THE RACE MUST CONTINUE!  By Lori A Alicea

My brother has loved the races all his life; in particular,
The Indianapolis 500.

Maybe the raceway takes him back
To the driveway playing with Matchbox cars as a young boy.

Maybe my brother never outgrew the need for speed.

Maybe the thrill for fast and furious was in his blood.

Maybe he kept those engines running in his model car collection.

Maybe the Indianapolis 500 replays those old 8 millimeter movies of Dad taking his son to the Indy Time Trials, and then sharing race day together come Memorial Weekend.

The Indy Time Trials was an annual getaway for dad and my brother.

Mother would always send a cooler full of food, making sure a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken accompanied the trip.

Packed air mattresses were a mystery since dad drove a Volkswagen Beetle, but they were packed nevertheless.

We five sisters never felt slighted when dad left us behind for a man’s weekend with our brother. Maybe all it took was dad loading up the station wagon one Saturday night with us young girls carrying packed lunch boxes to the noisy drag strip to scar us for the races.

But the Indianapolis 500 was always their day, and we celebrated that memory for them.

Even after the passage of time when dad and my brother watched the race from the comfort of their own state and La-Z-Boy, the telephone kept their annual getaway alive for 500 miles each Memorial Day, until dad passed away a few years ago, and my brother, a few days ago, as a kiss from God, on race day.

mark connie at indy 500

This past Memorial Day, the crowds were on their feet cheering in a deafening decibel as the checkered flag is waved with great enthusiasm as my brother crosses his own finish line with this announcement blaring in the stands,

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7 NIV19CAA216-6F52-4490-99DB-185DA7EA55D9

Sporting a giant flowered wreath after the win and keeping with tradition a swallow of ice-cold milk, our brother holds the milk bottle to that great cloud of witnesses of his life in declaration,

THE RACE MUST CONTINUE!

My brother was never a quitter.

He fought with every lap around the racetrack.

He honored those fans that fought for him in prayer
During the most difficult race of his life in a personal text message to me,

It’s all because of the prayer warriors
I have like you.
So Christ-like.
I love you.
Mark Houle

My brother’s memory is now waving the flags to encourage us
As we continue our race.

The green flag is waved for the start or restart of our individual races.
Start your engines.”
Start your race with prayer.”

My brother was never shy about prayer.

Brother’s prayers were War and Peace in length which meant our holiday meal was blessed but also cold as ice when mother without question, called on him to pray over dinner.

While pregnant with my first child and attending a tent revival complete with straw beneath our feet in 1983. My brother led me to an old fashioned altar to pray over his sister before she journeyed this new race of motherhood, speaking the sweetest blessings over me and my unborn son.

Stay in your lane.”
Stay in prayer.”

As the yellow flag of caution and hazardous conditions
Will eventually be waved and find you leaving the race for a pit-stop.

Six years later after my brother’s tent revival prayers,

The yellow flag goes up as the engine of my heart overheats during a car failure of my life. In the pit-stop with no place to go and having never been on my own before, I remember lamenting with my brother among the pit crew asking if my small children and I could live with him in Texas.

After an inspection under the hood, my brother and pit crew sent me back into the race, knowing Jesus had taken the wheel long ago when I said “yes” to him as a teenager, who would never steer me into the wall as long as I continued to stay in the race, stay in my lane.

Regardless if our race has unnumbered miles ahead, my brother waves the white flag to remind every driver to brace the wheel as if your race’s final lap is before you, as no one knows when the angel of death will come.

Lord, teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 NIV

The reality of eternity weighed heavy on my brother for lost souls and his deep compassion for their eternal destination presented itself in a play at the church he attended,

Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames
By Reality Outreach Ministries.

In this play the ache of my brother’s heart cried out to those he desperately wanted to share heaven with.

Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”
Where will you spend eternity?”
The fiery flames of Hell are real!”
Is your name written in Book of Life?”
Being a good person won’t save you.”
Don’t worry about what your friends will say.”
You are only guaranteed this moment in front of you.”

Choose you this day whom you will serve…
Joshua 24:15 KJV

My brother finished his race.

My brother kept his faith.

Just a week ago my brother was waved the white flag signifying the final lap of his race.

But his life’s message lives on in our races when he,

Sported a giant flowered wreath after his win and kept with tradition a swallow of ice-cold milk, and held the milk bottle to that great cloud of witnesses of his life in declaration,

THE RACE MUST CONTINUE!
IMG_0411
Your memory will forever hang from the rear view mirror of my life
As I continue the race before me.

Your sister,
Lori A Alicea

NOW THEY ARE FOUR…By Lori A Alicea

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.

IMG_7601

But now they are four.

A team of five brothers they were.

IMG_7617

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.

david and alicea brothers dancing at raquels weddings

A team of soldiers “leaving no man behind” when he’s down.  A team of five hearts loving one mother and father.

DAVID BROTHERS NATE JAKE 025

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.

DAVID BROTHERS NATE JAKE 015

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.

DAVID BROTHERS NATE JAKE 016Then 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.USE HAND WRITTEN LETTER

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,
Unto death.

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
Unto death

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.”
And
“All I know is that He redeemed my soul.”IMG_8128

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.