The following is a collection of readings and comments given by various people at Jeremy's funeral.
This reading is taken from a newspaper column written by a Texan named Paul Crume. Paul Crume had a column that ran on the front page of the Dallas Morning News for almost 25 years, from 1952 until 1975. The title of this essay is "To Touch an Angel" and it first ran on December 25, 1967. It has since been repeated by the Morning News many times. We have slightly shortened and abridged the essay for this reading.
A man wrote not long ago and asked me what I thought of the theory of angels. I immediately told him that I am highly in favor of angels.
Any adult human being with half a sense, and some with more, knows there are angels. If he has spent any period of loneliness, where the senses are forced in upon themselves, he has felt the wind from their beating wings and been overwhelmed with the sudden realization of the endless and gigantic dark that exists outside the little candle flame of human knowledge. He has prayed, not in the sense that he asked for something, but that he yielded himself.
Angles live daily at our very elbows, and so do demons, and most men at one time or another have yielded themselves to both and have lived to rejoice and rue their impulses.
But the man who has once felt the beat of the angel's wing finds it easy to rejoice at the universe and at his fellow man.
This sense of cosmos, or angels, or the divine accommodation of a man with the universe, usually happens to a man suddenly. Angels do not take part in work for civic causes or help raise money for the United Way. A single human being has to long to touch an angel before he can sense one.
It does not happen to any man often, and too many of us dismiss it when it happens. I remember a time in my final days in college when the chinaberry trees were abloom and the air was sweet with spring blossoms and I stood still on the street, suddenly struck with the feeling of something that was an enormous promise, yet was no tangible promise at all.
And there was another night in a small boat when the moon was full and the distant headlands were dark but beautiful and we were lonely. The pull of a nameless emotion was so strong that it filled the atmosphere. The small boy within me cried.
Francis Thompson said it better. He was a nineteenth century poet. Thompson had severe mental problems and also suffered from tuberculosis. He carried around a fishing creel into which he dropped the poetry that was later to become immortal.
"Angles keep their ancient places,
Turn but a stone and start a wing."
He was lonely enough to be the constant associate of angels.
There is an angel close to you this day.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand: one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
"LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you'd walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me."
The LORD replied:
"My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you."
Late last night, after the visitation here at the funeral home and after the many mourners had left my parents home, I struggled with trying to write what I wanted to share here today. There were things I wanted to say about Jeremy, and I asked my father for some help.
I gave him a few ideas, random thoughts really, to see if they were O.K. Now my Dad has been reading a lot these last few days. The bible of course, but also the Internet, reading sermons from one of his pastors in New York City, Forrest Church. Dad is going to talk a little more about Reverend Church in a moment. But he passed on to me a sermon where Reverend Church discussed a tradition from the middle ages, the idea of an Ethical Will.
The family is going to Atlanta to do the very difficult job of packing up and cleaning out Jeremy's apartment and office, and already the question has come up about what each of us might want of Jeremy's possessions, a watch, a ring, the television, a couch. But the things I want most from Jeremy, the things I treasure most about Jeremy, would actually come from his Ethical Will. And the beauty of an Ethical Will is that no one has to fight over any of these things. Jeremy left these items to all of us.
I would like to have Jeremy's impeccable sense of style and fashion. Whether it was a baggy pair of shorts, one of this 50 AUFO Footbag t-shirts and his freestyle shoes, or a dress shirt, slacks and a silk tie, Jeremy always looked the part. You know, last night, I was getting dressed for the visitation, and I had inadvertently brought a blue shirt that was very similar to one that Jeremy wore all the time. And I looked at the tie's that Jeremy's best friend Brock brought for us to choose from, and it was so much better any tie that I had. It was the perfect tie.
I would like to have Jeremy's sheer joy of life. His desire to live each day to the fullest. Jeremy's friend and room mate from Auburn University, Kelly Moon, wrote a touching letter to our family, and one of the many things she said, that stood out, was that Jeremy was "carpe diem, all the way." He went where his heart and imagination took him. After he graduated from college, he decided he would like to try living somewhere else for a while, so he just picked up everything he had, crammed it into his Prelude and drove to Colorado. He didn't have a job, or a place to live or anything, but he thought he would like snowboarding, so he moved there.
I would like to have Jeremy's ability to balance fun and responsibility. Jeremy could work hard all day and still find time and energy for friends, games and recreation every night and weekend. More remarkably, no matter how late he stayed up the night before, he always managed to get up in the morning and go to work or class on time.
I would like to have Jeremy's ability to make friends. Wherever he went, he touched people's lives. I come across people all the time in Birmingham, that had no idea we were brothers, but can remember exactly who he was. "Oh yeah, that tall skinny kid with the long hair, used to kick that hacky sack all the time. That's your brother?" No matter where he moved in the country, he always kept in touch with his friends. Whether they were in Texas, Colorado, Auburn, Birmingham, Phoenix or Atlanta, Jeremy would find a way to keep in touch, and see his friends.
I would like to have Jeremy's love and devotion to his family. For all the fun Jeremy was having in Colorado, hated that he could only see us 2 or 3 times a year. He pretty much applied for every open job at AT&T Wireless in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee just so that he could get something that was closer to us. We were all so glad when he got the job in Atlanta, but I think he was even happier about it. He was able to make weekend trips over to visit. He was so happy that could come over the day his nephew Hudson was born. He loved his nephews, Hudson and Seth, and they loved him. But Atlanta still wasn't close enough. He was really working hard to get a job in Columbus, so that he could be between Birmingham and Kosciusko. You know... I think he liked being the middle child.
Jeremy was always a generous person, and I know these are all things he would like us to have.
When Jeremy's grandfather, Charles Lent, passed away after a long a difficult illness, the family planned the trip to Lakeland Florida to attend the funeral. Jeremy was a student at Auburn University and to put it bluntly, he didn't want to go. Oh he couched his reasons carefully, too many tests, too many classes missed. Now, he did make the trip and was a great comfort to his mother and to the entire family. But he didn't want to go.
Well I want to tell you something, Jeremy doesn't want to be at this funeral either. And Jeremy, son, I want to tell you something, you are right. None of us want to be here either.
Brock Self, Jeremy's best friend, left the visitation about 30 minutes early last night. It had been a long and difficult four hours. Brock said to Candice and me when he left, "You know, if Jeremy were here he would want to cut out early, too."
You see Jeremy loved life. He would have rejoiced in the laughter, treasured the remembrance and shared in the tears. But he would have liked the wake a lot more than the funeral.
Jeremy loved people. He loved and treasured his family. After college, he wanted to go out and see and live in other places. But he first chose Colorado, so he could be near his grandmother. More recently though he wanted to return home, to the south to be near his two brothers, their wives and his new nephews. He stood by his brother Zak's side at his wedding last year. And he was in Birmingham the very day Evan and Lara's son Hudson was born, driving over from Atlanta while talking on the cell phone to Evan who was in the delivery room. Jeremy was one of the very first to hold baby Hudson.
There are so many things I want to tell you about Jeremy. Too many I fear, because I know Jeremy wants me to "cut out early, too." But a very special memory was our trip to Montreal Canada to see Jeremy compete is the World Championships for Footbag, or HackySack as it is sometimes called. Jeremy had always been the athlete of the family. He excelled at sports and loved them. But footbag was his passion, he practiced for hours every day.
That was the first of three World Championships Jeremy participated in. I don't remember his final rank that year, it was a tough competition, but I think he finished around 70th. In the world. We were unbelievably proud, not just of his rank, but also his desire and his sheer joy of competition. We loved every event and match.
Jeremy loved to compete against himself, not others. The people he competed against were his friends. His goal was always to increase his personal best. Ultimately he was ranked in the top 30s in the world and number one in the southeastern United States.
The people he competed against were his friends. Almost everyone Jeremy met was his friend. He loved his friends. He loved his family. And we all loved him.
That is what has struck me most these last few days. The amazing outpouring of love. Love for Jeremy, love for the family and love for one another. Jeremy's friends have traveled here today and yesterday from Atlanta, Auburn, Washington, California, from all over the country. And I was struck that every one said the same thing. They said they loved Jeremy.
And Candice and I and my family are blessed by the outpouring of love from this community. The Lord blessed us by moving us here to Kosciusko. We would never make it through this without all of you whose love has now touched us so deeply.
When I was young, early in my business career, I had to travel to New York City for a week every month. I had the opportunity to attend All Souls Church in New York City and got to hear and even know personally Reverend Forrest Church. Over the years I have collected his sermons and read his books. During this time of crisis, I read many of Reverend Church's sermons for aid and comfort.
In a sermon he delivered just last April, titled Love After Death, Reverend Church told of the death of his father, Senator Frank Church of Minnesota. Those of you who are old like me, will remember the fiery Senator Church who was often called the conscience of the Senate. Forrest Church was grieving over the death of his fifty nine year old father. Forrest's then five year old son, Frank, who they called Twig, came in and tried to comfort his dad.
Twig said, "God is not the only one who lives forever Daddy. Love lives forever, too."
As a child of the sixties, I was immediately reminded of this verse by the Beatles, "And, in the end, the love we take is equal to the love we make."
If that line by the Beatles is true, and I believe it is, then Jeremy, my son, your love was powerful and vast. And the proof is all the love that returned to us here and now, when we needed it most. Love that has been carried in the hearts of all your friends, your loved ones and your family.
I am going to "cut out early" by reading the words that Reverend Forrest Church used to close the sermon I mentioned moments ago. I read Reverend Church's words, but they are my words, too.
...about love after death, we surely know. I learned this from my father, as he did from his father and grandfather before him. I learn it also from each of you. The one thing that can never be taken from this world, even by death, is the love we have given away before we die. For love, I swear it, is immortal.
I ask you to join me in the prayer Reverend Church used to conclude his sermon.
Dear God, thou who art greater than all and yet present in each, mystery of life's mystery, power of life's power, open our eyes this day, the one day we are surely given, to life's transient beauty, and sanctify our hearts in Thine eternal blessing, that we may enter thy Kingdom, the realm of eternal love.
Amen. I love you. And may God bless us all.
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