I had the privilege of being impacted by an incredible young man of God about six years ago. His name was Andrew.
I only knew Andrew for a short time. He was a senior in high school when I was only a freshman. We were both on the Student Council. He was the Student Body President and I was the ninth grade Vice President. There was no real reason he should have paid much attention to me, but he did. We went on the first planning retreat to Hilton Head Island our school ever had. Little did I know that what we set in motion that year would change the course of history at my high school.
I do not have too many memories of Andrew, but there are a few things about him that I remember and have been reminded of:
First, he was strong. I mean this in every sense of the word. Physically he was a monster. He was a solid, immovable force no matter the sport he played. If you ask anyone from high school what physical feature reminded them of Andrew it would have been his calves. He had the largest calves of anyone I had ever seen. His legs could lift an unbelievable amount of weight. He was as strong as an ox… or better yet, a tank.
He was also a strong leader. He had a magnetic personality that you just felt safe following. He was able to make decisions and delegate when he was the Student Body President. He allowed others to be involved but also knew when to take control. He led by example, not because someone told him he had to, but that was just the way he was. He knew the direction and wanted help lead you that way.
Second, he was contagious. I do not mean he was always sick; he had a contagious personality. He always loved to smile, laugh, goof around, and he somehow had the ability to coax you into doing the same. Granted, I was not one of those in his closest circle, but from the brief time I knew him and the stories I have heard about him, I know that he loved people with his whole heart and wanted to encourage them with everything he had.
Third, he was a worshipper. He had a natural ability and gift to lead others in music. I had the opportunity to work with him the same year we were on the Student Council on another aspect of our school in chapel. He led the praise band on a weekly basis and our team would interact with the band and to put together a set list and create a spiritual atmosphere. Andrew worshiped with all his heart every week, sang loud in front of all of his classmates, and played for the glory of God each time he set foot on stage.
Lastly, he was forgiven. I know from testimonies of close friends and family, as well as seeing his life on display for that one year, Andrew loved Jesus with all of his heart. He had a huge heart that loved people and wanted them to experience the joy and hope he had found through his Savior, Jesus Christ. No greater compliment can be paid to a man, in my opinion, than being called a man of God who followed Jesus every day of his life. I believe Andrew was that man.
Up to this point, I have been speaking of Andrew in the past tense not only because these memories go back to years ago but also because Andrew tragically took his own life on January 27th, 2012.
I had the opportunity to sit in a celebration service yesterday afternoon with 1,500 of Andrews friends and family as we all reflected and celebrated his life. During that time spent singing, listening, reflecting, and praying, I could not help but remember the words I have heard Louie Giglio speak time and time again when referring to death and funerals: “You preach you’re own funeral.” What he means is the way you live your life will speak louder than anything anyone can say at your funeral. The passion for which you pursue certain things in life will far outweigh the emotions people have on your last day on earth. Your heart will be on display to the people attending your funeral in the memories and impact that you leave behind, not the words that a preacher or relative say to a congregation gathered around casket. What you do in the appointed days you have to live will be the loudest words spoken in your eulogy.
And Andrew spoke volumes of love, compassion, joy, hope, laughter, and strength. He preached the best sermon out of anyone who stood on the platform that day. We know what Andrew stood for in life by examining the legacy he left in his death. My question to you is this:
What will you preach at your funeral?
Andrew, though I only knew you for a brief moment, I want to thank you for the impact you had on the lives around you. I want to thank you for the leadership example that you set before me and the life and energy you brought to a team that looked up to you. While I never knew you at a deeply personal level, I am thankful for the heart you had for others and the joy you brought into your family’s and friends lives on a daily basis. Providence was forever changed as a direct result of your leadership abilities, worship talents, and compassionate heart. Your legacy will live far beyond what you could have ever hoped or dreamed. Thank you for you loving Jesus and showing others what it looked like to love him too.