As a teenager, I wrote a lot of bad poetry.
This is perhaps why I used to get so excited when my brother Joshua would bring home Parnassus, the literary magazine from Taylor University, where he went to college.
I would pore over the brilliant poems printed between its covers, sometimes memorizing slices to recite to friends, attempting to convey the power those words wielded over my spirit.
One of my favorite featured poets was always a guy named Jason Francis.
His work was so original, so innovative, so infused with wonder and vibrant joie de vivre.
In the spring of 1997, I was a student at Taylor University, and flailing in the suffocating sludge of what the psychiatrist called "major clinical depression."
I remember sitting in the student union, probably looking listless and miserable, when I looked up and spotted the person I knew was Jason Francis.
He had graduated the previous year, but I recognized him from his pictures, and it was clear that he was returning to visit his alma mater, walking around reminiscing with a few friends.
I remember feeling slightly starstruck, but he met my gaze for only a moment before offering a warm, friendly smile and a cheerful, "HI!"
I returned his sentiment with as much gusto as I could muster, but felt too timid to say anything more.
Later, I passed him again walking around campus, and he said "Oh, HI!"
His group kept walking, and so did I.
Last week, my latest Taylor alumni magazine arrived, and in the alumni news section, I saw that Jason Francis had died of cancer on January 11.
I felt suddenly weepy, and as I reflected upon my threadbare memories of him, I realized that his life had brushed against mine in unspeakable ways, though he never even knew my name.
By sharing his poetic prowess, he blessed me with gorgeous phrases that still inspire me today. And by offering such sincere kindness to me, a stranger, he extended Love to me in a time when I desperately needed to feel its soothing warmth.
I'm rather fond of the proverb that states:
Be kind. Every person you meet is fighting a battle.
Jason clearly knew this, and endeavored to practice its simple wisdom.
I was able to locate his obituary online, and as I read this, my eyes erupted with tears of wonder:
In his last hours, with painful gasps, he spoke to his wife
“God is sovereign. He will do what He will. And I love it!”