special bond. My brother having done a good amount of woodworking helped the man build his own coffin.
"That's what kind of man he was", the man told me.
He went on to tell me that one day my brother spotted him sitting on the porch. He was having a particularly bad day. He asked my brother how he did it...how he faced everything every day.
"Do you know what your brother told me?" the man asked, "He told me he prays for strength. He said that that's all you can do...pray for strength to get through. Then the next day you pray for strength again."
The man credited my brother's advice for beating the cancer odds.
That sums up what kind of a man my brother was. He was compassionate and kind hearted. Life was what it was and he stood up to it every day.
I miss my brother so much and I really do value his advice. I try to remember my brother's advice every day with my own prayers. I pray for energy most days, grace always and I never forget to slip in a request for strength.