My Brother’s Heart: A Tribute

Hanging with my big brother on my first Christmas.

Hanging with my big brother on my first Christmas.

The world just lost another good man. He died peacefully in his sleep at age 57. No one knows why.

I was lucky to be his little brother. Growing up with Craig was a blast. He was hilarious. When we were kids his mind was always cooking up something interesting or mischievous. He could easily have led me into bad things, but that just wasn’t my brother’s heart. His moral compass was always oriented to creative and reasonably harmless pursuits.

Craig was passionate about everything he got into. He got me interested in drawing when I was just a little kid. I feel a little pensive about this now. He really liked drawing, and I wonder if he would’ve pursued a career in art if it hadn’t been for me. He was well above average in his ability, but I happened to be innocently but extraordinarily gifted. Everyone soon made a big deal about my art and assumed out loud that I would grow up to be an artist. This became part of my identity. I thought he simply lost interest in art. He ended up following my dad into construction work, which didn’t really work out well. I wanted to ask him about all of this someday.

Craig was a collector of things. When we were kids it was Mad magazines and Marvel comics. Beginning in his teen years, it was music. I grew up listening to the music of my older siblings – mostly my brother’s. For better or for worse, I still know all of Bernie Taupin’s lyrics to Elton John’s early recordings. As an adult, Craig amassed a huge, diverse music collection and became an avid concertgoer and music festival attendee. If you ever attended the Cornerstone festival in Illinois, put on by Jesus People USA, my brother was there.

Somewhere along the line, my brother devoted his life to following Jesus, passionately, of course. He was blessed with a great crap detector, but he didn’t use it to be harsh with people. He might privately call out a friend, but he used it as much on himself as on anyone else. Despite being outspoken for the truth, when he recognized that he’d been hurtful or wrongheaded, he was humble enough to ask forgiveness. I loved his heart.

As an adult I got to see his heart up close, when he endured a very painful divorce. I don’t know that I could have, or would have, been able to love and forgive as he did had I been in his situation. The depth of his forgiveness was astounding to me. During this time, after hearing his heart, it struck me that he had the mind of Christ. His example was inspired and inspiring.

Craig’s honest walk with Jesus enabled him to cut through and navigate the Southern Baptist, Evangelical subculture in which we grew up. He understood that the point was not to follow a religion, but to follow a person: Jesus. He understood that following Jesus is not about religious legalism and rule-keeping, but about relationship, while still holding to the fidelity of the Bible.

This could be seen in the testimony of two men who stood to speak during a public sharing time at Craig’s funeral – two different men, from two different backgrounds. You could guess their background by their appearance. One guy came from a Christian fundamentalist background. He described how my brother had helped him break free from religious legalism, and helped him to come into the freedom that the Spirit of Jesus brings, (…“where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – 2 Cor 3:17.) Apparently their conversations often revolved around some of my brother’s “objectionable” Christian music.

The second guy came from an opposite place. He explained that when he came to Jesus, he didn’t so much mind letting go of the drugs and the drinking. But he was a metal head, and it was disheartening for him to entertain the idea of joining a legalistic Christian subculture with lame music. Somebody sent him to my brother, who introduced him to some legit musicians whose music didn’t fit this guy’s stereotype of Christian Music. They became buds. When I shook this guy’s hand afterward, he reminded me that I had met him once, camping with my brother at a Cornerstone festival – home of alternative Christian music.

In our immediate family, my wife and I have a saying: “Life is about relationships.” This idea often helps us choose where we spend our time and energy. This saying derives from the greatest commandment as stated by Jesus: Love God, and love people; all of God’s instruction depends upon these two things (Mat 22:36-40.) I never heard Craig say the words, “life is about relationships,” but at his funeral it was clear that he lived them as well as anyone I know. His life was all about pursuing God and investing in people.

Craig was a great dad, and he poured his life into his two lovely daughters, Jenna and Dana. Here are a couple of comments from their Facebook friends:

He valued the opinion of every person he spoke with, no matter what age you were. He taught me the value of presence. The art of conversation. Looking back, I can’t remember a time that I saw him ever leave first! Whoever he was with or wherever he was, he was fully there. Serving as our Sunday School teacher & one of our college group leaders, he taught so many of us young adults how to appreciate art & seek the truth & beauty of God in things like film, music or just being outdoors…He made all of us feel important; believed in. Like our voices mattered… – EC

Craig sought out God in everything and was excited to talk about it. To my group of friends, he was not just someone’s dad or the Sunday school teacher or the adult supervisor. He was our friend. We invited him to all of our parties, we went to the movies with him, we camped together, we ate meals together, we talked about life, we talked about God and His creation… – MT

There are many ways that people look at death. Some see it as a natural, even a beautiful, thing – a mysterious portal into the next stage of existence. Jesus didn’t see it that way. Jesus wept at death. He spoke of Himself as the resurrection and the life. Paul spoke of death as an enemy that Jesus came to destroy. He described the resurrection of Jesus as the first fruits of a great harvest that would follow. The Bible describes a salvation that encompasses our entire beings – body, soul, and spirit. Death is a separation. God promises to restore total unity. I suppose we should expect nothing less from an all loving, all powerful, and all good God.

I loved my big brother’s heart. I admit that I’m frustrated and sad that he is gone. I expected to have a lot more time with him. We had a lot of catching up to do.

Here’s looking forward even more to “the restoration of all things.”

The last picture of my brother and me. Craig Lee Freeman -  January 5, 1958 to July 27, 2015

The last picture of my brother (on right) and me – Dec 2014.
Craig Lee Freeman – January 5, 1958 – July 27, 2015

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18 comments on “My Brother’s Heart: A Tribute

  1. sklabak@gmail.com says:

    This is BEAUTIFUL! May I share it?
    My sympathy for your loss. My thankfulness to the Lord for knowing your brother is with Jesus face-to-face. Hallelujah!
    May his memory live on.
    Susan
    Sent from my U.S. Cellular BlackBerry® smartphone

    • Thank you for your encouraging words. Yes, his funeral was as much a time of celebration as it was a time of morning. He had given Randy Alcorn’s book, “Heaven,” as a gift to many people in the room, just because he was excited about the book.

      You may certainly share as you see fit!

  2. liveHislove says:

    So sorry to hear of your loss. What a beautiful tribute to your brother. He would be so honored. God bless!

  3. Powerful words – your brother would be proud to read – I feel your sense of loss – my thoughts about my brother here: “Talking with my brother, when the lights went out”… | Eye Will Not Cry https://eyewillnotcry.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/talking-with-my-brother-when-the-lights-went-out/ Cheers J

  4. Momdobby says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Scott. Your brother was well loved by you and others in his life. I love “life is about relationships”…hopefully this tribute will spur us all on in our current relationships whether healthy, broken or newly developing. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Jerry and Nancy Zykan says:

    Craig was a good man, and an inspiration . As you said, he gave everyone his full attention and value. He never put on airs and always made you feel accepted. Though we hadn’t seen him in a long time, we have great memories of how he lived out what Jesus taught.

  6. Rod Lampard says:

    My condolences, Scott. Peace be with you, mate.

  7. Mike Dwyer says:

    Blessings, Scott. I wish I had read this sooner. But I think you share your brother’s heart, as well has holding it in your own.

  8. ja500 says:

    Scott, I was so sorry to read about the loss of your brother. Clearly, he was an amazing man.

    What a gift that you had him– and that the two of you were so close.

    Very nice tribute.

    – jan

  9. oldmom says:

    Dear Scott,

    I’m so sorry to learn about your brother–this is a beautiful tribute to him. It made me feel like I knew him, too, and I look forward to meeting him when I join him in eternity. Prayers for you and your family. I know your faith is strong.

    Jeanette

  10. Thanks Jeanette. ‘Still hard to believe he’s gone…

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