It is with the heaviest of hearts that I’m here today. I am Jenni Ward, Jake's oldest sister, and these are our siblings, Jessica and Jeff. We are a family who is heartbroken, but that is not why I am talking to you today. I want to share with you who Jake was to me, but first I’d like to start with a Dr. Seuss quote; one of a few I’ll share with you today – I guess my inner child comes out when I am sad.
"I’m glad we had the times together just to laugh and sing a song, seems like we just got started and then before you know it, the times we had together were gone.”
Now, if you knew Jake at all, laughter was a necessity in his world. He wouldn't let things stay too serious for long. He was a master at pranks, jokes, and bad smells – some of you know what I mean. Our family even had a joke about bottling them up and using them as weapons.
Jake was happiest with something in his hand, usually a fishing pole, but also a rifle for hunting, a football, or a bowl of cereal – the kid could eat. Some of his best moments were fishing. He knew all the local lakes, and even some far away. He was the MOST independent kid, from the very beginning. He was an early walker, climber, and runner. He was determined, and as kids we liked to test his determination. We took the greatest joys in watching him succeed.
Jake was well loved and he had many great influences in his. One of these influences was our brother, Jeff.
The name Jacob was a biblical name; it means "holder of the heel". It is in reference to Jacob and his twin brother Esau. For those of you who don't know the story of Jacob and Esau, Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright TWICE. And though my brothers weren't twins, Jake did hold Jeffery’s heel every chance he got. The biblical story of Jacob, as a prankster is not all too far off from the joke playing Jake I knew; he always had a way of getting what he wanted.
And though the story of Jacob and Esau may not seem the happiest of stories, it has a happy ending, the same ending I can I can only hope for my Jacob. As told in the Bible, God made Jacob a promise; he said, “And I am with you in your journey, and I will keep you where you are going, and will bring you back to this land. I will never leave you, and I will surely keep my promise to you."
According to the Bible, Jacob became the father of twelve sons which became the tribes of Israel. They were God’s chosen people and so are we. God’s greatest gift to us is that we are NEVER alone. He is always with us, and I take such joy in knowing that Jake is with Him now; holding His hand and at peace.
Jake was an amazing gift giver. We have piles of random but thoughtful gifts he has given to us over the years. Even in his death his gift giving spirit continues. Jake was an organ donor, which means he may be able to pass on the gift of sight with his beautiful eyes. He may be able to help someone with heart valves – bless the soul of whoever receives a part of one of the most loving hearts I’ve ever known. Through Jake’s organ donation, he may also bless those who suffer from bone cancer; may they feel the strength that this boy had. His gifts will continue on.
I thank you Jake for the best gift I could have asked for – every minute with you. Here comes another Dr. Seuss quote … “Don’t cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
As hard as it is knowing that Jake’s life was so short, I know we’re all here today because he touched our lives. Cherish every memory, every laugh, and every good time, because that is how we live on. I thank God that He gave us 15 years with this amazing young man.
I need to say thank you to my Mom for bringing Jake into this world. He was the greatest gift she ever gave to us.
To Mark and Janae – I know your arms are empty now, I know you wish you could hear his laugh, I know you would love to see his face, and I promise you will again. It may seem too far away, but it isn't. He loved you guys so much and the love you had for him was more than any kid could hope for. For now, your grocery bill may be a little smaller, but he is feasting on in heaven. I can't wait for us all to be united again. Thank you for all you did for him.
As much as we may feel like Jake’s story is about a tragic loss, it isn't. I want to address all of you, especially the young people, with final Dr. Seuss quote.
"Life's too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don't and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it'd be easy, they just promised it would be worth it."
This life is HARD and sometimes tragic; sometimes it feels like tomorrow seems too impossible. I get it, I’ve been there. I have stood in those dark places, I have felt too scared to wake up, and I have heard those mean comments. I have felt lonely, unloved, and afraid. It is brutal, but it is part of the journey. Nobody said it would be easy, but they did say it would be worth it. We could all call it quits, and some of us have every reason to, but let me tell you, the beauty that waits for you tomorrow makes it WORTH hanging on.
Last summer Jake had a job building playgrounds. He was up at the butt crack of dawn. I got many time stamped snaps of the sunrises he saw. I wish now I had thought to screen-shot every one of them, but I didn't. So this morning knowing that the sunrise would be at 7:12 am, I got up and went to the lake and watched the sunrise with him.
The next time you feel like you can’t handle anymore, turn off your phone, shut off all the negativity and forgive those who’ve hurt you. Go hug your mom, dad, sister, brother, or your best friend. Pray for Jesus to hold you, and in the morning go watch the sunrise. You will see all the beauty that is here. You will find your hope, you will find your peace, and you will see that it's all worth it. Give yourself the gift of tomorrow. Jake would want you to.
The final thing I want to share with you today is Psalm 34:18
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
We are all brokenhearted, we are all crushed. But the Lord is here. I can feel Him, I know you can too.
Thanks to Jenni for sharing this beautiful and heartfelt message with all of us.
Blessed │ Wife │ Mom │ Friend │ Founder of GOOD │ Author │ Public Speaker │ Golf Fanatic
It took me years to find my voice and even longer to learn how to use it so that I’m creating GOOD rather than just fighting the bad. Now I use my voice to heal myself and hopefully others along the way.
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Sending love to all those who struggle with mental health and/or have lost a loved one to suicide.
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