Over the past three weeks, I’ve had the family of Jackson Dunlap on my heart.
For me, it’s been almost five years since I lost my sister. I still vividly remember the night Uncle Marc broke the news of Leah’s passing. She was only 22 and the suddenness of her death was debilitating.
I didn’t get to say goodbye. I wouldn’t get to watch her get married and settle down. She wouldn’t get to see her beautiful blue-eyed daughter grow up. I sang "Nearer, My God, to Thee" at her memorial on a beautiful sunny day at Armstrong Cemetery. Still to this day, I get choked up anytime I hear that lovely hymn.
After Leah’s memorial, I observed everyone’s life continue in her absence, including my own. That was the worst. I suppose that’s why I’ve been thinking about Olivia, in particular. I don’t pretend to know her well, but she’s always been kind and helpful in the limited interaction I’ve had with her. She’s getting married soon and I’m sure it’s hard for her to anticipate her big day without her little brother. I wouldn’t dare speak for her or Jackson’s family, for their experience with grief is their own. I simply want to acknowledge this community shares in their loss.
Jackson’s memorial service took place at the Park Theater and it was truly a beautiful celebration of his life. People poured in wearing Ranger red in Jackson’s honor until the lobby and upper mezzanine area were crammed full. I never had the privilege of meeting Jackson, but I could tell from the photos and videos shared he was a joy-filled kid. Lately, I‘ve overheard friends and family share Jackson stories and memories. It’s easy to tell his precious soul touched so many in his short life.
I wish I had the words to bring comfort and peace. In my experience, unsolicited advice or well-intentioned words spoken at the wrong time can have the opposite effect. However, as a believer in Jesus, I do believe in the power of prayer. I’ve been praying vigorously for Joe, Deitra, Lucas, Olivia and their family.
Personally, I found comfort in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 and Revelation 21:4. I‘ve also found healing in the songs “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher and “Farther Along” by Josh Garrels. This month I read a powerful post shared by my friend Mary-Kate Myers that touched me deeply. It was a segment of commentary over Luke 24:36-48.
“Jesus commissions us to declare the presence and power of God in the midst of tragedy, despair and death. They are not ultimate—God is. And God aims to redeem creation and us. The risen Christ makes himself known to us in ways large and small. As people of faith, we are to be witnesses to Christ’s presence among us, in our words and in our deeds; our faith demands nothing less.”
Please keep this family in your prayers and remember to check in on them from time to time. It can mean a lot to know people still care six months or a year from now.
Standard reporter Lacy Garrison can be reached at 473-2191.