How do you contain someone so big in life onto just words on a paper? How do you wrap up one’s amazing legacy into mere paragraphs? I faced this challenge when I decided to write a tribute about Garrett to share at his funeral and memorial service. My sister-in-law Erika gave me great direction asking me to think about what the theme should be. It was a no-brainer. Although I wasn’t able to share all of what was wonderful about Garrett, I was able to share what was most vital. I wanted to share those words here, hoping that you will get to know my husband a little better and learn that the reason Garrett was so amazing was because of his relationship with Jesus:
If any of you know me well, you know I hate the spotlight. So this is the last place you'd ever find me. But here I am, standing before you today because I want to share with you about my beloved husband, Garrett. He rocked my world when he came into my life in July of 2006. Me, the girl who never liked change. I wanted to stay in my hometown, Dayton, Ohio, and never leave. I had my job, bought my house, and I wasn't budging. Then I met Garrett. When I first met him and found out he was a military man (AND he was moving to California), I said "No Way." One week later, we had our first dance. And I said, "Move me to California!" I was head over heels for him. And I could tell you about all of the things that immediately attracted me to Garrett. And I could tell you all of the amazing qualities that I've come to witness over the six years that we've spent together. There are so many stories… So much I could say about Garrett. But today, in the time we have, I'd like to tell you about what is most essential about Garrett. In fact, Garrett probably told many of you about this himself. The most essential element of Garrett's life was his relationship with Jesus. Because Garrett centered his life around Jesus, he mirrored Christ to me. Garrett gave me an earthly glimpse of Christ.
One of the most prominent ways Garrett reflected Jesus was in his intentional, genuine love for me and for others. He was a devoted father and husband. I never questioned his priorities. I knew from his thoughts, words, and actions that his priorities were God first, then me and the boys, then everything else. When we got married, my cousin, who married us, reminded us that our relationship should look like a triangle, with God at the top. Before we went to each other, we should go to God. Garrett honored that. And he helped me honor that, too. Another way Garrett's love reflected that of Christ's was his selfless manner. He poured every ounce of energy and effort into the well-being of me and the boys. He gave up any extra-curricular activities that were not for the benefit of our family. His motto was always "If you are working, I am working." He never put his feet up if I didn't have mine up. And many times, he would tell me to put my feet up, and he would continue working for me. Many long days after work, he wouldn't stop after putting Beckett to bed, he would clean the house, rub my back, pray for me, and encourage me. And his selfless love didn't stop with our family. He intentionally outpoured his love to all of those around him. He would go above and beyond to love and help those God put in his path.
Garrett prayed over a verse in Philippians, and God enabled Garrett to live it out. Philippians 2:3-7 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should not only look to your own interests, but also the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, who being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant."
In addition to his selflessness, Garrett was the most gracious person I've ever known. He was always giving people the benefit of the doubt, even when they didn't deserve it. He was always giving me the benefit of the doubt, even when I didn't deserve it. I, like many women, can tear myself down. And Garrett would not stand for that. In all our time together, he never tore me down. He ALWAYS built me up -- in his words, in his actions, in his prayers.
Another way Garrett gave me an earthly example of Christ was his desire to glorify God in all he did. I knew when I married Garrett that he was pretty brilliant, but not until I was married to him did I realize how brilliant. He received accolade after accolade. His accomplishments were vast and impressive. Never did he take the credit. He always pointed to Christ. He always said, "I don't know why God's blessing me in these ways, but I know it's for a purpose." And we were excited for whatever God had in store. Because Garrett wanted to honor God in all he did, he was extremely bold, never shying away from sharing about Jesus. God gifted him with this amazing ability to meet people where they were at. We all know those people who are bold but off-putting when they talk about their faith. But Garrett wasn't. Because of his compassion and his genuineness, he was real. It wasn't forced. Garrett always loved to get into discussions about faith and try to understand peoples' perspectives. He had such a heart for wanting to share Jesus with others. In his journal, I found the quote, "Reject passivity. Lead courageously." And that is just what he did. God had blessed Garrett with the vision, the courage, the boldness, and all the qualities needed in a leader. Wherever we were going, I knew I was following, because I knew he was following God. And whatever steps we were taking in life, our first priority was to honor God in what we did.
Garrett's life's ambition was, "Whatever God wants. The rest doesn't matter." The sole point of his mission in life was to do God's will and share the love of Christ. Garrett always had an eternal perspective. Being the worrier that I am, I would voice my concern over his safety and the possibility of losing him. He would always tell me confidently, “If it's my time, it's my time.” Those are words I'm clinging to during this difficult journey.
I've also found comfort in reading Garrett's journal entries. I'd like to read one of them, which shares his heart in his own words. He starts with the verse Isaiah 6:7-8: "Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me.'"
Garrett goes on to say, "Lord, entrust in me the sole point of your mission - to share the love of Christ. Remind me the importance of reaching out, even to one, and changing that one life. Humble me in this area so my motives will be pure that I might boast in you alone, Lord! That my acts and my life would be ignorance without you. Give me passion for the helpless, the lost, the forsaken, the poor. Open my eyes to the crisis of our world today. Use me as a BRIGHT shining light, boldly proclaiming the truth! Fill me with your spirit, overflowing with passion and love. Remove myself, that I might pick up my cross and follow you. Here I am, Lord. Send me! Use me for your glory. Change lives through me. I am ready to go where called."
This journal entry has a whole new meaning, reading it now. I realize that Garrett was willing to sacrifice anything and everything to accomplish God's purposes. I feel like God is using Garrett's words to give me His vision and strength through this suffering. Garrett and I had many conversations about how we want to put God in a box. And in this circumstance, many of you might try to do the same. But Garrett and I both trusted the verse, Isaiah 55:8-9, which says: "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" We only see our small piece in God's bigger story. I am suffering, and yet I am trusting in God, even when I can't see what He's doing.
Garrett gave me an earthy glimpse of Christ while we were together. And even days after Garrett went home to Jesus, he continued to speak to my heart and point me to Jesus. This past Sunday, everybody was trying to help in whatever small way they could. Out of all the things to do, both sets of parents decided to clean up my room and move my extremely heavy mattress and clean under my bed. They found Garrett's Bible that had been missing over a year and set it on my bedside table. I'd just gotten off the phone with my pastor, who told me to become good friends with the book of Philippians in the Bible. I picked up Garrett's Bible and turned to Philippians. The only scripture that Garrett had underlined was Philippians 1:20-21: "With full courage now, as always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." As I read that scripture, I felt like both God and Garrett were reminding me of Garrett's purpose on this earth. In the midst of my heartache, it gave me a glimpse of hope and a sense of peace and comfort. And it didn't stop there. Garrett had been holding a spot in his Bible with a pencil for over a year. So I flipped to that spot. And what was underlined was 1 Peter 4:12-13: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed." God gently reminded me that He is with me now in this time of suffering and it won't always be like this because His glory will be revealed.
Because Garrett reflected Christ, even though I only had six years with him, I will be impacted throughout the rest of my life. And Garrett wrote about this kind of impact in his journal when he wrote a letter to his Grandpa shortly after his Grandpa had passed away. As I read these words, they seem to be exactly what I would say to Garrett. Garrett's words are really now a challenge to each of us. Before I read from his journal, I want to read you a verse which Garrett mentions in this journal entry.
Philippians 1:3-6: "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel. From the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ."
Garrett goes on to say: "Maybe I understand why people say, 'passed away' as opposed to 'died'. You really haven't died, but are living your eternal life. How awesome! Know that I view you as the figurehead of our family, the center stone. As I think about the verse, I've been praying, the context has changed now that God brought you home. What is the 'good work' Christ began in you? And now, will it be 'carried out to its completion until the day of Christ'? I think the 'good work' is love. It is living a life for God, serving others, loving my neighbor more than myself, loving my Lord and God with all my heart, soul, and mind. As the verse says, your good work did not end but must be carried out by me, by Erika, by Spencer, by Stuart. We must carry the light of Christ boldly into the 21st century until the day of Christ. We must pass this torch to our children and grandchildren as you so bravely did. I thank you for your love. I thank you for your faith. I thank you for your example through Christ."