In memory of my brother

Bradley, my older brother, died of cancer on March 24, 1978. It was Good Friday.

He was three.

I haven’t met him yet, but he was such an integral part of my family that it feels like I must have.

I’m sharing some of my mom’s own words as a way of honoring both his memory and hers:

“As I held his little body close to me in bed, his arms wrapped around my neck, I realized that my emotions were divided again. My cherished little boy was had been through so much already–he could hardly breath, he had been suffocating, and now he was vomiting. How could I want to hold him back from that wonderful, painless life he was about ready to enter? How?

I was his mommy. I had carried him in my own body, under my heart. He was my son, my treasured, sensitive, very special little boy. How could I ever give him up, even if it was into the loving hands of the very loving God?

When he awoke the next day he was in no visible pain. He did not seem to suffer very much–it was more like he slowed down one final time, ran out of energy… ran out of life.He spent the majority of that day in his own world. Or could he have been between two worlds? He could answer and look at me when I talked to him, but he also carried on conversations with unseen, unfelt listeners the rest of the time.

When some people are close to death their breathing may sound like what is called a death rattle. Once you have heard it, you will never forget it. I heard it for the first time outside a patient’s door at the hospital where I worked, and I never thought it could sound worse than it did in that dark, sterile hallway. It sounded much, much worse when I heard it coming from my own son.

When I heard the way Bradley was breathing, I knew his death was imminent. I picked him up, carried him in to the family room, and sat down in the rocking chair to rock him one last time. I told him that Jesus had come to take him to heaven–it was time to go along with Him. Bradley opened his little eyes, and through my tears I saw a flicker of a smile as he took one




And then Bradley took flight and soared in the arms of Jesus to a new and perfect life. Now, at last, Bradley had been healed!”

That was 34 years ago tomorrow. August will mark the 10th anniversary of their reunion, with many, many more to come!

Where, oh Death, is your victory?
Where, oh Death, is your sting?


About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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13 Responses to In memory of my brother

  1. Kris Milo says:

    As a parent, that’s very had to read. As a friend, my heart goes out to your parents. As a Christian, I’m inspired by you mom’s faith, understanding and courage. Thank you for posting.

    • Tim Owens says:

      yeah, the story takes on more and more significance the longer i’m a dad. so glad you found my mom’s faith inspiring! That’s one that you have take a number to get in line to join the crowd on. 🙂 she inspired a whole lotta people.

  2. Kris Milo says:

    “hard” to read, not “had”

  3. Frank Deno says:

    your mother sounds like she was an incredible and strong woman. i can barely imagine the pain your parents must have gone through or the joy of that precious reunion; both bring tears to my eyes.

  4. Jessamyn Milo says:

    That was by far THE hardest thing I’ve ever read in my life! I agree with my husband and Frank. And Oh, the joy there will be when you are all reunited again one day!!

  5. Kelly Baughn says:

    thank you Tim – or, Timothy as your mom always called you:) Remembering her and her stories of Bradley with you today. Love to you all.

    • Tim Owens says:

      🙂 love the ‘timothy’ reference. been awhile since i’ve been called that! glad she had great friends like you to walk through life with while she was here, keep alive her memory for now, and will walk with again one day soon.

  6. Jill Sherman says:

    Tim, thank you for sharing that. I am typing this blinking through a tear soaked face, at the pain your mother must have endured to live through losing a son. My parents also lost their small 18 month old to cancer too (their first child) and I never had the privilege of knowing her. I will someday! I remember asking your mother before she died if she would have room on her lap to hold both Bradley and my sister I never knew and she assured me she would. It makes me so happy to imagine them all celebrating in heaven!

    • Tim Owens says:

      somehow i never knew that. i still can’t imagine that kind of pain–although having 2 kids, and especially with Drew being so close to Bradley’s age, does make it a bit more imaginable. Love to imagine my mom holding Bradley and your sister on her lap. Love that the image is grounded in reality rather than my imagination even more!!!!
      What’s your sister’s name?

  7. Sara W says:

    Thank you for sharing. Your mom was and is so incredible! These words means so much more now that i have my own kids. I can only imagine what it must be like for you to read and process these words. I will lift up prayers for you guys today!

    • Tim Owens says:

      she loved, loved, loved that bible study she did with you and the other girls. she would have so enjoyed keeping up with everyone as we all grew up. I think she woudla been a fb addict for SURE! 🙂 thanks for the prayers. Pray for my dad, when think of it; their 43rd wedding anniversary was yesterday.

  8. I came across this post via my childhood friend, Alan Demers, on Facebook. Beautiful and heart wrenching, thank you for sharing.

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