Monday, December 5, 2016

Rest In Peace, Justin...

At the front of the chapel the casket was in place. Spread across the top of the casket was an Alabama Crimson Tide football team blanket. Kenny Chesney's "Boys of Fall" played. Justin, an endearing twenty-seven year old, was being memorialized and laid to rest. His large, grieving family filled up a third of the pews. Sniffles and muffled cries of grief accompanied Chesney's ballad. A brief interlude followed Chesney, and the music changed to Amazing Grace.

I've know Justin and his dad, Paul, for over three years. Paul, I see on a weekly basis at his place of employment; I'm his chaplain. It is truly an understatement when I tell you that he is an inspiring father and caregiver. Paul's coworkers love and respect him. I became friends with his son Justin, by visiting him each time he was hospitalized. Each of those times he was in a life or death struggle. Each of those times we prayed for his healing. This last time God chose to take him home. He's completely healed now.

Justin never lived a day on this earth without physical struggle. Severe medical issues began the day he was born. Yet, you couldn't find a person who could recall him complaining a single time. No, Justin is remembered instead for his love for prayer--nobody left his side without him requesting you pray for him, and to say it mildly, he was an avid Alabama football fan (he even received a call from Nick Sabin).

One aspect of Justin's illnesses limited his ability to converse; he spoke few words. But Justin could always muster enough communication to say ROLL TIDE! My favorite part of each visit was to get him agitated by telling him I'd heard he'd switched SEC allegiances to Auburn University. He would smile and thrash and once again growl ROLL TIDE!

Justin's funeral service was beautiful and thoughtful and devoid of any pretense. His pastor delivered a sincere heartfelt eulogy, clearly describing Justin's indomitable spirit. Justin, as I said earlier was speech impaired, but being the overcomer he was, evangelized one of his nurses. How so? By insisting she pray for him before she left after caring for him. That prayer led a young woman, who herself was broken and searching, to turn to God for spiritual healing and deliverance.

During the eulogy, Justin's pastor had us--on the count of three--shout out ROLL TIDE to honor our fallen loved one. I wanted to hug the guys neck. He also graciously shared the Gospel. I wanted to hug his neck again.

I'm humbled and grateful for the opportunity I had to know Justin. I have a son who bears the same name, so Justin Smith will be forever remembered. I'm grateful for the three years I got to see Paul Smith's love in action as he prayed and cared for his dear son. I'm grateful for the inspiration that observance gave me to be a better human being, a more compassionate Christ-follower, and to embrace every opportunity to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

For my friends who read this, please pray God's peace, comfort, and awareness of His presence upon this family...        

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