Tuesday, April 26, 2011

{no title, not really, no way to say it in five words}

"I wish you could have known him too. You would have loved him."

I say that to people all the time. This blog is partially unfinished, but that's just how it happens sometimes.

Sometimes stories feel unfinished. That's where grace steps in of course. It finishes stories.

I've really wanted to write this blog for awhile now. I've had words started and stopped so many times, and sometimes I think maybe I shouldn't write at all.

But that seems silly. To not write at all. Regarding Justin.

So many others have more to write. More time. More stories. More of his life in their hearts and hanging in picture frames. I just have a couple years of being stupid together, writing what we hoped would be the next big song, and eating at 2 a.m. after six hours of playing music.

But I figure, since those couple years still stick with me, there must be something to them.

It's been seven years now since the invisible curtain between here and there dropped and heart-strings snapped, letting Justin go. Cancer had run its course and I stood silent, unseen on the sidelines of his life, feeling rather useless and busy; caught up at 21 with a 21-year-old's life, not realizing what was happening. Not entirely facing the facts, not looking at the words between the lines on e-mails, doing my best to pretend that all was going to be ok.

Which it was. And it is.

But not how I imagined it would be.

Justin was 20, when he slipped beyond, into the hope that we all whisper about.

Funny. Adventurous. Insanely talented.

The guy who everyone wanted to be around.

And boy, did he love Jesus. He just... got it.

And after 20 years, Jesus got him. Which seems unfair, but I suppose that's part of being here, in this world that is slowly dying, and we are slowly dying, and we all want to act as though we're not.

Even though we are.

And after traveling around the U.S. with Justin, after awhile, we had a general understanding of eachother.

I'm pretty sure everyone who knew him could say that about him. He had a way of seeing people. Not just their hair or clothes, occupation or name. But he was like a lit torch, igniting hearts everywhere he went.

I guess it goes hand in hand...
to "get Jesus"
you have a knack
for loving people, everywhere.

We spent those weeks, months in the thick of ministry. Between the pressure cooker of life on the road, and a good sense of humor, we made of it what we could. From laughing incessantly, writing songs until one of us nearly fell asleep, to movies and conversations that pulled out the truth and roots from the living.

Life lived and full and happy.
Fun and dreaming, futures big as the ocean.

Except the sun was setting, behind our youthful backs. A short season that was full of friendship and family, friends who became family.

And there were things that started to change while the hearth of life glowed sweet and promising. Like when he lost his hair. Or when it started to grow back. When I sprinted to hug him and accidentally hugged too hard, the stint into his heart making him wince. Wiping sweat from his forehead while his eyebrows went missing, and he continued to lead worship with passion and love and laughed that he finally knew the purpose of eyebrows.

Even still, when the night is dark and I feel like I'm floating on a sea in a bowl of stars, I think of him.

I had experienced death before, but something crumpled me to the floor of that Nashville hotel room after I received the phone call. You know — the kind of phone call that makes you feel like you can't breathe. Eyes pinch shut, your heart struggles and stutters, blood thins and drains, and the earth rolls, turning on its side, indefinitely. The songs felt stolen from my lungs and I begged the lights to go dark and for a flight home.

I sometimes wonder if this event was the thing that screwed up my gears, shook my little house on sand and sent me falling into the icy, violent sea. Seven years later, it's all different, it's all changed and it's nothing as how I imagined. How do I even reconcile a good God who has good planned to my cancer-ridden, faith-filled, dying friend?

Oh, I don't really know the answer to that question.
When faith becomes a submissive servant to the sovereignty of God.
I'm still learning how to write that part of the story.

But I know the legacy he left from a 20 year flame.

Love God. Love people.

...and then adventure, dream and write some more.

"20 years was all we had; we had hoped for 80 more."

You can know him more too... www.justingarwood.com


Linking up with the Soli Deo Gloria sisterhood today.


  1. Oh Andrea,
    You can feel the love you have for Justin. Love God and love people. How better to live life?

  2. Well, I'm crying now.

    And do you know what I think I like about Justin best (even though I never knew him) -- that he had that knack -- for loving people everywhere.

    I want that same knack.

  3. Andrea, sometimes we don't have answers. I haven't visited in a while, but I'm glad I did today. I love the power behind your words and the love that you have shared with us as you have shared Justin.

  4. Andrea,
    I was blessed to find you through the Finding Heaven Blog Hop. I am your newest follower through Google Friend Connect. I'll look forward to getting better acquainted.
    Have a blessed evening!

  5. I sometimes wonder if it was this or that event that shook my little house too andrea...i can feel the love justin left on you. you have been forever changed by him and by HIM. keep writing. write the songs He's given you to sing will you? write all of this out in song...your heart is so beautiful...thinking of you this morning

  6. i can't think of a better tribute to a friend. i want to get Jesus like this, too.

  7. Just beautiful, Andrea. More wisdom in your short years than most find in a lifetime.

  8. Thanks all. You're all so beautifully sweet and kind. I hope we all can leave a legacy of love behind us!