An Ode to My Sister:

Flashback of My Life without the Living God

by Joe Brandi
April 4, 2018

I forgot my sister Gina’s birthday.  It was on April 3rd.  She’s an amazing sister and doesn’t deserve to be forgotten – especially by her absent-minded, self-focused brother whose life she saved multiple times back in high school.  I’m 44 now, but I can remember those high school days like a bad dream that just keeps coming back. 


Back then, I was living a life without the living God. No God inside me to fill the vacuous hole that grew larger every day.   I’d drink half a bottle of tequila, wanting to kill the subjective demons who tormented my soul on a daily basis. I also filled the hole with adrenaline sports and play, pretty-girl attention, more drink and the smoke.  Those things briefly numbed the dissatisfaction of a life without the living God. But they didn’t last.

I remember a time when my sister was about fourteen, and I was seventeen.  It was Homecoming Week, on the night of the celebration when all the students come together to do their air bands and dances.  My football boys wanted to drink a little before our presentation, but I took it to the next level as usual.  I decided to drink an entire bottle of schnapps.  I never knew why I did this, but it was most likely  to show off, to show them what an adventurous man does, to see what happens, to enjoy the moment fully without wisdom that later would come when older (I hoped). 

I only remember driving up to the high school with all the lights, the loudness, the energy, and the outfits heightening my senses.  I was so excited and happy for a moment or two, but then the blurry state began and the chaos in my head grew strong.  I honestly don’t remember the rest. 

I heard later that I ran up into different people’s bands when they were on the field and tried to participate in their show by singing (what a scene!). At one point, I was lip syncing “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Motley Crew with a bunch of cowgirls who were brought in on Harleys by their boyfriends.  Now, I had been asked earlier by the girls to sing with them, but I didn’t want to do it in front of a crowd so I said no, which is probably one of the reasons I drank so much.   So there I was, drunk and singing on stage with these girls who all had boyfriends in the audience. Apparently, I gave a celebratory kiss to all of them after our song.  No big deal, right? Wrong.  

When the night ended, I was walking to my 1976 rusted orange Volvo with my little bro, Dougy Clark, when I heard and felt some fans around me near the lower lockers. Turns out, they weren’t fans.  They were the boyfriends of the cowgirls.  I had grown up with most of them, but I had crossed a line that night, and they wanted to take me out.  

Somehow, my sister, Gina, heard I was going to get jumped and showed up at that very moment.  Gina grabbed my keys and got in the driver’s seat of my car.  I jumped in the back seat as the angry back-country mob surrounded the car, but she managed to rush off into the night and avoid a violent scene.  That’s just one story of how my sister stood in the gap for me when I was stumbling along the lines between order and chaos, life and death, peace and war, destruction and shalom.  I am in a different place and space now because God pursued me patiently, and tore me out of myself alive and set me on a new path, though not perfect.  

So thank you, sister.  And thank you, God, that I am still alive and I never got a record from breaking many laws along the way.

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