Today is a hard day for me, but I have nothing to write that hasn't already been written. I've had a couple of requests to post what I wrote and read at JD's funeral, and so I will. It's lengthy, poorly edited, and written exactly as I speak. I knew better than to try to present it like I speech... I stared at the paper and read the whole time. Now, I can't even believe I was able to get up there. I can hardly say his name without crying- hard to imagine I stood in front of hundreds of people and in front of his casket and made it through. Anyway, here you go:
Trying to find the words to summarize nearly 14 years with the most amazing, courageous, inspirational young man was proving to be very difficult. But after days of trying, I realized that a conclusion wasn't necessary, that while his time on earth seems way too short, the impact he has made, the lives he has changed, and ultimately, his eternity rejoicing and running the streets of heaven has just begun.
I can still see those big blue eyes, flat-top blonde hair, big missing toothed grin saying "Sissy, listen to what I learned in Sunday School..and he'd continue as he quoted John 14, 'Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Fathers house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you..'" I heard him say it so many times that I ended up learning it! I've always thought of those as JD's verses.. I've thought of that- of him saying those lines, over and over the last few days. A comfort for my heart,and really, I believe the Lord helping me then for right now. There's so much that we don't know, that we can't understand, so many why's... but we have to focus on what we do know. We know where JD's at. We know that he's no longer a cancer patient, that he walks just fine, talks just fine, probably cracking jokes and playing guitar. We know that in the presence of God is the fullness of joy, and that's what he's experiencing. No more pain, no more sorrow. Just joy.
With that said, I have a story I want to share with you, one that truly has changed my life and has enabled the last few days to be much more bearable. As you all know, the last month of JD's life was very very difficult. The last week, even more so. We watched him deteriorate every day and knew there wasn't much time left. Mom called us in at 6 a.m. on Friday morning and let us know that things were looking bad. We got there as fast as we could, and didn't leave his bedside the remainder of the day. It was heart wrenching, agonizing. At one point during the day, for some reason Mom looked up at the ceiling and casually mentioned that there was a rainbow shining in, a reflection from something, but nonetheless, a symbol of God's promise. Our attention quickly went back to JD and the next several hours seemed to take days. In that moment that we realized he had taken his last breath, though, those last days seemed like mere seconds and the heartbreak was incredible.
It was a moment of absolute despair, absolute desperation. For some reason, in the most sorrowful, devastating moment, Mom's mind went back to a few hours prior. In between sobs she said "Where's my rainbow now? God's promise. I need my rainbow right now." We all looked up and saw a blank ceiling.. but before we could even blink, the sun poked through the clouds, and wider than the hospital bed and so bold and bright, a rainbow covered the ceiling. Yes, God's promise. It may have been just light hitting a cd, but we'd been there for weeks and never seen anything of the sort. It was for us, for that time. In our darkest moment, the moment we needed Him most, He proved himself faithful. It's as if god wanted us to know, My promises are still true. I haven't left you. You are not forsaken. I am still good, and I am still love.
His promises are still true.
I've shared these things with you because I want to encourage you, as I fully believe my little brother would have me to do. He has made it very clear what he was about, what mattered to him, what he stood for. I don't know if anyone took a look around at the viewing last night, but I saw hundreds and hundreds of people whose lives have been changed by JD. I was so touched seeing all of his peers, and the vast differences between them. I know JD well, and I saw the heartbreak in these kids... He just loved. He loved everyone. Age, gender, size, economic status.. It didn't matter. He had a boldness that I admire so greatly.. He was so comfortable in his own skin. He knew what he believed, and he stood for it- whether it be his faith in Jesus, his, ahem, political stances, or favorite sports teams.. I want to be like that. He had a passion for living and a simple joy about him. His zeal for life was contagious, and he always knew how to make you laugh. I could go on and on, listing all the wonderful things about him, but you know, you know, so instead, I'll continue on.
I've heard so many people say that JD has changed their lives, that he inspired them.. I want to challenge you to continue on with that. Remain changed. Continue changing. As hard and as much as you prayed for him, pray for someone else. As much as you poured into helping our family, help others. Don't stop doing the things you've been doing. We have been so incredibly blessed by the outpouring of this community, by you, each of you sitting here... continue to be that. The unity we've seen, the love we've seen, the way people have cried out to God... don't let that stop.
You all are so familiar with Joshua 1:9 by now, our theme verse. I feel almost like it's broken into three parts for us,and now we're on the third. First- be strong and courageous. JD took care of that with ease. Second, do not be afraid or discouraged.. Well, we might've stumbled through that one, perhaps, but now third, finally: The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. He's going to keep carrying us through. His promises are still true.
JD did more in his almost 14 years than most do in a lifetime. My heart is broken. The hole I feel without my little brother here with me is tremendous. But I know where he's at, and I know what he'd want for me. He'd want me to keep putting Jesus first, keep loving my kiddos, keep laughing... and so that's what I'll do. Matthew 5:14 says You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. As a friend recently said to us, JD IS a city on a hill, and his light WILL NOT be hidden. Shine on, JD.