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Losing my mother, gaining a brother

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By BEN CARLSON

My mom’s dying, and I’ve been gone for a few weeks spending time with her before it happens.

When that will be God knows; the rest of us are left to sit, wait and be thankful for the short time we have to be with her.

Cancer, as we all know, really sucks. My dad succumbed to it a year and a half ago, and about two months ago, my mom was diagnosed after beating that black-eyed monster 16 years earlier. There wasn’t much her doctors could do this go-around aside from make her sick with chemo and the rest, so she decided to forgo that stuff and patiently await for Jesus to take her home.

The upside for her is going to Heaven and once again being with my dad.

There is no upside for the rest of us, best I can tell, but during my time there I did something I never thought I’d do – gain a brother.

Until the past few weeks, I’d always considered Larry a foster brother, a guy who lived with my family for a spell before moving on.

That is no longer the case, but first a bit about Larry.

My dad was a foster child who bounced around from family to family before eventually landing in an orphanage. When he started his own family, he was determined to provide a stable home not only for my sister and I, but other children caught in circumstances that mirrored those of his youth.

Larry was among the children he brought in, and what a ride that was.

A byproduct of parents who probably never should have been parents, Larry had a troubled childhood (to put it mildly) that included being placed in 25 different foster homes over the course of 10 years.

Although our home was by far the most stable, Larry was nevertheless an angry young man who made bad decisions, most of them involving alcohol.

When consumed with the toxic cocktail of anger and booze, Larry did some remarkably stupid things and eventually landed in jail, where he would serve several stints for his actions.

That’s about the time I lost track of Larry. I grew up, fled our little one stoplight town and, honestly, never gave Larry more than a passing thought.

Once out of jail, Larry did some fleeing of his own, convinced the adage that says you carry your pain wherever you go did not apply to him. While hitching a ride through Texas, Larry was picked up by a preacher who took pity on him, taught him about God and set Larry on a remarkable path that no one, and I mean no one, would have ever expected he’d take.

Larry eventually became a pastor and started his own traveling ministry. He and his wife have a dozen children (most now grown) and have spent the past 17 years living and preaching all over the country from a converted bus that is their full-time residence. He even travels internationally, spreading the Gospel, and has made more than his share of waves doing so.

Larry never was mild-mannered, and still isn’t. Larry minces no words when discussing God, is no stranger to being run off street corners, nor is he a stranger to occasionally being tossed in jail for the night for refusing to leave.

When my dad passed, Larry wanted to attend his services but was in Guadalajara and unable to find a flight out, so when I got word that my mom’s condition was deteriorating fairly quickly, my sister and I reached out to him. We found him preaching on Beale Street in Memphis, filled him in and he hightailed it to New York.

When he arrived, it reminded me of the day Larry moved in with our family; of being so excited to have someone to do boy things with without riding my bike 5 miles into town, and more importantly of having the big brother I’d always wanted.

It didn’t work out that way at the time, given Larry’s troubles, but having his shoulder to lean on during what we are now going through more than made up for it.

I’m sure in the coming days and weeks, I’ll be leaning on my big brother’s shoulder again, and I thank God for bringing us back together after all these years.