Here’s how life can work sometimes.
Friday night, you go out with a best friend and have a great time.
Saturday morning you get a phone call from his wife saying he died in a car crash.
The following Wednesday you are speaking at his funeral.
I keep finding myself thinking about Jason without realizing that I’m thinking about Jason. Shaking my head and saying, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand.”
Other times, I’ll find myself trying to somehow undo everything with the power of my thoughts and the strength of my love for Jason and his beautiful family.
We didn’t go out at all.
We went home earlier.
We went home later.
That’s how the grieving mind works, I suppose. The grieving mind of a best friend at any rate. I can’t even contemplate the workings of the grieving mind of a wife or a daughter or a son. Or a mother or a father or a brother.
About all I truly understand about the past week of my life is that I’m not ready to let Jason go. What follows is the eulogy I gave at my friend’s funeral service. All I have are my feelings and my words and I am doing my best to use them to help Jason find a permanent spot within all of us.
Father in Heaven,
Let the words that follow resonate and be remembered by everyone here. Because Jason Learman was a man worth remembering. Let them honor Jason and what he stood for. Because Jason Learman was a man worth honoring. And may I do this in a way that he would have appreciated.
I was with Jason the night he passed. As was always the case when we got together, we had a great time full of lots of laughs. But as was also the case when we got together, we talked about the things we cared about most in our lives – our friends and family. The love and pride Jason had for his family was beyond evident.
He talked to me that night about how much of himself he saw in you, Ben.
And he talked about what a mature young woman you had become, Amber. And what a special connection the two of you had developed.
Amber, Ben…your dad’s pride in you was boundless.
Amber, he told me how he really looked forward to taking you out for a drink when you turned 21 – perhaps you’ll let a few of your dad’s dopey friends do that when that time comes?
And Ben, we will save a seat at the poker table for you when the time comes. But only if you promise to throw a fit when you lose the way your dad used to.
Jason talked to me at length Friday night about how much he loved you and how things between the two of you had never been better. I always admired – truly, truly admired how the two of you loved and supported each other. How hard you two worked in supporting each other’s dreams and goals. Jason loved you beyond measure.
As his good friend, I admired Jason’s work ethic and his tremendous loyalty to family, friends, and his employer. I’ll miss his sense of humor and that bursting, booming laugh of his. And I’ll miss his sound, practical advice and his support. Whenever I’d find myself in a situation that I found ambiguous and wasn’t sure which direction I should take, he had a way of pointing out the black and white of my options. He could make the right choice seem so painfully obvious that I often felt stupid for not seeing it myself. Sometimes he would even say, “Derek, you’re stupid for not seeing that yourself.”
There’s a line from a poem by Thomas Campbell that has always spoken to me: “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
This room is filled with hearts that Jason Learman left behind. I feel him here, in my heart. He has been speaking to me a lot the past few days. And his voice has been so distinct and clear that I can almost make myself believe that it’s actually him speaking to me.
In fact, I do believe it’s him. I believe Jason became a part of me, that he changed me for the better and that’ll I hear his voice forever. I hope you all can do the same.
Candy, Amber, Ben…that voice you hear in your head and heart – Jason’s voice. Believe that it’s him. And talk to him.
I always thought of Jason as a good man. He was good and he worked to be better.
But the other day, in honor of her father, Amber posted to facebook:
rest in peace to the greatest man i ever have and ever will know. love you
And it occurred to me when I read that…Jason Learman was great. Not as measured by fame or celebrity or wealth or intelligence or good looks or hygiene or….I could go on and on. [Jason would have laughed at this]
What made Jason Learman “great” was his understanding of the value of “good.”
Jason’s greatness was in his goodness.
His time on this earth has passed. His goodness hasn’t. That goodness is in our hands now. Let’s spread it by sharing our Jason stories with each other. By telling his family what we’re doing – gestures large and small – in honor of their father and husband.
His goodness is ours now.
I love you, buddy.
I’ve long dreamed of becoming a prolific and successful author. To achieve greatness in the literary realm. And I wonder how many moments of goodness I may have overlooked while lost in the allure of greatness. Maybe it’s trite and maybe it’s cliche, but I have learned something in Jason’s death what I was incapable of fully realizing while he was alive.
As I said in my eulogy, his goodness is ours now. And my belief is that these words of mine are leading someone to:
- reach out to a friend or family member to resolve a long-standing conflict
- make a charitable donation in Jason’s name
- buy a dinner out for a family that can’t afford to do it themselves
- do something special for Jason Learman’s family: wife Candy, daughter Amber, son Ben.
If you do, please please share. Let Jason’s family know what goodness is happening in this world thanks to their father. Reply to this blog post and share what you’ve done. Share it on facebook and tag Jason Learman. Write an email or a letter to his family…whatever. But do something for Jason Learman and his family. Your goodness will aid their grief.
You have the power to help heal. Use it.