The news of my friends passing is still not quite real yet. My mind knows and understands. My faith is firm. My heart though, my heart hurts. My heart aches for another message, another selfie, and another hug and laugh. My heart wants to look over and get a sneaky grin from him in the pew on Sunday morning. My heart wants to hear his music. My heart it wants a lot, but my God has bigger and better plans for my friend.
Here is the thing about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It gives you roots about God, Christ, and how to function when the storm comes falling down on you. It gives you friendships. It provides you a foundation that lasts. My foundation doesn’t have to be in the church history that is constantly thrown in all our faces about what was done and what wasn’t, but it’s a foundation in Christ.
I sat in my friend’s funeral and all those conversations keep running through my head that we had had of the gospel. Of Christ. Of his testimony. He was stronger than I’ll ever be in the faith. He never turned his back on the institution as he fought his own personal battles and had overcome so so so many. He never ever denied Christ. He never ever denied the beauty of the gospel. He never denied our friendship. He never denied me.
The thing is, Jared- he didn’t deny Christ. He didn’t deny the gospel. He didn’t deny me. He was a faithful and loyal friend. Sure, everyone has those moments in high school, but people change. You grow up. We grew up together. We realized our lives had different paths— but one thing we did have in common was our roots. We were each others roots.
He is one of the reasons I was baptized at the age of 8. I was scared but he held my hand and told me not to be.
He and I attended the LDS temple together for the first time at the age of 12.
He and I went to so many youth activities, I can’t count. We broke rules. Stayed out way too late. I remember one Youth Conference in particular we escaped from our cabins and sat on a log and talked and laughed and talked. We played music way too loud and had misappropriate comments at every church meeting possible. Even at 34 and during the past Christmas, there was a very loud sound from the back. Maybe someone was having stomach issues. I dunno, but I looked up and there Jared was giving me that smirk and I was laughing in the middle of sacrament being passed. I felt like I was 14 again and passing really stupid notes.
He and I led different lives as adults and even those paths divulged, the church, the gospel, our common ground where our roots ran deep always brought us back to our old stomping grounds.
Like so many others, he played music at my Mom’s funeral in 2006. He came to the house and he hugged me and hugged me some more and he said ” don’t worry about the music, I know what Sue liked.” He played absolutely beautifully and I still can’t listen to “I believe in Christ” without tearing up.
Just a month or so ago we sat on the couch in the lobby. We chatted about life. Goals. What we want in the future. We talked about relationships. We talked about God. About forgiving. Then we sat in silence and he said “hey, you are beautiful, you know that right?” and I cried. He laughed and said “I pick on you because I’ve always felt like you were my family and that’s what we do –we pick. You know that. But you are. You are beautiful.” I laughed cried and then we joked about how Max needed a nice pressed suit soon.
He had no idea I needed to hear that. He had no idea I had stood in front of the mirror before church and felt disgusted at how I looked. He had no idea, but he was prompted to tell me and I am forever grateful he did.
When I was 6, my Mom wanted me to play the piano. She signed me up for lessons. I took lessons for a long 8 years. Piano lessons were held on Thursday at the Luthern church in McCoy. Piano lessons were not my thing, but I did it- because well my Mom wanted me to. One particular year, I had been asked to play in a recital. I knew no pieces to play nor had any interest to pick one out. I could only think of a stuffy church on a pretty May Sunday as a miserable place to be. I was maybe in 6th or 7th grade. Jared helped me out. He taught me to play the entire song “The Rose” and within a few weeks of only practicing at church, he and I had mastered the song. I don’t recall what award or what I was honored with at that recital, but I left with some type of certificate. It was the one and only recital I ever participated in. I stopped playing piano shortly after.
I have not played nor heard the song “The Rose” in years. I had not even thought about that piano recital in years. The Monday after his funeral, I took Mallie to her dance class. My husband is the one that usually takes her. On this day I was able to leave work in time to do so. About half way through the class I hear her dance instructor say “alright, let’s practice ballet.” Mallie runs in. I change her shoes. She runs back out. I am in conversation with a friend and I hear the song, “The Rose” being played very loudly. My friend looked and said ” what is wrong, Liv?” My eyes were full of tears and I excused myself. All of those memories came rushing to my eyes and I looked up and saw my beautiful daughter dancing to this song. How? What? Why? These were my initial questions….
Maybe it was coincidence that Mallie’s dance instructor chose “The Rose” for their ballet piece in their spring recital- maybe it wasn’t. I don’t believe in coincidences. I don’t believe in random things that happen at random times.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell once explained: “None of us ever fully utilizes the people-opportunities allocated to us within our circles of friendship. You and I may call these intersectings ‘coincidence.’ This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by ‘coincidence’ but … by ‘divine design.’”5
I KNOW this was Jared’s way of saying “I love you too friend.”
Basically, I have to write to heal. His death has absolutely taken me to my knees. In my prayers I have found peace and I found comfort and I have sensed he is close. Hearing that song only confirmed my peace.
He told me I was beautiful, but he is the beautiful soul that I miss. Today I opened my phone at lunch time and I realized I had to write all this down because I was still looking from a message from him telling me about the gym….and about his family…and about his weekend plans…and about his Easter outfit…..
So instead I wrote. And I played The Rose very silently in my office. And I shed tears because this is the only way my heart knows how to heal…..
I will love you forever my beautiful friend. Keeping playing the music for all of us to hear.
Neal A. Maxwell, “Brim with Joy” (Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 23, 1996), 2, speeches.byu.edu.