This Is What Love Does

Love doesn’t require center stage; it needs only the edge of the bed, where it can sit and hold the hand of a dying man.

At the end, his breathing was labored. Only one of his lungs was working. His kidneys had all but shut down. He was drifting in and out of consciousness, the morphine making its presence known.

My brother, Bradley Brandt, died on Sept. 16, 2015 at age 53. I am still processing this, still working through the grief. It’s surreal, as if he’s gone only for the moment.

Cancer is insidious; it can fool you, toy with you. For five years, Brad’s battle was a series of victories and setbacks, much like the ocean’s tide: the cancer would come in, recede, come in and recede. For a time it seemed like Brad would win; he was several months in remission.

Then came the tsunami. This time the tide didn’t roll in, it roared in.

You can stand at the shore and yell at cancer but it doesn’t listen. You try to outrun it but it always catches up with you. You turn and fight, drawing a line in the sand…only to have cancer wash it away.

A week before his death, Brad was still fighting, still holding onto hope. He did the best he could to lead a “normal” life. He cut the grass on Saturday. On Sunday the swelling in his legs was too much to bear. How quickly things can turn.

He finally agreed to hospice.

But after a few days there, Brad had had enough. “Take me home,” he told Lori. She tried to explain that it would be best for him to stay. It was in vain.

“Take me home, or I’ll find my own way,” he said.

It would have been so much easier (and justifiable) for Lori to tell her husband “No.” Terminal patients don’t leave hospice.

Instead, she chose to honor her husband’s wishes. She chose to take on the job of administering his meds, of trying to keep him comfortable and the heartbreaking task of monitoring his vitals.

I’m amazed but, frankly, not surprised. I’ve seen her do this all along.

Several years ago Brad’s body began to break down, succumbing to years of hard, physical labor. Lori became breadwinner. And eventually, caretaker.

I don’t recall hearing her complain (although who could have blamed her?). She stood by her husband and protected his dignity.

Because, you see, this is what love does.

When Lori brought Brad home from hospice, she let the family know that if they wanted to see him, the time was now.

She opened up her home to visitors and the added complications that brings when it would have been easier to simply say, “Sorry, but this is hard enough as it is.” She thought of Brad’s mother, his siblings and his friends.

This is what love does.

A few weeks prior, Brad told Lori he wanted an earring. He wanted a cross, a reminder that Jesus is always near. Lori, will you pierce my ear? Where is a needle?

But Brad, that will be painful. Let’s go to the mall and have it done there.

No, will you please do it? I don’t think I can get into the car.

You see how much this means to your husband and so you find a needle, sterilize it, and try to forget that you have a weak stomach.

This is what love does.

The cancer first appeared in Brad’s colon and rectum. For the next several years, life was little else than the next doctor appointment, the next doctor bill.

And the next bad report.

The disease eventually claimed his liver, his lungs and then his brain. At the end, visible tumors blotted his shoulders and back. Lori stood by Brad, managing it all with humility and strength.

I watched my mom do the same for my dad, and my sister do the same for her husband (who, to the glory of God, has beaten back cancer now four times).

I will never know all that Lori did for my brother. That’s because love doesn’t need to announce itself. Love doesn’t require center stage; it needs only the edge of the bed, where it can sit and hold the hand of a dying man.

This is what love does.

Wave After Wave

I had never thought of God’s love as a wave before I heard it in a song. Now, I can barely think of it in any other way. God’s love as a wave—isn’t that a beautiful thought?

Imagine a love that keeps coming and coming and coming and never stops. It crashes over us, overwhelms us. Can you picture it?

We may doubt that God is in control or that he’s even present, but his love still comes in wave after wave.

We may assume that he doesn’t care about us, yet his love comes in wave after wave.

We can be angry at God for not stopping the cancer; still his love comes in wave after wave.

This is the love that crashed over my brother and ushered him into heaven. This is the love that can overwhelm his wife and daughters. It is what gets us all through our grief.

This is what God’s love does.

Someday, the grandkids will ask, “What was Grandpa like?” and I am sure that Lori will be all too eager to tell them. She will explain that he was a master woodworker, how he liked to build model cars and how he loved animals, particularly cats. She will tell them how Grandpa tried really, really hard to live long enough to bounce them on his knee, and how he must be smiling on them from heaven. Her stories will give life to their imagination, a way to hold Grandpa Brandt in their hearts.

For now, we grieve. But in our grieving, we also have hope and we have joy. We know that because of God’s great love, death has no power, no sting. Death is no match for a love that comes in wave after wave after wave. Yes, love always wins.

This is what love does.

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Author Rodney Brandt

Rodney Brandt is passionate about his Christian faith and helping others discover the life God has intended for them.

More posts by Rodney Brandt

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Lori says:

    Beautiful expression of your love for Brad and a beautiful reminder of God’s ever present love for us.

  • Toni Gibson says:

    This is beautiful Rod .. Even though I didn’t know Brad personaly I know he was a very well loved man from this whole beautiful family and beyond. God bless you and the whole Brandt family .. I love all of you and I’m so happy to be a part of this family in any way .. Rest peacefully Brad fly high!

  • Jim Lange says:

    Wow Rod, this had to be difficult to write but it is absolutely beautiful and so well written. I pray for peace and comfort for your family. Amen.

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