It isn’t the longevity of his life that has arrested my attention today, but rather the impact that his life has made on the lives of others. After all, Justin was only 32 years and one day old when his life came to an abrupt halt in the sands of Anbar Province, Iraq.
Yesterday—September 30, 2011—would have been my oldest son’s 37th birthday. Today is the fifth anniversary of his death. It’s always a tough time, but out of the sadness always comes numerous thoughts and blessings. This has been true today as I have been traveling through New England with my best friend of 40-plus years, Dave Brown.
Perhaps the prevailing thoughts are related to the impact that Justin’s life made on others. For example, he always had a way of bringing excitement to our family. Earlier today I saw a picture, taken at my daughter Charity’s house, as Justin and I were tossing his second son (Jayden) back and forth from 6-8 feet distance. What pleasant memories!
In fact, Brandon and Charity’s great room in Ann Arbor (MI) was the scene of a lot of laughter and excitement—like on my youngest daughter Joy’s fifteenth birthday, as a contest raged between Justin and Joy over blowing out the candles—all meaningless stuff to others, except to “the siblings,” whose lives have been marvelously impacted by a brother who loved them.
Although there were times—more than I remember—when he drove his father to the brink of insanity, his life continues to impact me, and I would like to think, making me a better man for it. From his first “big wheel” to his last vehicle—a Jeep—Justin could destroy anything! In that Jeep, he and I spent the better part of three days and nights together, driving from Twenty-nine Palms (CA) to Clarkston (MI) just before he deployed to Iraq. I’ll value that time for the rest of my life!
The last time that Justin and I were together was at the hospital in Commerce Township (MI), just minutes before his daughter Caitlin was born. Although his wife Patty was in the labor and delivery suite, they graciously allowed me to stay with them until I had to catch my flight to Great Britain. Neither my wife Debbie nor I will ever forget Justin walking us to the door, saying his goodbyes, then racing back for the birth just 40 minutes later!
Why bother to pass along such personal stories? Because you also have a life—and your life should also be touching the lives of those around you in a positive and inspiring way!
As I write this, I am sitting in the family room of my best friend’s house. Dave’s daughter Angie was just here, and represents another person—beyond family—whose life was touched by Justin’s. When the two of them were small children, our families were next-door neighbors, but the influence of those days continues.
BTW, do you pray? If so, perhaps this would be a great time to consider your own influence in the lives of other people, and ask God to help you make it count. Never discount the positive influence that you can have in the lives of others. After all, even a word appropriately spoken at the right time is as valuable as “apples of gold!”
Dale’s book, Leave A Well in the Valley, can be purchased in soft cover at www.dalepeterson.org or a Kindle version at www.amazon.com. In the book, Dale shares from deep personal experiences how one can not only survive the tough times in life, but also turn those tragedies into triumphs.