One thing in life you learn to expect is the unexpected. We can be living our days as planned and then something out of blue comes and takes us by surprise. Often, these are exciting moments…the news of a child coming, a promotion at work, a friend coming to visit…many things that put a smile on our faces. Then there are those other moments…the not so exciting ones. In fact, some moments happen that make no earthly sense at all. But perhaps they do if we look deeper.
Six years ago, we had the blessing of welcoming a little spit-fire Guatemalan baby boy into our home. To say that he has changed our lives is a huge understatement. One aspect of our journey with him is that we have become friends with some of the greatest people we’ve ever known, and who have been on the same adoption journey as we have. My wife quickly bonded with the other mothers and lovingly refers to them as “doers”. If something needs done, they will do it. I can say the same about the dads. These people just have a heart to serve and put others above themselves…a true example of Christian love. One particular family quickly became close to us, and we found our morals, personalities, and opinions about life to be so very similar. This family has made a distinct impression on us however, because they deal with a lot of adversity, yet always have a spirit of joy and servitude. I struck a chord (literally) with the father, Jeremy, and truly would enjoy times we would have together, always learning from him. We would just sit, drink coffee, and talk about life. We both loved music and Jesus. We both loved our families. What impacted me the most was his peaceful countenace. You see, Jeremy had struggles. While he was a gifted leader in his career, being a nurse and director of a local heart hospital and helping others in their medical issues, he had physical struggles of his own. But you would never hear about it. He had battled multiple sclerosis for years, even though he was just in his early thirties. However, he was always more concerned with those around him. That’s just the way it was. A few years ago, things started to change medically and symptomatically for him, and it caused him to live life a little differently. Earlier this year, Jeremy decided to start living more courageously. He had always loved motorcycles, and one day, he just up and bought one. We all thought he had gone crazy, but he knew that at some point in his life, he wouldn’t be able to ride one, so while he had the chance, he was going to do it. Made perfect sense. He loved that bike and would ride it whenever he had the opportunity. One night, however, a simple bike ride to get dinner for his family turned out to be his last. He was taken to Heaven in an instant when he struck another vehicle. Time seemed to stop.
To know Jeremy was to know a man extremely dedicated to God and to his family. He grew up in a very conservative Christian home and that established an uncompromising attitude toward life. He loved his wife Sandy. He loved his four children. He loved his career. He loved caring for people. His greatest fear however was that his MS would take such a toll on him that he would be a burden to his family. You see, he was a provider and protector. He wanted to make sure his family was going to be cared for. But he realized that his illness was a reality and that it would eventually take its toll, so they started planning for it. They also started doing more things together as a family. They started gripping life by the tail and running with it. In fact, just one week before he passed, they spent a week at Disney World enjoying each other and celebrating life. He lived bravely, not safely.
Its interesting that an individual who had dedicated his career to helping the hearts of others, had the biggest, most beautiful heart of all. He stood strong in his faith, yet humbled himself to others as a servant. Often times as a society, we get so obsessed with mindless details that we miss the beauty of life. Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to kick us upside the head and refocus us. With the passing of this dear friend, I can tell you this. I will never again obsess about the trivial. I will recognize each day as a true blessing that God has given me. He has blessed each of us beyond what we deserve and we need to ALWAYS have a grateful attitude for it. We also need to jump into life and be brave. While that doesn’t justify silly behavior, it does call us to be confident in what we do and trust that our steps are ordered. It also calls us to help those around us. Its so easy in this me-oriented society to be isolated and independent. But that’s not how God has called us to live. He wants us to invest in each other, lifting each other up. Carry someone else’s burden for a little while, and you’ll suddenly feel your burdens don’t weigh that much. That’s how Jeremy lived his life, and while we mourn his loss to all of us, especially his dear family, we rejoice in knowing that his Christ- centered life and attitude has allowed him to literally be at the feet of Jesus now. No doubt about it. His house was in order. He is rejoicing in eternity and is without any more struggles. And for us, he has shown us how to live, and to walk along with each other until we see him again.
So go. Live your life to the fullest. Be brave. Invest in your family. Invest in your friends. Be a light to the world and let God make your heart beautiful. I’m so thankful that I had the chance to see what a beautiful heart looks like. Jeremy, thank you for the life you lived. You can know that your family will be alright because we’ll make sure of it. We’ll see you soon, friend. Do us a favor though, and save a seat for us at the table.