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.