Jamie introduced me to Calvin and Hobbs. Periodically, he would even send clippings from the Rocky Mountain News. The brilliant… the simple… the depth … Jamie got it. And I loved that we’d discuss them… and laugh.
I remember looking through photos of him… suddenly seeing a distance… a sadness, pain in his eyes. Why hadn’t I sensed it before? I remember his visit the summer of 1991 before he and Heidi ventured to Washington D.C. He was distant… quiet.
At the funeral, I was asked to introduce the songs as well as be one of his pall bearers. For more of my words at the funeral, see … always holding somebody up … (part 1) . Some people are easily troubled, and everyone knows it. Others, like Jamie, carry burdens… alone.
My last memory of Jamie was at the Kansas City airport Thanksgiving 1991. As he walked away, I made the moo sound of a cow … loud & likely a little embarrassing for a seventeen year old nephew, but he turned around, looked at us… and laughed.
I remember his laugh… and all these years that have passed, I still wonder what silenced it.
As a result of Jamie’s death, concepts like salvation, sanctification, suicide, hope … and heaven stirred deeper questions about God Himself, how He sees humanity, and what Heaven is really like. God in His Providence brought me to a point of really dealing with eternity on deeper terms. Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven encouraged me deeply as I was considering Heaven- the Home place God’s prepared for His people. Theologically, I landed with the Perseverance of the Saints .
“He sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees.”
CS Lewis A Grief Observed pg 90
Even so, tears overtook me like never before in my life. I traveled from Tulsa to Houston quite a bit back in those days. While driving through a toll both, I remember reaching for my wallet. When I opened it up to pay the toll, I saw Jamie’s photo. I held it together long enough to pay the toll, but I had to pull over alongside the road. The tears and emotion… came unexpectedly.
“Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.
Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.”
Katharina von Schlegel “Be Still My Soul”
The depth of my own grief caught me off guard on several occasions. Yet, my heart ached deeply for my brother’s family … and Heidi. None of us will ever really be the same. Watching Heidi slip into her own silence… Where do we go from here?
Questioning, seeking… wondering about our own identity before the Sovereign God in light of Jesus Christ’s overcoming death… and ultimately God’s unveiled Identity as well.
Again, often when older people die, we loosely envision pearly gates beyond the clouds… heaven’s called them home. But, when a young person dies… especially by their own hand, I hear the music … His Heart … Heaven… drawing ever near.
We walk this out… For the Glory Yet To Be …yet, recognizing the peace, comfort, renew strength, and joy all come from His Grace, His Presence, His Nearness. We’re compelled to respond to Him and others… but how?