Returning from Belgium… My brother Alec, who died in a tragic accident just before Christmas, lived and worked in Leuven, Belgium. We chose Easter to visit his coworkers, housemates, friends, and church families; and to retrieve his effects. Alec rarely talked about himself, and almost never of his successes, so we had much to learn. From all of these friends, such an outpouring of kindness and sharing tears and joys—we now have dozens more good friends than we started the trip with!
From his coworkers, we started to understand the profundity of their loss. We did not know that Alec was a true pioneer in his field; the work he had started cannot be continued because his ideas were simply unique and others knew only the outlines of his plans. I already miss the phone calls: “Michael, this is Alec. Do you have time to talk? … I have a problem…” and off we would go, talking through a challenging problem optimizing code for massively parallel simulation of magnetic reconnection, or considering how to refactor source code to make it easier for others to work with. I followed NASA’s launch of the MMS satellite quartet with sad interest; Alec would have been working with the data it will produce.
From Alec’s housemates and friends, we learned more of Alec’s radical and intense care for all people around him. Always asking others about themselves, their interests, their passions, their pains. Mostly quiet; yet passionate about right relationships between people, with the environment, and with God. We discovered that the people Alec sought out as mentors shared his passions and his character.
From his church families, we learned again that one tradition could not satisfy him in his search for deep connection to God. Both his Catholic and Protestant congregations told us that he changed them. Even those with whom he shared no common language loved him. By participating in services in both Protestant and Catholic traditions, we learned more about what was important to Alec spiritually. In both of his congregations, he sought out the lonely and disconnected of every nationality, and connected them to other members of the congregation. I have rarely felt so loved as when Alec’s congregations reflected back to us, his family, the love of God that he had shared with them. And I know, because he told me, that their love for him held him up during his life in Belgium.
Thank you, all of Alec’s friends in Belgium, for making a home for Alec. When Alec returned from Belgium, he was more joyful than I can remember him.
In this Easter season, we proclaim, “Christ is risen” and now when we respond “He is risen indeed” I can think of my brother standing in the presence of the God he loved and served with his whole life.
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