A Death in the Family - follow-up
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist
As many of you know, my oldest son, Jeff, spoke at his younger brother's, Jason's funeral. Locally, many, many, folks have asked us for a copy of his remarks. Jeff focused on Jason's birth. As we approach Christmas, in spite of grief, it is important that we focus optimally. I hope Jeff's remarks are helpful in that regard.
FWIW, we haven't been asked for the words of the 'professional remarkers' who also spoke in a relevant, caring, manner.
by Jeffrey Taylor Prescott
December 2, 2009
Thank you for joining us today.
I am Jeff Prescott... Jason's brother. I was asked by my family to speak today and it is my great honor to do so. You will note in the order of service that I will be delivering "remarks." I have absolutely no idea what this means. In the absence of any guidance whatsoever from my family, I have decided to translate my task roughly as "say something." I am relieved to note that I will be followed by various professional remarkers who can get things back on track.
In my remarks, I am not going to describe the kind of man my brother was. I am going to skip the part about him being gentle, tender-hearted, and considerate. And the part about him being a gifted problem-solver and very handy to have around. And how he was fun to work beside and be around. You already know all that. You told me that last night at visitation. Besides all the other remarkers knew my brother as a grown man and they can elaborate on these things.
In my remarks, I am also not going to attempt to apply the gospel to this very difficult situation. After all, why should you listen to an angry and confused man who feels mocked by God? I am relying on the other remarkers to bring wisdom to bear for us today.
So? What am I going to talk about? How are we going to celebrate a life that ended pointlessly? I do not have much to say about the end of my brother's life. I would like to tell you about how it began.
Here's how our family started out. My parents had three children. (Let me pause for a moment here. Last night, more than a few of you were shocked to learn that there were three of us--that Gina and Jason had a brother. If you are surprised, then you should be embarrassed. You obviously did not read all the footnotes in Dr. Wease's book on TMBC history.) Anyway, my parents had three children and we each had a designated niche in the family workings. I was the oldest... Gina was the only daughter... And Jason? Jason was what? The baby? That's true but it is lacking something. In my estimation, I was the oldest...Gina was the only daughter...and Jason was the special one.
Before you jump to any conclusions, let me explain what I mean.
How many of you remember the time when Jason was born? Well, let me tell you about it. My mother had a very difficult pregnancy. She was hospitalized for six weeks before Jason was born. The doctors did everything they could do to keep Jason from being born before he was viable. Remember...this was 1969 in eastern North Carolina. Many medical techniques that are considered routine today had not yet been invented. And the hospital rules were different then. Children were not allowed to visit the hospital. Gina and I were children. And our mother was in the hospital a long time. Our family was in a time of crisis.
I don't remember what all happened during those six weeks. These are my earliest memories and there are things I just don't remember. I imagine that some of you who brought food to our house this week also brought food forty years ago. I distinctly remember at one point going to Taylortown to stay with my Grandma and Grandpa Taylor. I don't remember how long. I think I remember Grandma and Granddaddy Prescott staying with us in our house on Kirkland Drive.
What I remember most is the one day when my father broke the rules. On this particular day, my father took Gina and me to the hospital. We were led to a room where we waited--what seemed like forever. And our mother was brought into the room in a wheelchair. You can imagine our excitement. Someday I will ask my father to explain exactly how he pulled this off. I know he had help from a couple of doctors. (I don't know if there is any statute of limitations for this sort of thing.)
But before we went on our daring raid of the hospital, my father took us somewhere else. He took us to Pitt Plaza. (How many of you remember Pitt Plaza?) We went to Roses at Pitt Plaza to purchase books to give to our mother. At the front of the store near the cash registers, there were paperback books in wire racks. Gina and I looked at every book. Gina selected a book by Art Linkletter, "Kids Still Say the Darndest Things." This was a compilation of funny things purportedly said by children...children who did not know they were being funny. Gina was 3-years-old. I was 5-years-old and understandably more sophisticated. I selected a book with pictures from the TV show "Laugh-In."
I cannot imagine what my father thought about our selections. But there we were. Our mother was wheeled into the waiting room as if she were the Queen of England on some sort of throne on wheels and we presented our fine gifts. (I am pretty sure she liked the Laugh-In book best.) These great works of literature were later placed on the den shelves alongside the very-impressive-looking Reader's Digest Condensed Books. In retrospect, it is tempting to reinterpret these inappropriate gifts as very appropriate gifts for unborn Jason...Jason who years later as a man loved to verbally tangle with children and loved to make us all laugh. But that is not the point of the story.
The point of the story is this. When Jason finally arrived, he was special in our family. I cannot say if he was special because of the way my parents loved him before he was born. Or if my parents loved him that way because they somehow knew he was special. It doesn't matter which came first. Over time, our small family has grown larger and more extended. As new members have been added to our family by marriage or birth or just sort of being swept up into the current, I believe that they have all been drawn to Jason for one reason or another. He was like that. And these various new family members--young and old alike--had no way to know that Jason's very existence with us was a special gift.
So, this is what I figured out about my family once I was old enough to figure. I was the oldest. And Gina was the only daughter. And Jason was the special one. The special one. That's what I thought. But a few seconds ago when I spoke of our growing family, I said "special gift." I don't think it ever occurred to me that way before today.
And, perhaps the phrase "special gift" reveals a flaw in my thinking. Jason was indeed the special one in my family. But when did we forget that he was a gift? A daily gift. Our loss is painful. But what we have lost--our expectation of how our lives should continue to unfold with Jason here--is something we never had a right to expect or demand in the first place.
Perhaps this profound pain we feel today can remind us that we live in a very broken world. A world where young ones are sometimes left without a father. A world where a fine man can make a poor decision that crushes the people he loves. A world where things just don't happen the way we yearn for them to. And maybe in this broken state, we can remember the gospel again or perhaps really hear it for the first time--and look for comfort in a gift that cannot slip away from our grasp. But I will let others continue such remarks--either today or another day.
Between his almost miraculous birth and his miserable death, my brother has left us many things for which we are thankful. He has entrusted two very special children with us. He put the "extended" into "extended family". And he has left us many happy memories of days better than today.
My family tends to congregate in my parents' den--a once-large room that seems to shrink as our family grows. Multiple conversations are going on simultaneously because everyone has something to say. I make a smart comment. Jason's wife Ruthi says "You're just like your brother." Another woman in the room says "You mean like all the Prescott men." Then all the women in the room exchange knowing glances and, maybe, roll their eyes. This same conversation has happened countless times. I have never had a response. Today, if you tell me "You're just like your brother," I will say, "Thank you. Thank you very much."