HOW GOD BROUGHT ME A BROTHER
BY: SUNNY ORLY COFFMAN
AUGUST 3, 2001
My parents divorced when I was only 18 months old and my Mom never remarried. I was the only child born to that marriage. So, I was placed in the position of being raised by a single parent with little education and lots of not-so-positive experiences that opened the door for fear to control much of her thinking. Trust was difficult for Mom and depression had its clutches deeply into her mind.
My father had been married before he knew my Mom and had three little boys during that marriage. The marriage to my Mom was his second attempt at a lasting relationship. That attempt also failed. Then, he married the third time when the divorce to my Mom was final. While he stayed in this third marriage over 30 years, he never seemed to release my Mom. He insisted she stay home, rather than taking a job out in the public workforce. He wanted her to be a Mom to me and be there for me. He got her fired from a couple of jobs just to make his point. He also discouraged any friendships she had with other men – threatening the men and controlling our household even though he never lived there again.
My Mom was a difficult person to live with. She had suffered a lot of pain and hurting people hurt other people. While she constantly told me how much she loved me, she had sovereign control over our household. Her own insecurity dictated that she control every situation to make herself feel more assured. On the one hand, she would tell me that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to; but almost simultaneously, she never encouraged me by approving of anything I did. I can remember re-washing dishes as many as 4 times to follow her instructions to the finest detail.
There were many nights that I would cry myself to sleep – knowing that there were two men alive somewhere on planet earth that my own Dad had fathered. [One of the 3 boys died at age 7 with lockjaw – tetanus was not known at that time.] In my own mind, I kept thinking – “if I just had a brother to share this load with me, it would be so much easier to bear.” But I never saw either of these men growing up. In fact one of the few times I saw either one of them was at my own father’s funeral in 1967.
I spent 27 years of my adult life traveling with a hand-crafted jewelry business I owned. I would set up a display of my line of personalized jewelry items at livestock shows, horse shows, and rodeos, around the country. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet folks from all walks of life, to make a decent living, and to get away from Texas. Unfortunately I had such a poor relationship with my Mom that I was much more peaceful away from her. She was so independent that she didn’t want to accept any help – physical or financial, so there was really nothing to draw me close to her.
One night in November of 1988, I was awakened with a tremendous burden to pray for one my older brothers, James. I had no idea where he was or what was happening in his life, but I somehow knew that he was in a life-threatening situation. For the next 2-3 days, he was just constantly in my mind and his name was on my lips – calling out to God in his behalf. In my own thinking, I felt if I had been called to pray for James, I should also be praying for his older brother, Howard. I began, in earnest, to try to pray for this man, but it was like my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling and landing back on my shoulders. I finally gave up – not understanding what was going on, but knowing this action was going nowhere. I continued to pray, as prompted, for James. A few days passed, and I was finally released from my burden to pray for him.
Christmas came and went – winter was now over and I was finishing up my livestock show season. My custom, for many years, had been to work the Mercedes, Texas, Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show with my jewelry – as my yearly finale. This show came at the end of the Stockshow Season. It also coincided with Spring Break. It was only 75 miles to South Padre Island – a popular hang out for Spring Breakers. But they would just about be finishing up as I got through in Mercedes, so I would head for the Island, park my greyhound bus in the popular RV Park at the end of the island, and spend a few days fishing on the jetty or just lying around relaxing and getting my mind adjusted to quiet, once again. For six months, I would have spoken to hundreds and even thousands of folks every day in this wonderful business of mine. I loved all of the interaction, but after that long a time, it was easy to get burned out and badly in need a re-charge of strength and creativity. Peace and quiet were both necessary prescriptions to my mental health about this time every year.
This particular year, on the only Saturday of the Mercedes Show, I was behind my jewelry display greeting visitors to the show, helping my staff take orders and make change for jewelry purchases, when up walks a tall, good looking, silver-haired man with steel blue eyes and a soft, pleasant smile. His opening remark to me was: “I’ll bet you don’t know who I am.” I raised my focus until our eyes met and recognition came to my mind. My response was: “James Wolfe, I’d know you in a crowd of 20,000 folks. You have our Father’s eyes.”
He seemed genuinely pleased that I had known him immediately. But, my next statement seemed to bring him surprise and amazement at the same time. I spoke: “James, where were you last [and called out a specific date]?” He said: “How did you know? Who told you?” I said, “James, I don’t even know what happened to you, I just know that you were near death for a few days and God had me praying for you a long time.” It took him a while before he believed that no man had spoken to me about the ordeal he faced. Then he shared with me that at the exact time God had me praying, he had experienced being short-winded one night while he and his wife were at a dance in San Antonio, Texas with some friends. One of the friends with him was a doctor and just insisted on James going to the hospital immediately and being checked over. Sure enough, he was found to have need of an immediate five-way bypass. This day that we met, he was wearing a one-piece leisure suit and he pulled up one of his pant legs to show me the scar where an artery was removed to use in the surgery. Then he shared with me the details of the surgery and how remarkable it was to have been warned of the problem in such an unusual way.
We visited for a little while longer and then my brother asked me to come visit him when the show was over. I did take a few days before returning to Dallas and drove over to the large RV and Mobile Home Park that he had built out of raw land on the northern banks of Lake Falcon, a water reservoir created by building a dam on the Rio Grande River between Brownsville and Laredo, Texas.
When I shared from my heart the feelings I had and how I had cried as a child to know my brothers, I saw tears come to his blue eyes. We have become friends through the many visits we’ve had these past few years. He had a lot of questions about our Dad. He, too, was not in a position to really know Dad until he was grown. Apparently Dad had left his first wife and the three little boys and never hung around to help at all.
James is 19 1/2 years older than me and he’s been challenged late in life with diabetes. He’s already lost a leg and most of his toes to this disease, but my brother is a winner. He’s one of the most talented, creative people I’ve ever known. Within the past 3 years, my husband and I went down to help him build a front porch on a double-wide mobile home he had moved into. He faced the reality that he needed to be rid of the large place at Falcon Lake, so he sold it and purchased 18 acres and this mobile home near Jasper, Texas. We stayed with him about a week while working on the porch. I watched him keep up and sometimes get ahead of my husband on this project, even though he was working with a man almost 30 years his junior. One year later, single-handed, he built a huge screened in porch the full length of the mobile home on the back, a wonderfully designed fireplace/cooker/smoker at one end and a sauna/hot tub at the other. It would have been a work of art for a young man with all of his extremities, but it was nothing short of a miracle for my brother with his present limitations. That’s one of the many reasons why I say – he’s a winner.
In one of our early conversations, I was sharing in more detail about the time that God had allowed me to pray for my brother. I told him about trying to pray for his older brother, Howard. It was then that he shared with me that Howard had died just a short time prior to this heart surgery that James had experienced. I guess it makes sense that God wouldn’t have you praying for a dead man.
A couple of years ago, my brother called me on my cell phone one morning. My husband and I were in New Braunfels, Texas. My husband is a contractor and he was working on a mall in San Marcos. James said, “what are you doing down there?” I shared about the current project that had brought us to the area.” Then James said, “what are you doing this weekend? Jeanie [his wife] and I want you to meet us in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It is the last week of the Passion Play and I want you to see this. It is really something special.” Needless to say, we took off and met them to see this incredible presentation on the very last night of it performance for that year. It was a very cold October night – actually got down to freezing. We were all hovering under blankets in this out door amphitheatre where it is presented. But I wouldn’t have taken any amount of money for the experience of sharing it with my brother. He had seen it the year before with Linda, his daughter and it had made a life-changing impression on him. He had heard me talk about God a lot and knew that I had a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord, but this was his way of telling me – “Now I know what you were talking about.”
A lot of folks would call us half-bother or half-sister, but I say, we both have the blood of our father – that makes us full-blood. My prayer is that this little article shared from my heart will give someone out there the courage and faith to dare to believe that God will still answer some prayer you may have prayed as a child. God’s timing is always perfect. And, besides, God doesn’t count time as we do. He looks at the need and not the clock. He knew when I needed a brother the most and brought him just when I least expected. Or, who knows, maybe He knew when my brother needed a sister the most. He knows I love surprises and continually provides situations to thrill me.
Just three months ago, I had the opportunity to see what kind of stuff my brother is really made of. My sister-in-law is more than 20 years younger than my brother. For a lot of different reasons, she felt she had to launch out into a life separate from my brother. When his wife left him, he faced, at age 82, the possibility of living the rest of his life alone, but while I saw him in pain, I never saw him give up and I never heard him speak a thing negative about his wife. I know he still loves her very much and, who knows, maybe that love will build a bridge she can walk across again one day. But, I still say, my brother’s a winner and I’m so glad God answered my prayer and brought him into my life.
NOTE: Today, June 9, 2002, I can bring you an up-to-date report. My brother and his wife are now back together once more. My brother went back to the RV Park and Mobile Home Park he had built in the Zapata, Texas area and repurchased the place from the friend who bought it. He’s back “home” and he is where his heart truly is – that’s what home is all about.
Today I think of all the tears shed in my desire for an earthly, flesh-and-blood brother, when the real satisfaction of my heart had to come through my spiritual big brother, Jesus. It was only in knowing him in a very personal way that peace could come to that deep longing within me, but I’m so grateful that God knows the deep desires we all have and is so generous to even fill those petitions we make to Him.
I’m sure that today my earthly brother has also come to realize that same truth and now knows that even the beautiful wife that shares his life does not bring the continual peace that only comes from that intimate relationship with Christ.
HOW GOD BROUGHT ME A BROTHER [Sunny Orly Coffman] 8-3-01 1