Sunday, January 21, 2007

A dad's eulogy - Harvard Memorial Service

While J.B. attended school here at Harvard there were many times that I passed this church as well as spending time inside or on the steps outside. In fact, as you most likely know, his commissioning and graduation were held on the outdoor steps. What a wonderful and memorable time that was. Never would I have imagined that we would be back here so soon to remember and celebrate his life - a life that ended exactly a month ago today. But that is what we are doing, and in doing so we are learning of the value of a life well lived, no matter how short it might be.

A couple days after we’d heard about Jamin’s death when I was still crying and recoiling from the shock, I said to Becky, “I am so lost right now, the only thing I know I want to do is join the Air Force”. And that was said because of the professional and loving way that we were treated and cared for by every Air Force person with whom we had contact from the moment we were notified. During our brief time in Germany we felt the Air Force family continuing to wrap their arms around us. The wonderful memorial service there and everything they did - honored Jamin’s life far more than we could have ever imagined. I know there are a number of you here today who are currently in the ROTC program or actively serving in the military. To all of you for the sacrifices that you make to serve us, we can only say in words that are so inadequate -Thank You. Please convey our heart felt appreciation back to your comrades and commanders.

No sooner had word begun to spread of this tragic event than we began to hear from family and friends as well as acquaintances of Jamin’s, many of whom we had never met. We were, and still are, overwhelmed with the outpouring of concern, care and love that has been shown to our family. Many of you who reached out to us during this difficult period are here today and we want you to know that this gathering continues to demonstrate in a very visible way your love for Jamin and our family. So we say to you also, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your love and prayers. I can honestly say we have needed all the support you have provided.

Jamin would be very pleased to know that one benefit of all that has happened in the last month is that Becky and I have become good friends with one of his best friends - the computer. In the days that followed his death, particularly the early ones, we asked that no one call because we were honestly not capable of communicating verbally. But I want you to know that the emails, cards, and letters that poured in meant, and continue to mean, the world to us. We would sit at the computer and cry great tears as we read, from people we had never met, how Jamin had positively impacted their lives and from others how greatly they were going to miss his friendship, many talents and smile. Quite honestly, if we had instead heard those comments, they would have been much appreciated, but somewhat forgotten – even now. Through all those written testimonies of Jamin’s attributes and the loss that so many have experienced I found real substance to the quote sent by a friend, which read – “The loss is immeasurable, but also immeasurable is the love left behind”. To have your love and support conveyed to us in written form is now, and will continue to be, something that we savor and treasure.

I want to tell you that I have never considered myself to be good at conveying condolences to people, because I was not sure just what to do or how to do it – and I’m guessing many of you are in that same boat. Now, being in the midst of this great loss, I believe I know what to do. And the answer is simply - let the bereaved know you care in words that are, no doubt, best said in ways that are not eloquent. I think I will always carry with me the words we received from an extended family member who, probably because of also having experienced the loss of a child, wrote so simply and succinctly, “I wish you didn’t have to hurt so much”. And please never think it’s not enough to say “I’m sorry”, because those words convey a tremendous amount of love and concern. Finally, give out hugs. We should all get hugs daily, but most especially they are needed when a loved one is gone. A close family friend wrote, “tight hugs to all of you” - that spoke volumes.

Another way that love has been so visibly demonstrated to us is the way that people in Germany, Denver, and now here in Cambridge have rallied to meet our needs and provide everything necessary for this “awesome”, as J.B. would certainly call it, memorial service. As many of you may or may not know, he loved using superlatives. I don’t want to begin listing names for fear of missing some, but if you will allow us, Becky and I would particularly like to thank Jessie Bryan, Ryan Browne, Reverend Edington, and Sean and Judy Palfrey for all they have done to help us honor our beloved son, Jamin Buchanan Wilson.

In his early years as well as here at Harvard you primarily knew him as J.B. Although we loved the name Jamin we were somewhat hesitant to saddle him with such an unusual moniker at an early age. It’s a Hebrew name that is found in the Old Testament and is correctly pronounced Yameen – but we weren’t about to strap him with that pronunciation. Most of us know the name Benjamin, which means son of Jamin. What we found to be interesting was that as he grew older he preferred the name Jamin over J.B. and took pride in the name. We were drawn to the name because it means “right hand” or “right hand of God” and we felt sure he was going to be someone we could count on, as well as being a man who would do great things for God. Many were the times I prayed that he would fulfill his very special name. And never, as I mentioned earlier, did we imagine that his life would be cut so tragically short. But we now know that he was named correctly. First, because he truly did turn out to be someone who we all, family and friends counted on to do the right thing, the difficult job and the caring task, with what seemed like great ease and almost always, with a smile. We now also know, because of comments and tributes written by so many friends from his high school, college, and Air Force days, that there was a tremendous consistancy in how he treated everyone, no matter at which point he met them in life.

I also now believe, though he never went into some form of ministry, that he did great things for God by showing us how to live the life we are given at the highest level we can - with as much integrity, enthusiasm and joy as possible - while caring for and helping others - and doing it all with a deep sense of humility. If you know the scriptures you know those are Godly attributes. We all knew those were the traits he embodied, but it seems that only now after we have had to suffer this great loss do we fully realize that he lived the life to which we all should aspire - one of joyful optimism and complete enjoyment of the beautiful world in which we live.

Only when we see God face to face will we be able to understand why Jamin had to be taken from us so unexpectedly and quickly, but it helps me to think that perhaps he got to exit instantly, painlessly, and early because he got it right so soon. The rest of us, including myself, apparently have work to do. If we each one, and particularly those whose lives he touched, would follow Jamin’s example of a life well lived - by being more thankful for our station in life, being awed by even the ordinary in life, continually striving to excel in all that we do and taking on each day with joyful exuberance - then I propose to you ... what appears to be such a great loss in the death of our dear son Jamin, can be turned into great gain - both in our lives and ... the lives of those we touch. What he did do and could have done will be multiplied many times over. I’d also like to add that I believe those of you attending today from Harvard or MIT have a heavier responsibility than many others who knew J.B. to live out and pass on these characteristics which so positively impacted the people he met. To paraphrase the scriptures - To whom much has been given, much will be expected. I want to seriously encourage you to meet that challenge.

I hope that as you do so you can also do it with the full enjoyment of life that seemed to permeate Jamin’s time here on earth. As you continue forward from this day I want you to carry with you and live out the words of the very last entry that was made in his personal journal; a call to action that I believe he unknowingly wrote for all of us - it reads - So it’s all hands on deck; let’s unfurl the sails and follow the sun to the horizon fully enjoying this adventure that is life.

At the reception after the memorial service in Germany we overheard someone say, “can you imagine how GREAT Jamin thinks heaven is? to which another person replied, “yeah .... but do you really think there’s enough to keep him busy?” That’s our guy. Thank you so very much for coming to remember Jamin and honor the God who created him.

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