The morning of January 6, 2013, my best male friend reached into his “jar of marbles” one last time. Jon likely didn’t realize that day – a Sunday – would be his final day on earth. He followed his typical routine: attending the morning service at Faith Temple, his home church, and leading the congregational singing. Later, that afternoon, he and his wife, Ann, enjoyed lunch at the pastor’s home.
Around 5:30 PM EST, Jon and Ann drove home and, after getting out of their white Blazer, he told her that he didn’t feel well and complained of pain in his chest. Ann insisted that they should go to the emergency room. Sadly, Jon never made it to the hospital. En route, his life on earth ended due to a massive heart attack.
Having this occur only 50 days after my mother’s funeral shook me to my very core. Another friend phoned me with the news of Jon’s death – and we both commented that he had no prior indicators of heart trouble. As the painful reality set in, I felt like something physically broke inside me. It seemed as if these “desert experiences” (facing adversity almost back-to-back) would totally crush me and I would never recover. While traveling to my friend’s funeral in South Carolina, I remembered that I’d been dreading the next trip home since my mom wouldn’t be there to give me one of her cheerful greetings and a hug. The weight of grief on top of grief seemed unbearable.
I could barely bring myself to look into Jon’s casket, the evening his family received friends. The man I had just talked to a week earlier was gone. There would be no more phone calls about what was going on in each of our lives, our dreams, and/or the next hunting season. I felt like my world was crumbling, as two huge pillars in my life were gone – my mother and now my best friend.
Ann asked me to welcome the attendees for Jon’s funeral. I accepted but didn’t know if I could string two sentences together without “losing it” emotionally. As Jon’s funeral service began, I walked behind the ministers, up the stairs and sat on the platform as Jon’s extended family walked in and filled up six pews. Waiting for the prelude to end, I asked God to help me make it through the welcome without falling apart. I glanced up and saw the hundreds of faces of people – the “tip of the iceberg” of the many lives my best friend had touched in only 41 years.
My mind drifted to a “picture” I had seen in July 2012 during a visit with Jon and Ann. After a service at Faith Temple, Jon leaned up against the back of a pew and talked with a couple of children. Within mere moments, at least a dozen other children and teens thronged near him. Jon talked and interacted with each young person, and his laughter echoed through the building, along with the youths’ laughter. Each child’s face was fixated on Jon’s face, open ears hanging on his every word. And like a lightning bolt this thought hit me, “There’s a picture of Jesus Christ and his ministry on earth! Children loved to be around Him.”
I analyzed that picture momentarily and realized that Jon was one of only a handful of people, whom I’ve met, who seemingly had “instant credibility” with children. Children sensed Jon’s heart of love for them and gravitated to him. I felt sad for those children in Jon’s life: that there was one less adult who provided a “picture” of Jesus’s love toward them – as I waited for Jon’s funeral to continue.
To be continued…