People thought we were having an affair as we sat at the community pool and laughed and hugged and engaged in some seemingly very serious conversations while snacks and towels and “look what I can dos” piled up from the six children we had between us.

I guess they were kind of right. We did love each other very much. I was closer to you than almost any other man on this beautiful planet.

But they were also very very wrong.

You see, you were not my lover, as the gossipy types might have whispered about in the parking lot with soggy kids in towels yelling, “Can we please go home now?!”

You were my brother and one of my very best friends.

You still are.

Today was your 60th birthday. I’ve known you for 53 years, 11 months, and 10 dayssince the day I was born.

You were forced to be my brother just because of sheer genetic willpower, but you chose every single day to be my friend. I can’t thank you enough.

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You taught me how to ride a bike when I was just five and you were a big, giant 10-year-old.

You were the one I went to crying when I wet my pants in class at boarding school.  You told me it was going to be OK.

You were happy when I was your “little annoying sister” in the school play.  You even helped me memorize my lines.

You did not have to do any of that. 

You told me I was super smart and could be anything I wanted and not-so-secretly told me I should go to medical school when I was older.

You wrote me a long letter from college when I was a young teenage girl, encouraging me that I was valuable and to cling to Jesus during those tumultuous years after you had learned some hard lessons during yours.

You included me in your wedding as a junior bridesmaid, making me feel like a grown-up and highly important.

You did not have to do any of that. 

You had me and some boyfriend of mine over for dinner, inviting us to share your heart and your home once you were living on your own.

You became my actual pastor once I graduated from college and you had 200+ young career singles in your care.  You taught me how to love God (even though you spit when you talked, and I sat in the front row receiving all that lovely spray).

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You co-signed a loan for my new, used car after getting the call that I had totaled my other one.

You did not have to do any of that. 

You performed my wedding and I’ll never forget the charge to us about the “fire covenant” we were making with each other.

You became my neighbor in a little sleepy town, and we shared birthday parties and trick-or-treating, community pool jaunts (as you already read), and Christmas afternoons.

You wound up being the watcher of my high schoolers so Allen and I could have short getaways that probably saved our marriage.

You did not have to do any of that. 

The bottom line is this: you were always there for me, in ways big and small, seeing me through the good and the bad and lots of the ugly.

I thought that was my favorite thing about you, but I was wrong.

When some really tough stuff came into your world, you did the most incredible thing of all. You allowed us to reverse roles just a little bit and made it OK for me to care for you the way you had taken care of me for so many many years.

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Because of your humility and your bravery, I finally saw you, the amazing, kind, strong, faith-filled, vulnerable, tenacious, loving man you are. It only made me love you more.

You, my friend and confidant, my cheerleader and my brother, are one of the best people I have ever known or will know.

The only thing that could be better than knowing you all of my life is if I had known you all of yours.

Happy Birthday! Keep ’em coming!!!

Previously published on the author’s blog

Esther Goetz

I am a wife to Allen for almost 28 years. I am a mom to four unique children aged 19-26, a mother-in-law to one and a grandmother to one cute little boy. I live in a sleepy, little town called Stirling, NJ. My true heart’s desire is to be a hope-bringer to women as we navigate this adventure of life together.