I’ve been trying to come up with something profound to say in the past couple of days. That, along with being overwhelmed with school and life again, have essentially kept me from posting at all. I’ll try to give an accurate description of what went on while we were in Milwaukee.
To start with, we returned from the Bowmans’ on Monday. I went to my two classes on Tuesday, but couldn’t handle anything more so I skipped my anatomy lab. The classes just seemed so pointless. I knew that that wasn’t what I needed to be concentrating on. It was impossible to think about school. In mbio I just gave up even trying to pay attention. Matt was really sympathetic and told me to not worry about notes or anything while I was away. I couldn’t take anything after that, though, so I just went home and watched the news…all night. Gina left again for the Bowmans’ the next day. It was really pointless for me to even come home. I should have just stayed at the Bowmans’ or left with Martin, Adam and Ann, or something. It was a good 4 hour trip back to the Bowmans’. We picked Kristen up along the way, almost ran out of gas, but eventually made it. At the Bowmans’ we wandered around, waited on Jenn (as usual :)), and left around 6PM. That night we stayed at Mike’s grandparents’ house in Battlecreek, Michigan. They were so friendly to us. Grandma had food waiting for us when we arrived, including cake and sandwich stuff and juice that turned your teeth red. On Thursday before we left she gave us all cards saying we were in her prayers, and we sang 4–part harmony hymns on her karaoke machine 🙂
We arrived at the hotel on Thursday afternoon, then left to eat and buy flowers for the funeral, for Jon’s mom and for the memorial site at the Sheraton. The funeral that night was for Mr. Gregory, James, and Mr. Harold Diekmeier. It was such a massive reunion. I’m sure there were over 500 people there. It was almost impossible to even move in the room. I saw people whom I hadn’t seen in years. It was amazing. It was such a paradox, though, because we were so excited to see everyone, but at the same time we knew that a tragedy had brought us all together. Mr. Millich did the service, Mr. Bryce gave a few comments, and Mr. Meredith gave the closing prayer. The service focused on the hope we have in the resurrection. We sat in the front, and right on the side at the front stood a large group of James’ school friends. It was so sad to see them. They were all so young. James was so young. Jon was able to be a pallbearer for both his dad and James. Charles was also a pallbearer for James. Before the service, all of us Canadians were able to get Jon secluded in the coat closet and present him with a Bible which we had bought for him. We’d gone through and highlighted certain passages which we thought would help him through this trial, and we made him a gazillion personalized bookmarks. We gave him massive group hugs. I think he was just glad to be away from everyone for a few minutes. I know everyone wanted to give him their condolances and try to encourage him, but with that many people I’m sure it was overwhelming.
On Friday afternoon we headed out for Bart Oliver’s funeral with a caravan of 7 cars. Only the first car knew where they were going, so it was amazing that none of us got lost or separated. On the way we stopped at the Sheraton where the shooting had happened. The memorial was moving. There were teddy bears, flowers, and notes. We stood there and just looked at it, holding on to the memories, shivering in the cold wind.
Friday evening was Bart’s funeral. It was done very nicely as well. It was held in a hotel banquet room, and again, hundreds of people attended. Mr. Gilchrist did the service, and highlighted Bart’s love of life. His violin teacher performed a solo, and eulogies were also presented by Mr. Geiger (his uncle), his godfather, and the father of his best friend. They did a really nice job. Here is his obituary. (Sorry that it’s a little crinkled…it got shoved in my purse :))
On the Sabbath Mr. Millich gave the sermonette, and Mr. Bryce gave the sermon. It was awesome to see how many people attended the service, just to show their support of the victims and to strengthen the church. Afterwards, as per usual in the church, there was an amazing amount of food. Many hugs were shared, and a 20–person circular group heelclick was even performed. We love you, Jon 🙂
I know many of us are left wondering why this happened, and what is the good that will come from it. I think Josh has done a good job of bringing out some of the positive things which have already occured as a direct result of this massacre. I saw the effects first-hand. This has without a doubt brought the church closer together, especially the youth. We have accepted the tragedy and the church itself as our own. I have been impressed by the spiritual strength of many of the young people. Jon has been amazing. Martin has done an awesome job of supporting him and acting as Director of Communications. Mike Heykoop, Josh Kerr and Charles Solomon also really impressed me. The Canadian Crew is amazing. Everyone is so spiritually grounded and everyone did a fantastic job of supporting each other through this crisis. I think this provided all of us with the opportunity to delve into each other’s souls and discover what is really important to us. It showed what our priorities are. When this happened, we dropped everything. Many of us dropped school, some work, some gave up their March Breaks. I feel much closer to many of the church youth as a direct result of all of this. I’ve been able to draw closer to and get to know several people whom I had been acquainted with before but not really known well. It has been one of the most grievous times of our lives, but it has also stirred many of us up to get our lives in order, stop slacking off, pursue what is important. I for one have always been very focused on school, but in the past week and a half I’ve really come to the realization that school doesn’t matter. Yes, we should be educated and we should use our God-given talents. But ultimately, school really doesn’t matter. That’s what I’ve been thinking as I sit in class and we talk about ATP synthase and CYP P450 and dehydrogenases. It doesn’t matter anymore. It doesn’t matter how well we do on that test or if we’re at the top of our class — in the game of life we’re ahead. I would also like to reiterate a thought which Josh Kerr brought out a few days ago. We’ve been stirred up. We’ve become zealous. We’ve gotten our priorities straight. But we can’t let this slip away. This really is the 9–11 of the church, and we can’t fall into the same indifference that overtook many of the people in the world after the inital shock of 9–11 had worn off. Don’t think I’m preaching at you, because I think I’m mainly saying this for my own admonition. We just really need to make sure we stay strong and focused.
And don’t be afraid to say I love you.