It was an overcast tuesday colored with a cold, grey tint covering the sky. With soft window light showering the room I watched my brother literally breath his last on this earth. Laying on his hospital death bed, Jordan’s head was slightly turned to the right. His chest raised as his body tried to keep living, his gasp for air was heard in my heart. I shut his laptop, leaned up in my chair and with fear in my heart I said, “Mom…” As my mom quickly turned to his aid, he tried to breath two more times. Trembling and helpless, I watched his last battle for breath. His chest never raised again. My brother, my hero, my closest friend, my fellow warrior in this battle of life, dead. Sweet, gentle, kind-hearted Jordan, gone. Seventeen years of a relationship like almost twins, over.
The ice-cold, bone-chilling darkness that cloaked my heart was utterly horrifying. My mom ran out to get a nurse as my dad began to cry loudly. I watched three nurses come in and check for signs of life. Nothing. They’d cared for him nearly a year, and now these nurses cried as they checked for his heartbeat. They knew and I knew. The big-dog doctor came in to double-check and sure enough, he nodded in agreement with the nurses. He tried to close Jordan’s eyes but they wouldn’t. He tried again and they resisted again. He gave up politely and awkwardly as I watched his every move.
Once everyone finally left the room, I shut the door. I walked over to Jordan’s bed, unsure of everything. I looked at his once joyful face, finding nothing but the cold shell that once housed my brothers heart. I held his lifeless right hand as I whispered bits of my broken heart. Shocked and empty, I shared my last moments with my brother. My mom called my brother Jeff to tell him the “news”. (He couldn’t be at the hospital because he was sick that day. When someone has cancer, you can’t be around them if you have the most common of colds.) I could hear Jeff’s cries through the phone.
I remember calling our friends back in Palm Bay, Florida. Coach Grimes, Casey, Jared, Tom and Joe. One by one, I uttered words I don’t ever want to say again. I remember Joe almost dropping the phone as the words “Oh… shit” passed his lips. His mom nervously called for him in the background and it sounded like the phone hit the floor. That was the end of our phone call. In silence, I sat in one of the ugly aqua green chairs in the hallway of the 6th floor in the children’s cancer ward wing. I wanted to send every one of those chairs blasting through a window.
That was five years ago. Tuesday, August 19th, around 3:10 in the afternoon.
Before you fade to black, make sure you sing the fluttering, musical number of the airplane making its way onto the pallet. Don’t forget to wipe their mouth, silly. Make sure they’re fat and happy! When this deed is done, you can then fade to black. And by fade to black I mean fade to white, because it’s happier. The happy ending. The dishonest, happy ending.
We don’t deal well with honesty. We don’t deal well with blunt truth. We don’t deal well with the harsh realities of this world. We don’t deal well with death and frankly, we don’t deal well with the truth. We want closure, but life doesn’t always grant us that. So we trade truth for selfish closure. We’d rather not know what really happens. We want the good news first and the bad news never. We want joyous hymns as the unathletic kid hits the game-winning shot from half court.
I don’t relate to dishonesty. I connect to the broken, honest scenes, written by people who’ve experienced life as is.
I want to be transparent and honest about the most radically tragic day of my life. I’m not saying we should always focus on the dead bee on the ground instead of the sunflower standing above it. But sometimes we need to focus on the dead bee because it’s a part of the world the flower lives in. Maybe it gave it’s life for the flower? Sometimes the best lessons we can learn in life is by how not to do something. By showing an opposite, I don’t necessarily need to see the other side of the coin to understand the coin, itself. I’ve seen what it can become when in the wrong hands, I can imagine the coin on the other end of the spectrum.
When people ask me, “Are you a Christian filmmaker?” I politely shake my head in a “no.” like fashion. I’m sure as a kid, you grew up wanting to be a “Christian” cheerleader, or a Christian golfer, a Christian firefighter, or even a Christian basketball player? No. I’m just a filmmaker who happens to love Jesus. What’s in my heart will come through in my scripts. I have to make sure my heart is in the place it needs to be when I write so that truth comes through. Pain is real, death is real and thankfully, Jesus is too. I’m all about a “happy” ending, if it ends truthfully. Sometimes the truth sucks. Sometimes it hurts.
I love Jesus and I’ll claim His name until I die but the movies I make won’t be at your local “Christian” bookstore. Because a title card slapped on the end with an out-of-context Bible verse isn’t a good ending. Because hope isn’t always dressed in fickle happiness; sometimes, it can seem like a desert. A desert that may look like an endless journey into death but instead, it’s a long, scary path to life.