When Life Lets Go, Before You’re Ready

by | Aug 20, 2012 | Uncategorized

Sweat drips down my back standing among tall grasses framing the lake. I twist the lens to focus on five boys pushing each other off the dock into muddy water. Through their raucous laughter, I hear H call my name from the porch. “Your Dad just called,” he yells.

It’s Harrison’s thirteenth birthday. My Dad never calls on his birthday.

I walk a little closer to the boys and twist the focus blurry. I’m capturing the precipice of manhood before they jump into it.  Sometimes blurry, it’s the perfect stage.

They’re comparing armpit hair and muscle tone and I’m wondering how these boys will grow into men. What will they reel in from deep water that leaves an imprint on the world? Will they be big fish that feed hungry souls waiting on shore? Or will they stay at the bottom, sucking life from the food left by others, too afraid to venture toward the light.

I’m hearing my daughter’s voice telling me I do too much for her brother, asking me if I want him to turn out like mine.

Human life is a struggle, isn’t it? It’s a life sentence to hard labor. Like field hands longing for quitting time. Job 7:1 MSG

And after I snap the lavender redemption among the thick weeds, I turn around and walk soggy back to the farmhouse. The landscape vibrates with a cacophony of insect chorus.

I listen to my Dad’s message.  He’s cotton-mouthed, struggling to tell to me to call him back. This isn’t about my son’s birthday.

He tells me my brother’s dead. How he breathes his last while sleeping on the couch downstairs and they’re still waiting for answers.

How does a boy grow into a man? The question echoes through my mind like elevator music filling up the empty space on the phone.

O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! ~Psalm 39:4 ESV

I’m watching the boys from behind the window now. My son’s lying on the dock, everyone leaning over as if they’re looking through a microscope.

My brother grew up in oxygen tents struggling for breath. He grasped for manhood the same way, suffocated by addictions. He strains for freedom in a prison cell of voices shouting lies too loud to hear the whisper. Perhaps the noise became too dizzying for a man to stand up straight.

I’m asking my Dad what I can do. How I can love the people that ran the marathon and crossed the finish line before they were ready to stop. My cup of water seems too small for this kind of thirst.

I’m holding the phone, watching one of the boys run toward the house. He says it’s not an emergency, that Harrison just hurt his foot. He asks if he can drive the Gator to the dock, to carry him back.  My husband hands him the keys.

This how is how a boy grows into a man, I hear Jesus whisper.

Yesterday, my Dad answers the phone clear. I hear the hum of voices in the background. He says the house is a revolving door of casserole dishes and he’s trying to navigate his way through funeral plans.

H opens the door to my writing room. Says we need to pray for three young men that collided with a semi on their way to church tonight. How the one who invited the others lies in the hospital without his spleen.

How does a boy grow into a man?  He grows into a man when he lets go of the world and holds on to Jesus.

You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer. ~Job 14:5 NLT

I never imagined I’d be writing about the death of my brother today and I can’t thank you all enough for praying. I covet your continued prayers for my family as we grieve the end of days, the loss of breath. May we live each moment like we haven’t another.

Linking with Multitudes on Monday and thankful for the gift of life, for the way He holds every moment like a gift waiting to be opened. Also joining Playdates with God, Hear it, Use it, Soli Deo Gloria, Just Write, Into the Beautiful.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Holly Michael

    Praying for you during this sad time and for your brother. Rest eternal grant unto him O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon Him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

  2. Sharon O

    oh what a sad horrible story, I will be in prayer for you… your family and your loss.

  3. Deidra Riggs

    Today my husband talked about walking through the valley of death. “The 23rd Psalm isn’t in the bible just to entertain us,” he said. “It’s in there, because this life we lived is filled with seasons of walking through that valley.” Then he reminded us that “through” is the key word there. We go through it, and we come out on the other side with a testimony. And, because we live in community (even across the miles and over the internet), we go through together. I’m walking right beside you, Shelly. Right beside you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I read this twice. Love the way your husband delivers a sermon. I miss hearing mine speak on Sunday. Thank you for walking with me, I feel you beside me, I do.

  4. Jennifer Camp

    Sweet Shelly, I pray you feel His arms around you now, holding you close, that You feel His heart beating sure, the safety and strength that is Him. I am so sorry, friend, and am praying for you and your family.

  5. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    I’m taking up a place alongside you and Deidra. I’ll walk with you through this valley, too, Shelly. We’ll be praying for God’s peace and comfort for you and yours tonight.

    I’m so sorry.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I saw us walking with linked arms, the three of us and that picture, it gives me comfort. Thank you Sheila.

      • Sheila Seiler Lagrand

        I saw that too, Shelly. It IS a comforting image.

  6. simplystriving

    Oh my dear friend. Words are not what you need, you shed them so beautifully, so I won’t even try to muddle through. Just know you and your family have my continued prayers. even if I don’t know the words, I’ll be praying for you.
    Love to you, Shelly.

  7. Diana Trautwein

    Yes, Shelly. Yes. Exactly right. You know I walk with you through this one. Praying for wisdom, insight, words and silence – peace, peace, peace.

  8. Quigg Lawrence

    Going to bed and to pray for you

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Quigg, I’m really touched that you left a message here, that you’re praying for me. Thank you.

  9. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh Shelly, my heart grieves so for you and your family, and I can’t fathom your pain. I’m so, so sorry about your dear brother. I can’t possibly know the depths of your grief, but how I empathize b/c of what my own brother now endures. Your brother let go of the world, and he holds onto Jesus. He lives, Shelly, because Jesus does, your brother truly lives beyond this world. May the Lord uphold and strengthen you all to cling to this truth and to Jesus. You remain in my prayers.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Lynn, my brother and I grew up in separate homes. He’s actually my half brother. We weren’t close so the grieving feels a bit distant because we didn’t know each other well. I think I’m mourning the loss of what could have been and will never be. I appreciate your prayers for all of us. Thank you.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Shelly, I”ve been praying continuously for you…..what could have been is such a poignant thought……and yet, we hold onto heaven, for the “all that will be”! Bless your dearest heart.

  10. Amy

    Today I was talking with a group of teachers new to China about our expectations as they relate to God and this was one of the questions we looked at: How can we embrace a sometime harsh and below-our-expectations reality and still expect that our awesome, powerful, almighty God will work in and through us? (From Expectations and Burnout). And yet, like Peter, there where else would we go? Shelly, I’m sorry your brother died.

  11. Barbie

    Oh Shelly, I have no words. I am so sorry to hear about your brother. Asking the Father to draw close and hold you during this difficult time. Praying for you.

  12. debra elramey (@elramey)

    Dear sweet Shelly, I will be in prayer your family as you grieve the end of days, the loss of breath. Oh, bless you all in your time of mourning.

  13. Jean Wise

    why does it takes things like this to open our eyes to appreciate the present. I am praying for you and your family during this difficult time.

  14. Joan

    Shelly – praying for you and your family during this time.

    Blessings and love,

  15. Christina

    I am so sorry to hear about your brother. Praying for you and your family, for grace, peace, and His light. May He be your comfort today.

  16. Danelle

    I am praying for you and your family. Your words here are so beautiful, full of such truth and love. May He wrap you in His Peace.

  17. ~ Patricia

    Oh, Shelly…I’m so very sorry. Praying for all of you…especially your dad. I can only imagine how a dad would feel. May the Lord be near, surrounding you all with His love and comfort. And yes, may we make every day, every moment count in this mist of life. xox

    • Redemption's Beauty

      He has been numb, holding strong for his wife. He said it hit him this morning at 4am when he realized he no longer had a son. It made me cry.

  18. Sandra Heska King

    Oh friend. I read this on the Droid as I lay my head on the pillow last night, and my heart ached. This is an incredibly beautiful story of the unexpected turns a day can take, of life and death, of holding on and letting go. Linking with the others, Shelly. Loving you. Grieving with you.

  19. tara / pohlkottepress

    today i will not hold you in my words, as they are but dust in the tunnel of grief. but i hold you up real close to my heart. may peace and quiet understanding surround you. so much love. xo

  20. Lisa notes...

    Oh, my heart aches for you. Prayers going up now for you, your family. May the Lord grant pockets of peace for you over the next few days, weeks, months, … All in His grace.

  21. hopefulleigh

    Shelly, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Praying God will comfort you and your family in tangible ways.

  22. ro elliott

    Shelly…I am so sorry for your grief…I pray for you as you walk this path and all that will be unearthed through the journey…Your one constant…your anchor…your hope and peace…will hold your…comfort you…lift you up…because He never leaves or forsakes.

  23. Mary Witt

    I am so sad for you and your family. I lost my sister way to early and it is amazingly painful!! I pray the Lord will fill your hearts with a peace that can only come from knowing Him!! Sometimes the most difficult part is watching how pain washes over those we love. God bless you Shelly.

  24. Brenda Chance

    I’m so thankful that in this time of of letting go, God is holding onto you. I’m praying for our God to minister to you and your family out of the richness of His mercy and love.

  25. dianewbailey

    Praying for you, Shelly. I am so very sorry for you loss, Even though we are states away, I hope you feel this community standing with you.


  26. Erin

    I am so sorry for you loss and am praying for you and your family. My 24 year old son overdosed on heroin last Sunday I went into his room and found him barely breathing on his floor. The paramedics were able to revive him, I spend most of last week at the hospital with him. He has a long journey ahead of him and am praying that this could be his turning point. I cannot begin to imagine the pain you and your family are experiencing, I keep reliving in my mind what I saw with my son. Once again I am just so sorry.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh Erin, I’m so sorry you’ve walked through such pain and its still new I’m sure. Praying for you today. It’s so great to meet you here and thank you for the follows on Facebook and Twitter. I look forward to getting to know you better.

  27. Linda

    Praying for you, for your family. Thank you for being so open with your grieving, for sharing your thoughts and questions. Shelly may you feel the Lord’s presence and peace today as you continue to wrestle with your brother’s passing.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you Linda. I feel His presence in the comments, emails and messages flooded over me today. The words of others have been spirit directed, healing balm and renewing.

  28. Lisa

    Praying with love for you and your family. 🙁

  29. LuAnn

    Oh Shelly,
    I’m so sorry. I’m praying for you and all your family.

  30. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    Shelly, I read this sorrow last night, but wanted to wait and pray on words to share. I’m so sorry of your news…your heartache and wondering if you shared enough before it was too late. I understand because I lost my own brother when he was 20 (I was 16) – murdered, but a result of his years of addictions and associations, terrible insecurities that led him to that in the first place. But God has revealed something to me about the tiniest of our prayers for those like him, like your brother. That no prayer we have prayed is insignificant or not enough or too late or beyond the mighty move of His Spirit. And I want to encourage you today to know that even if you only ever breathed one prayer for your brother (though, I’m sure it was much more than that), God mixed it with His holy fire and poured it out on him, moved in him, spoke to him, drew him. He loved him as the innocent little boy and the addicted adult and ministered to him in his last breath. He wants you to know He used your prayers in mighty mighty ways. And to continue lifting your other family who may not yet walk with Him, because He is moving in those too… in ways we cannot see yet. Beyond our imaginations Eph 3:14 – 20 ways! After my brother was killed, my mom found a bible that he had marked up in his last weeks, given to him by another former addict. She felt God showed her that He was bringing him back to Him in those last days. But even if you don’t see now… God had your brother in his hand and did not leave him alone in that last moment. Praying with you in these days… and also that the innocent remark of your daughter would not be the devil’s tool in bringing down your heart…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      thank you for this encouragement, I take it as a word from God regarding prayers prayed. He sent me an email on my birthday just a few days ago, one of just a few I’ve ever received from him. I’ll treasure it. And that random comment from my daughter, it was a foreshadowing and word from God when she said it. I knew it at the time, she even remembers my facial expression being different when she said it. Looking back, I think God used her to alert me of what was to come. He put lots of pieces together like that on the day i got the call. So thankful.

  31. Michelle DeRusha

    Oh Shelly, my dear Shelly. I am so, so sorry for this terrible loss. Know that I am praying hard for you and your family. You are not alone in this. We love you.

  32. Mindy Bowman

    Shelly, I am so sorry for your loss! I am praying for you and your family during this time. Peace, blessings and comfort to all of you.

  33. Jillie

    Dearest Shelly…Praying in community for you, and for your Dad, and for your Family. I am so very sorry to hear of your great loss. May His comfort and peace be yours.

  34. Laura

    You and your family are in my prayers. May God hold you close.

  35. kelly

    dear dear friend. how to even respond, but with the promise to hold these precious needs up to the Lord. wish I could hug you.

  36. Michele-Lyn (@lifesurrendered)

    You are so very brave and your faith is most inspiring. I have been praying for you throughout today. I love you, Shelly. I pray that the God of all comfort will draw near to you and His peace that surpasses understanding will undergird you and provide strength for you and your family…

  37. ljbmom

    Oh, sweetheart. Continuing to pray.

  38. consolationofmirth

    Praying, praying words known only to the Spirit. Comfort, grace, and peace. Love to you.

  39. Marianne @ Abundant Life

    Praying for your family today. May God be glorified through all of this!

  40. Stefanie Brown (@stefanieybrown)

    You are heavy on my heart and are the object of my prayers. I’m so sorry for your loss, my friend. Please know you are loved and your family is being lifted up.

  41. Redemption's Beauty

    I just want to step in here and thank each one of you for your heartfelt prayers and concern. I’m so thankful for each and every one of you, the way you represent Jesus humbles me. Your prayers carry me today, and I feel His presence, His healing grace over each of us. We’re smiling joy tonight huddled together and we rejoice in His goodness.

  42. Vicki Kessler

    I join with so many others that love you and have prayed for this time. Instead of thinking of death, my thoughts were of life while reading. A door has closed on the life of your half-brother. I pray new life through Jesus Christ would come to any member of your family that does not know the great IAm.
    Caring for you through prayers,

  43. Uncle DON and Marj

    Being in Alaska it is impossible to call, but once we are home we will call. Internet mean time we will call.

  44. David and Tina Healey

    Wow Shelley are thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. Even though you might not felt close it is amazing you feel him as he is flesh and blood to you. We enjoyed reading the deep comments from you and your friends. There are blessings in times of grieving. Hugs and prayers love Uncle Dave and Aunt Tina.

  45. kelliwoodford

    Shelly, I am so sorry for you loss.
    I love the way you crafted this, the coming into their time and the exiting of time. Such a melancholic, meditative ring.
    May Living Water continue to pour out for all the thirsty, dear one, through you.

  46. Rach (DonutsMama)

    I am so very sorry for the loss of your brother. May the Lord’s strength sustain your family during this time.

  47. Jennifer 'Miner' Ferguson

    Oh, Shelly. Please accept my deepest sympathies. May you continually feel His presence as you navigate this grief. May your cup overflow from the deep recesses of His heart.

  48. Seashore

    My prayers are with you and your family tonight.

  49. Alison

    So very sorry for your loss.

  50. Debbie Sumstad Petras

    I am so sorry to read this news of your brother’s death. How fleeting life can be! May you be comforted by caring friends. And know that I’m praying for you and your family.

    blessings and love,

  51. Jessica Watson (@JessBWatson)

    Oh I have chills. I am so, so sorry for the loss of your brother. Wishing you moments of peace amid the pain.

  52. wynnegraceappears

    Shelly, I know you will be a soothing balm to your family, especially your father, during this time of grief. May our Lord use your faith to undergird. So sorry for your sadness and your broken heart. My prayers are with you and I extend my arms wide open to you and embrace you during this time of loss, friend. Yours in Christ, Elizabeth

  53. kimahall

    Words just don’t do justice to my prayers for you and your family. I believe that He will walk you through this. Hold tight to Him, and to those you love, for comfort. Blessings to you all.

  54. Eileen Knowles (@cupojoegirl)

    Oh, Shelly. My heart aches for you. Those are the phone calls we dread. The ones where life “our normal” is turned upside down in an instant. I am so sorry. Praying for comfort and healing for you and your family.

  55. Patrician

    Shelly, I just heard about your loss. I lost my daughter way to soon. I will be praying for you and your family. I miss seeing you and H at church.

  56. Gianna

    I sat here reading your story thinking, “This can’t be a true story!” But yet it is. I’m so sorry for the sudden sadness you are hurtled into.
    Confusion and chaos. And lots of questions.

    Thanks also for your kind words to me at Sweet Peas & Buddies. It calmed my soul a little.

  57. Dolly@Soulstops

    So sorry, Shelly, for your loss. Praying God will sustain and comfort you and your family.

  58. marlece

    Wow, what a lesson to learn, ‘how do we grow our boys into men….it all comes down to living a life for Jesus this is what makes a real man. I have four little guys who I pray fervently that they grow to be ‘real men’.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a tough one….it sounds like you were in prayer for a brother for a long period of time.

    First time here. Loved every minute. I’m sorry your heart aches……take care.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      so thrilled that you stopped by for a visit today. I join you in the fervent prayers for our children as they grow into the people God created them to be. Hope you’ll come back for another visit soon.

  59. Cindee Snider Re

    Shelly, I’ve come back to this piece several times in the past few days, wanting to write, but the words are few. I too lost my brother. Different circumstances, same loss. My brother was 32, husband to a beautiful wife, Daddy to a two-year old son so much like him, and sadly, an unborn son he won’t meet this side of Heaven. His death was sudden and unexpected and left us all reeling. In shock. It took me a year to feel again, to want to live instead of simply willing myself to rise each day to care for five our little ones. Took a year for our family to find equilibrium and begin to accept that the death of one rocks an entire family, forever changing the dynamics in a the single heartbeat, and I learned about Jesus in a whole new way. Heaven became real, because someone I loved more than I ever thought possible was already there…before I was ready to let go…and it was suddenly the home I longed for. Still do. It’s been 10 years since my brother’s death, and I can’t wait to meet him on the other side of the Veil, to see what he sees, feel what he feels, live forever in the Presence of Almighty God.

    I wouldn’t want to live that year again or any of those moments, but I wouldn’t choose to have missed all God has allowed in my life since my brother’s death either. Just know I am praying for you, my heart aching for you. May God wrap you gently in His love and hold you close as you grieve. God bless your beautiful heart, Shelly!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Cindee, so glad you left a comment. I can imagine all the memories that the posts brought back to you. I’m so sorry for the loss of your brother. As I read your story, I realized that the relationship you describe with your brother is the very thing I never had. I think I’m grieving that, because I hardly knew him. My parents rarely included me in their lives. I’ve had a hard time finding emotion in all of it, which makes me feel a bit odd. We’ll attend a memorial service on Friday and I’m praying the God will speak to me, help me to know how to comfort my parents and feel whatever He wants me to feel. Thanks so much for sharing your heart, it touches me.

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