I had laughed as our favorite lake drew within view. I was about to jump in when Philip came barreling past and dove in first. He had been going easy on me that day. I remembered jumping in not far behind him, the water was cold from the melting snow on the mountains to the north.
I looked out the window as the pleasant memory faded. The temperature outside was just as cold, if not colder than that water had been. The landscape disappeared just as rapidly as it appeared as the train continued its path. I signed, it had been so long since that warm summer day five years ago. The snow glistened white upon the ground outside. The train was heated, but I was still cold sitting near the window. I didn’t want to move though, I was mourning. I did all I could do to hold back my tears, I didn’t want my mother and father see me cry. I also wanted to seem strong to my younger sister Evangeline, who was drawing with crayons in her seat beside me.
Philip was a great artist. He could draw anything with incredible detail. I thought back to another summer day, Philip and I were sitting against on old Willow tree by our lake, the one we had spent so much time at. I tried desperately to draw the lake, but I couldn’t draw anything but a few oddly shaped circles and rectangles. I huffed and threw my pencil at the lake, “This is stupid!”
Philip watched the pencil sail through the air and land in the water. He leaned over and gently said, “Hey it’s ok Luke, you just need a little more practice. You know, my first drawings were awful.”
I looked away, still upset at my lack of skill. “You're just saying that.”
“I’m not, my first drawing of a horse looked like a bean on stilts.”
“Very. Now, go get the pencil. They don’t grow on trees.” He joked as he prodded me to get up. I got the pencil back and continued my drawing lesson.
The warm cool lake was replaced by a frozen lake in the distance as I was jerked back to reality. It reminded me of the time that Philip and I had gone ice fishing on the same lake. I realized we would never go fishing, drawing, running, or swimming at that lake. Evangeline would never know how great a brother Philip was because Philip was dead.
I sighed again as I looked out upon the passing land, my breath fogging up the window. Philip had turned twenty-one last January and had gone off to University. I couldn’t remember which one, not like it really mattered. We had got the news three days ago. It was a freak accident, apparently, some students had left their stove on in their dorm when they went to bed. Within minutes the entire building went up in flames. Philip’s dorm was right above the dorm that was on fire. We don’t know how he got trapped, all we know was that he died. We were traveling to the University to retrieve the body...and confirm his identity.
I was angry, no I was furious. Why did some _____ (word removed by the editor.) have to leave their stove on? It’s all their fault my brother is dead! I was so frustrated I grabbed my coat and asked my parents, who were dealing with the loss in their own ways, “Can I go to the back of the train?”
My father nodded. He was just as torn up by this as I was. I put my coat on and wandered to the back of the train. Walking past hundreds of other people, all with better lives than the one I was living. I envied everyone. Why would God let this happen? Philip was studying to be a missionary. I even remembered when Philip decided to become a missionary.
We had been in town getting something for my mother. I can’t remember what we were getting, but I do remember the old beggar. On our way home we came across a group of boys my age at the time. They were throwing rocks at an old disabled man. Philip intervened and chased those ruffians away. We took the old man back to our cabin and bandaged his wounds. After supper, Philip and Father shared the Gospel with the man and he explained how he had come to be a beggar. He had been on a business journey when he had been beaten and robbed of all his goods. Because no one knew this man, no one would help him. Out of pity, Philip went to the Reverend and with the help of the church raised the money to buy a train ticket back to the man’s hometown.
We never knew if this man was telling the truth, but after that day Philip’s heart was turned to the poor. He spent months praying about where God would want to send him. Seemingly out of nowhere, Philip decided that he wanted to go to India. Since then he had been studying the Indian culture and language, waiting for the first chance to go to the land God was calling him to. But he would never get to go.
Standing on the end of the Caboose, the freezing winter air surrounding my body, I watched the tracks disappear into the distance. With no one around, I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore. Leaning against the cold railing, I began sobbing. My tears were warm against my cold skin. “Why God? Why?”
I missed my brother, I didn’t want him to be dead, but I knew that was a foolish wish. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Just crying. I was getting colder and colder, but I didn’t care. I was broken, my faith was in shambles. Why would God let my brother died when he was ready to sacrifice a comfortable life to do His work. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew I couldn’t stay there, so I got up and wiped my tears off my face, some frozen from the cold.
I sat back down in my seat, my body was warmed by the interior of the train. I couldn’t even feel the cold from the window anymore. Evangeline looked up at me and handed me a piece of paper and a blue crayon. I smiled and took them. As I began scribbling on the paper, I began thinking about all the art lessons Philip had given me. I began scribbling faster as I got more upset. Then in a moment, the crayon snapped in the middle.
I reached a tipping point. I didn’t care that I was in front of my parents. I started sobbing again. Evangeline, so innocent, patted my arm, “It’s ok Luke. Broken crayons still color.”
I sniffled and pulled myself together. She was right. Not about the color, but though I was broken. God knew what was best. He was doing something, even in Philip’s death. He would work all things out for His good. I wiped my tears away again as we pulled into our stop.