(July 11, 1980 – June 30, 2012)
A Tragic End
Around 4:45 pm this afternoon Jay Williams died from injuries suffered from falling off a roof while at work, eleven days shy of his thirty-second birthday. That may have been the cause of my friend’s death. But, that will never be what I remember most about him.
It is during events like this that we are confronted with some of the most difficult questions of faith. We are consumed with our sorrow and pain. We are riddled with questions that may never be answered. We are shocked into the unchanging reality that the one who died, we will not see again… this side of eternity. And here in lies the hope of the disciple of Jesus. We do not mourn like those who have no hope, Paul told the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
God never promised that our lives on earth would be long and filled with every pleasure we could fill it with. What he promised was that we would never have to go through anything by ourselves. Taking advantage of all of the wonders and opportunities of life will never be a sin. We just can not expect those things to fill our hearts and satisfy out deepest longings. I never knew what that meant until I met Jay Williams. He taught me how to see the good in every situation and how to fill as many moments as possible with all that you have to offer.
I was praying for a different outcome. I wanted to see Jay again. I want Jay to be at the Chrysalis Journey Weekend in five weeks talking about serving God and helping others see their own potential. That’s what I want, but that is not the truth. Jay has walked THROUGH death’s door. That is what death is. It is a door we have to go through because Jesus has not come back and shut it for good. And, until Jesus comes back and makes everything right again we will have to deal with tragedies and losses like this.
But, do you know what I hate more than the fact that I will not see Jay again until I die or Jesus comes back? I hate the crazy things that people will say to try and make his family feel better. I want to clear some things up right here.
- God did not need another angel. He has all the angels he needs.
- It was not Jay’s time. Jay had an accident because that is what happens in a fallen world, and that accident cost him his life.
- Jay is not looking over us. Jay is looking into the eyes of his Savior and is enjoying the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to him. Jay is better than he has ever been.
- Jay would not choose to come back. This is the hardest of all. If Jay would choose anything, it would be for all of us who love him to be with him, where he is with Jesus.
I do not say any of this to hurt, but to remind us all of what, I believe, Jay would want us to remember. Our loss and grief is great because we loved him and we will miss him. But, if we see death as the end of everything rather than as the passage to everything we will deny ourselves the peace of knowing that he truly is in a better place.
The Life and Legacy of Jay Williams
There are three things that characterize Jay to me. I found all of these characteristics to be true as I worked with Jay during Chrysalis this past year.
1. He loved Jesus.
Man, did he love Jesus. He was not willing to lose sight of him. In everything that he did and said, Jay wanted to help others understand what he had come to know and love about Jesus.
Jay was not a religious person, but he had an undeniable faith. He was not trying to impress anybody, and yet, we were all impressed with him. His faith was rich and deep and true. He did everything he could to let you know that you were a child of God without making you feel like there was something wrong with you if you were not yet one. Jesus defined who he wanted to be.
I have to say that Jay was one of the most Christ-like men I have ever met.
2. Because he loved Jesus, He loved others.
In the time that I knew Jay (which was not long enough), he never met a stranger. He may have found you strange, but that never stopped him from talking with you and engaging you in conversation. I may have been the only one he did this to, but he had an awful tendency of not looking me in the eyes when we talked. I know he was not intimidated, I do not think Jay was scared of anything. I guess he was just a humble guy and did not want to make anybody else feel uncomfortable.
It always amazed me how he could talk people into doing or trying things they would not have done on their own. I remember him tying a tight-rope thing to a tree and the back of a truck and trying to teach a few people how to get on and off without hurting themselves. That was just his way. He did not believe that people could not do things. They just needed somebody to believe in them. So, there was Jay ready to believe. He believed in others because Jesus believed in him.
3. Because he loved others, he tried to help others see Jesus.
Everything Jay did and everything he was gave Jay an opportunity to be a light for Jesus. Jay was not a preacher or an evangelist, but everything he did reflected his faith in Jesus. That is what he wanted most of all, for people to know the one who had changed his life.
I do not expect any words of mine to capture all that Jay was. I just hope to remind myself of all that Jay was to me and how I am a better man having known him.
I will miss you my friend, but the wait will not be long. I will see you soon enough.