When Chris Brown answered the phone the other day, I could tell right away from his voice that something was wrong. “Chris, are you still sick?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “my sister died Sunday night.”
The last time Chris and I had spoken was when the Superior Court ruling was announced. He told me then that Misti had been in intensive care for some time and that her condition was unchanged and still undiagnosed; she was being kept alive by technology. Nevertheless she was happy that the tide had begun to turn for Jordan.
By the time the doctors finally figured out that the cause of her condition was Swine Flu and had her airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, it was too late. Misti had endured a long and very difficult illness. She never recovered and passed away on March 20th.
“At least her suffering is over,” Chris said. Something in the way he said this gave the impression it was a practiced line, something he’d already used to reassure friends who are worried for his state of mind and health in the wake of yet another tragedy.
Chris said his mother Janice is coping but devastated.
Out of a population of 12.7 million in Pennsylvania, the flu had claimed only 39 lives through mid-February. What are the chances that another such death would strike Chris Brown and his family after everything they have already endured?
It is as if lightning has struck Chris multiple times.
Like the Biblical character Job, everything has been taken from the man. He has lost the woman he loved and their unborn child; he has lost the daughters he loved and fathered as if they had been his own; he has lost his employment and almost all his worldly possessions; his son Jordan has been taken from him, threatened with lifelong hopeless imprisonment, and both have been deprived of the comfort they might have provided one another through these two years of anguish.
Through it all, ugly hateful people have defamed and slandered him, threatened him (even with weapons), shunned him, stolen from him, insulted him, and incited total strangers against him. Through it all, his tormenters have been celebrated in the media, their hypocrisies overlooked, their characters unexamined, their motives and falsehoods unchallenged. If I were a believer in conventional religion, I could only conclude that Satan is up to the same evil designs as described in the Book of Job.
Over these last two years Chris and I have had many deep talks and, like Job, Chris has experienced innumerable lows bordering on despair; yet he has steadfastly remained true to his commitment to endure and always travel the “high road.” Chris is not a perfect man (God knows, he’s certainly had poor luck choosing women), but he is a good man who has always exercised remarkable patience and equanimity in the face of his trials—the “patience of Job.”
There are a lot of people who would prefer to believe that Chris’ ordeals are God’s retribution for some past wrongdoing or sins. There are a lot of people who would prefer to cast Chris as a latter day Joe Btfslk (Al Capp’s character in the “Li’l Abner” comic strip, a jinx, who was so unlucky that a tiny rain cloud followed him wherever he went). But these are all the same people who, despite all evidence to the contrary, believe life is fair. It isn’t—at least not on its own.
Like luck, fairness is something that we create in the ways we live and in the ways we treat others. If you believe life should be fair, you must be fair—otherwise fairness is just an empty platitude, wishful thinking, a sham, a self-delusion.
The other night I told Chris the same thing Holly and I told ourselves when her cancer had been diagnosed after fifteen years of dealing with multiple sclerosis: “At least you know you can deal with this. After everything you’ve been through, you can put this in perspective. It’s like you’ve been in training for this. You know it can’t break you.”
Yet in the next moment after I asked, he did tell me he doesn’t know how he and his mother will pay for Misti’s funeral expenses, he is so broke. The funeral director has given him a big break on the costs, yet he still needs to come up with about $1,500—a daunting amount given his present circumstances and the need to continue traveling to Erie each day to support Jordan through his ordeal.
“Would it be alright if I asked readers of the blog to help?” I asked. After a moment’s hesitation he said he would be happy for any help we might provide.
So this is what I suggest. If you want to help Chris, please leave a comment on today’s post to express your ability and willingness (I will keep your comment from posting publicly if you ask me to). I will get back to you by private e-mail with specific instructions. Gifts will need to be made to Chris directly by check or money order (not to Jordan’s trust fund and not to me). I will aggregate your contributions and forward them to Chris.
One person has already volunteered to send $500, so we are already a third of the way there. When you contact me I will be able to tell you how close to the goal we are or if it has been reached.
In the story of Job, God restored everything to Job (and more) that Satan had been allowed to take away to test Job’s faithfulness. I am hopeful that by assisting Chris in this time of need, we can demonstrate that God has not forsaken him and that this is the point beyond which things will begin improving for Chris, and that his family life and happiness will be restored.
Please help make this so and offer to help him today. Any size gift, even if it is very small, will make a huge impact. The funeral will be held this evening at 6:00 pm. I hope we will be able to give Chris some good news by then.
Groove of the Day
(from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Requiem)