A week and a childhood into adulthood of memories ago they were five;
Five chairs and five dinner plates around the table;
Five pair of muddy Converse’s piled at the front door.
Five twin bed’s half-hardheartedly made some of the time.
Five wrestling opponents; one or two champions at best.
Bicycles to fight over; possibly never five.
Five hungry appetites;
Five sharing telephone numbers.
Five believing in God;
Five believing in each other.
Five attending five weddings.
Five brothers never imagining one without the other.
But now they are four.
A team of five brothers they were.
Maybe not on the same baseball team together, as one loved the WWF more while the other preferred his cars.
But five brothers shared a passion for life, for living on the edge of laughter, for having your back, for locking arms on your behalf.
A team of soldiers “leaving no man behind” when he’s down. A team of five hearts loving one mother and father.
A kitchen full of boys fighting for the last helping of rice.
A stove big enough for every son on the team to learn from a living cookbook the family recipes.
To learn beside their mother’s apron the magic of family meals and memories.
To remember to pass her legacy and love for the kitchen down through the generations.
Five brothers who value family; five godly men who honor the blessings of those seated next to them on Sunday afternoons at their mother’s table following church.
To share a meal and a cup of coffee together.
To enjoy a conversation about music, the White Sox and maybe their mother’s Cubbies; well maybe.
A team of seekers hungry for a mighty move of God.
Then they were five.
The team witnessed Number Five marry a woman living in Puerto Rico with him in Indiana; a love story whose pages could only be written by the hand of God.
A handsome man all dressed up would be introduced to a woman visiting her uncle in Chicago, both attending the same gathering which God had secretly orchestrated.
An old fashioned relationship of hand-written letters began and continued for over two years. Authored from the heart and penned onto paper, the words of Ruben and Carmen’s love story were intimately being written by God.
Significant of this long-distance romance, Ruben crafted a miniature red mailbox for Carmen, with a letter equally as small addressed to the love of his life in Puerto Rico.
Ruben’s heart poured out to Carmen as a sonnet,
When I give my heart, I give it completely.
If I fall for you, will you catch me?
After seeking a father’s blessing for his daughter’s hand in marriage, Ruben proposed to the love of his life with Niagara Falls as the backdrop to their picture perfect moment.
A smile that beamed from an overflowing heart thru the windows of her eyes,
Carmen said yes and they were married in Puerto Rico on a beautiful day,
June 19, 1988.
An old fashioned relationship of hand-written letters
Brought them to the steps of a holy altar;
Sacred marriage vows to:
Love and to cherish
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
Ruben and Carmen loved each other for a lifetime.
Ruben and Carmen were committed to their vows of promises for thirty-two glorious years.
Their vows of
In sickness and in health
Was their living testimony, a God centered example of marriage to that difficult fork in the road called Unto.
Woven into the remaining moments and days Carmen shared with her beloved, she reminded him how forever grateful she was of the Godly man that had faithfully served her, a servant whose greatness was witnessed in the little things; grocery shopping, meal preparation, finances.
Carmen reminisced Ruben’s Hallmark store of greeting cards he sent her, being mindful of the man she loved so dearly, mindful of a husband’s details that remains hidden in a place recessed in her heart, reserved only for him.
Carmen celebrated the songs Ruben dedicated to her, music which always takes her back to their place, their life; their scrapbook of memories.
Carmen thanked her romantic husband for that hidden garden he must have been secretly tending to, that special place just for her where he picked the prettiest bouquets of flowers for his wife most deserving.
Even in Ruben’s darkest hour, he was still found loving his wife; still keeping his God ordained post to inquire of any concerns, to encourage his beloved wife in the Lord, leading her to stand on the word.
The steps of a righteous man enters into praise as his teammates sang over him, keeping a soldier’s promise, “leaving no man behind.”
Pushing through excruciating pain, Ruben’s groaning’s of praise wafted to heaven a sweet fragrance to God,
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalms 23:1, 4, 6 (KJV)
Ruben sent one last letter, hand-written from the pen of his heart-felt love and addressed to his siblings,
“Please tell all my brother’s I love them.”
On February 27, 2021 that morning, the brother’s shared a “last call”, a final moment on the field honoring team member No. 5, a text message at six-thirty am that morning rejoicing as Ruben finally received his eternal reward.
Moments of silence flowed into rivers of tears.
Tributes to Ruben’s life were noted in part on social media…
Pastor and Nephew Jeremias Alicea – Ruben was a godly man, a pioneer in his church, and a devout follower of Jesus Christ. He always had a heart for people and I think it was, in part, because he understood the struggles of those who were marginalized. I am so glad he is no longer suffering and that he is rejoicing in heaven with many who have gone on before.
Niece Raquel Clay – Death is a beautiful thing when suffering is on the other side! I am grateful that my uncle is no longer suffering, but is fully healed and with his mother again in heaven! I rejoice in the memories of my uncle and hold onto the truth of what’s to come. Death is only the beginning, not the end!
Over the last two weeks a team has been planning to honor one of their own.
But the singing has already begun.
When We All Get to Heaven
By Alan Jackson
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be.
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory.
The family rejoices for the streets of gold their brother walks.
The team rejoices for the heavenly reunions already taking place.
The celebration of five brothers
Now becoming four
In letting go their brother who has just seen Jesus.
No. 5 has been retired to the Brothers Hall of Fame.
Around the dinner table there still remains five chairs and five plates;
The emptiness of one chair and one plate speaks loudly to a family’s loss and void.
Five brothers never imagined one without the other.
Memories never leave or abandon the heart.
But embracing the loss of being five is most difficult.
Niece Raquel Clay said it best,
Death is only the beginning, not the end!
We rejoice for you, our brother Ruben.
We promise to take care of your beloved Carmen.
The team will never be the same without you.
We find comfort and hold near your last words on earth,
“Stand on the Word.”
“All I know is that He redeemed my soul.”
Where once they were five, Now they are four.
But we will all see Ruben again one day.
Who knows when that one day will be?
But there’s comfort for all of us to think about that one day we will see Ruben again.
It’s like that reassurance Carmen had for thirty-two years when Ruben kissed her good night before sleep and a husband’s voice could be heard in the dark,
I’ll see you in the morning.