I am a really ugly crier – it is like my body tries to scream, laugh, and hiccup all at the same time – so I don’t tend to let it out when I am around other people. Yesterday morning I let the shower drown me out. Death always hurts more when it’s unexpected, when it is someone you know, someone you care for; but hearing of Jon’s death shook me deeply, deeper than my soul has shook in a long time. The years of fictionalizing death was met with a heavy dose of reality. I just remember thinking, “I didn’t know sorrow could be so much stronger than joy.”
There is this tension between distraction and focused grief. I want to weep over Jon’s passing, remember the moments we shared as friends, read how he has immeasurably influenced the lives of others, and focus my grief. But after a few hours, the sorrow just becomes overwhelming, and I resolve to distract myself. Fifteen minutes later I’m drawn back to look at a picture of Jon, and I weep again. I want to miss him.
I’m trying to understand why I am so crushed – why I can’t get the image of Jon’s smile out of my head, why I can’t stop my eyes from swelling, why everything just seems so unimportant and important at the same time, why all I can think about is how much Jon will be missed by his friends and family. I don’t understand. But I don’t want to understand; because as soon as I understand, I can let my mind stop my tears. And I don’t want to stop crying. Jon deserved these tears. His life was worthy of my appreciation. That is what these tears are – they are tokens of my appreciation – they are tears of honor. It can sound ridiculous, but really there is no other way to describe them.
But I realized that I’m not crying for Jon. I’m crying for those who will never get to meet him. I’m crying for the people who will miss him, and the world that he influenced day in and day out. I’m crying over the testimony that he left.
I wasn’t Jon’s best friend, and he wasn’t mine. But we were brothers. He was “that” guy who always brightened your day, who never had a sad song to sing, who never left you in a bad mood, who always (I mean always) wanted to talk about what meant most – Jesus and His gospel. That is what made me love him.
I’m not crying because I miss Jon. I’m crying because this world will miss Jon. Pardon the cliche, but Jon “made the world a better place.” He brought Jesus – His love, His joy, His laughter, His compassion, His solemnity, His mission – to the world he lived in, the people around him. My cries are essentially saying, “I don’t want this. No. He can’t go yet.” Yeah, Jon is in a better place, but I’m sad that a better man has left this broken place. And he was an encounter with restoration in this broken world – that is what I’m going to miss, and that is what others will miss.
Time will drain me of the sorrow eventually. The hurry of life and other responsibilities will unfortunately push Jon into the background. I hate that. But it is necessary. You know why? Because Jon was not about Jon. “To tell others of Christ and His great worth. Living for a purpose greater than myself.” That was Jon’s Instagram summary of who he was – it was defined by Christ, who He was and what He has accomplished, and therefore living for His purposes. The image of Jon will start to fade. The remembrance posts will soon only pop up every once and a while. I am sure a wave of sorrow will come without warning years down the road. But you know what will not fade? It will be the image of Christ in Jon – the ‘purpose greater than myself’ that he committed his life to pursuing.
It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Jon was committed to having his greatest satisfaction being found in God’s glorification in and through him. Jon’s mission is over, but God’s mission isn’t. All mission resolves in worship, and Jon is freely delighting in that resolve – where death is gain. Me, however, I’m still trekking through this pilgrimage; and I’m sad that Jon won’t be there to encourage me in the fight.
Tonight, my sis and I will sing for Jon, but more importantly, we will be singing for the God Jon loved. It will be a sincere moment of honorable remembrance, but even more, it will be a proclamation of Jon’s inspiration to keep moving towards God’s mission – to make more worshipers for our glorious God. I can just see Jon smiling now, raising his triumphant fists in the proclamation of Jesus’ joyful salvation.