Update: J.J.’s friend Jake Midkiff has created a uber-tribute website for J.J. that provides a glimpse into how fun-loving, quirky, and in many ways irresistible J.J. was.
As many of you know, today is the one-month anniversary of my little brother J.J.’s death. If you don’t know the details, he went into cardiac arrest while exercising on a treadmill at the gym on February 11. The medical examiner still has not concluded the cause of death, but the family should know in a few days (hopefully). The only one with him in that last hour that he knew was his good friend Raj.
The last month has obviously been difficult for family and friends. Many bittersweet moments of healing have come between family who were for one reason or another at odds with one another. I say “bittersweet” because my family is a real family, a family composed of sinners who love the Lord and experience his grace in real life. There have been bitter moments of brokenness, despair, and the dark night of the soul. There have been moments when we have hurt one another with our words, actions, and inactions. And there has been a lot of weeping for J.J., who was a great brother, son, cousin, and friend by all accounts. We are not a perfect family and we’ll never be featured as one of those perfect Christian families to emulate at those perfect family churches that irritate during times of death and mourning. Besides, those families are a myth anyway. They don’t exist in this broken, sinful world that is being redeemed one family at a time by Christ. But there have also been sweet moments as well. J.J.’s funeral, which I had the great privilege to help prepare with my brother Steve, sister Katie, and my parents, was certainly glorious. I don’t mean that it was a “celebration” service. No, it was really a funeral, with mourning, crying, hope, remembering, encouraging, and longing for heaven and the resurrection of the body when death will be no more. The wake and funeral were especially helpful to me for healing because so many of J.J.’s friends, our extended family members, other friends, and our church family expressed so much support and shared in our grief. It was such a blessing to see and hear from them. Thank you so much to those who came to see us or wrote a note of sympathy. You showed you truly loved J.J., and love us.
I still miss my little brother. His given name was Jonathan, but we called him J.J.. I called him “bratty ol’ saint J” when he was little, but I mostly remember him as a young man who became my friend. We were both busy with our lives, but he loved me and my wife and kids, and he went out of his way time and again to spend time with us. J.J. and I are the only siblings to not move out of the area, and now I’m “home alone” in a sense. Yes, I wish that my other brothers and sister will someday move closer, but I’m thankful for their love and friendship, and the open invitation we have to their homes. It was a special gift to me that I got to share with J.J. when unexpectedly he showed up at my door on Sunday morning February 10 to go to church with me. My daughter was so excited to see him, and she sat on his lap during the service. After church, he had lunch with us for the last time. The next day would be his last and he is now in heaven.
Although he left us behind, I’ll never forget him. My family feels incomplete without J.J. the prankster, J.J. the curious aspiring intellectual, J.J. the young entrepreneur, J.J. the baby in the family, J.J. my friend. I’ll see you again in heaven someday, my brother. Thankfully I don’t have to wait an eternity, but we’ll have an eternity together again.