Yesterday's post, complete with Hannah Montana references, elicited a bittersweet email from West Virginia. Yesterday evening, I received in my inbox a message from Charles Jenkins, one of my favorite people in the world! Charles shared this picture of his wife Linda and her opportunity to meet Hannah Montana's dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, in Ashland, Kentucky.
Charles and Linda are two of my favorite people in the world because of the bond we share in their sons. Charles and Linda were blessed to be the parents of two wonderful sons, Jonathan and Matthew.
What caused Charles's email to me to be "bittersweet" was the reminder that nine years ago Sunday, Jonathan passed away. At the tender age of 19, Jonathan was taken from us all too quickly, the result of a tragic accident in a construction zone on I-64 near downtown Charleston, West Virginia.
Just last week, I was revisiting a letter I've held and treasured, written to me by Jonathan back in 1995. I had the privilege of serving as Jonathan's youth minister. I had the privilege of baptizing Jonathan. And I had the honor, painful as it was, nine years ago tomorrow, of officiating Jonathan's funeral.
On that day nine years ago, I shared with the overflow assembly Jonathan's own words, words I still treasure as a calling from a friend and a brother:
I want people to know who I am and what I am all about
Do you know who I am?
An imitator of Jesus...I want to be Jesus!
When people see me, I want them to see Jesus in Jonathan's heart
Can someone say that about you?
Are you humble, patient, compassionate, loving?
Are you Jesus day by day?
We are not perfect, but we strive to be
Do you strive to imitate Christ everyday, in every situation, in every downfall?
I AM MINE NO MORE!
And in his typical signature, it was signed with a cross and a heart and in script, "Jonathan -- 1 Cor 10.13".
Charles and Linda, I know these days bring back haunting memories of an event no parent should ever be required to endure. And know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, then, now and forever. The influence of your son upon others remains an enduring reminder of his tender faith and your skilled, faithful parenting. Though Jonathan is with Jesus now, the story of how Jesus influenced Jonathan still impacts people to this day. Our hope remains steadfast...death doesn't have the last word!