In loving memory of Jon Gregoire
This is Jonny…
Photo by: Hannah Terzek
Last November this sweet friend of mine went to be with Jesus. Jon was an adventurer, a dreamer, a doer; a selfless 21-year-old who cared for people incredibly well. Jon was one of those people you just don’t forget.
He and I met at a Passion Conference in Atlanta, GA back in 2012. We were in the same small group for the weekend and somehow managed to keep in touch despite the distance or fact we had only known each other for 2 days. We clicked right away after learning we were both from Massachusetts and shared a love for the same New England spots and sports teams. Jon was a student at Liberty University, pouring his life into others and sharing Jesus with everyone he met.
Jon’s death was a tragic accident…And although no type of death (sudden or expected) is ever easy to grieve, there is something about a sudden death that shakes the, “I’m invincible” right out of you. According to the standards of the world, Jon died with his whole life ahead of him: 21. College Student. Not married. No kids. No career. Knowing Jon, he would have been a great businessman, amazing husband, and incredible dad; changing the world one life and step at a time. But God doesn’t make mistakes…And for reasons we may never fully understand, God saw it fit for Jon to be with Him instead of us.
His unexpected death changed the lives of thousands of people because Jon was a genuine and intentional person. Whether you spent 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days with him; he impacted people everywhere he went and was one of those guys you just wanted to be around. I can honestly say, I have never seen Philippians 1:21 in the Bible where Paul says, “To live is Christ but to die is gain” come to life more than it did in Jon’s passing. There is comfort to be found in knowing that Jon had still lived an incredible, full life in 21 years; and in his death he gained—he is in the perfect place with Jesus.
I’ll never forget the morning that my phone rang…He and I had texted just a couple weeks prior as we planned our next get together. I don’t remember much about the phone call itself, but just recall sitting on my bed in disbelief as tears streamed down my face. One of those surreal moments that your mind refuses to accept.
The strangest part about death is how time continues to pass afterward. In the days and weeks after he died, Jon’s face was in newspapers, online articles and appearing on TV screens as reporters talked about his faith and love for Jesus. You see, Jon’s accident happened on a set of train tracks on an adventure where to us he wound up at the wrong place at the wrong time. But like I said, God doesn’t make mistakes. He goes beyond that and He uses our mistakes for His good. Jon had been posting a lot in the days prior about Heaven and having an eternal perspective in life. He loved Jon Piper and I remember reading one of his posts where he quoted him saying:
“Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is totally meaningful. Every millisecond of your pain, from the fallen nature of fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that. I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness. It wasn’t meaningless. It’s doing something! It’s not meaningless. Of course you can’t see what He’s doing. Don’t look to what is seen. When your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40, when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don’t say “that’s meaningless!” It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore, do not lose heart. Take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach His word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.”
Days before the accident Jon posted this last Instagram picture on the same bridge that days later he lost his life on, captioning it with a quote from a Noah Gundersen song, “Here, I stand on the edge of the ledges I’ve made, looking for a steady hand. Here, I stand in the land of the rocks in the valley, trying to be a better man.”
I’m still learning from Jonny now that he’s gone.
I think of him often and sometimes he captures my dreams at night where I wake the next morning with a light heart and all the feels. They are the only dreams since I was young that I actually remember vividly.
Jon left each of us the most beautiful gift…the reminder of eternal perspective.
Eternal perspective is the silver-lining at the end of every hard day. It is the beauty of grace in what life tells us we will never overcome; the light at the end of the tunnel. It is the helping hand of Jesus when we fall, the strength to move forward, and His blood covering every failure, every short-coming, and every bit of darkness that lies within. It is choosing to love others and forgive others despite how horribly they may have treated us. It is believing we are on this earth for a purpose. It is what removes the lie we believe and replaces it with truth. It is in the most colorful, joyful days and in the darkest valleys.
It is what brings hope for the perfect place; where someday there will be no more pain or tears. We get to hope and long for the place Jon already is and know that someday we will see him again…
It’s taken me weeks to finish this, which is uncommon when I sit down to write a blog post; but today I watched a video for Grad class that when it was over I smiled and thought, “So this is what I was waiting for!” The video is a story about a man named Ed who has ALS. During the video Ed says:
“When you get close to the end, then you begin to realize how fragile life is and you only do the things that are important. Humans have this capacity to think they’ll live forever—you ain’t living forever…So what can I do with the limited time I have to make a difference? There is a purpose for everyone and when you arrive there, you’ll know it.”
That is eternal perspective—Jon lived it before he knew the end was close. What if we all lived it before we knew the end was close? Jon’s life to the world may not have been complete yet; but the world’s got it all wrong. God knew that Jon had lived all the life he needed to in 21 years. He accomplished God’s purpose for him. God knew that Jon’s death would break the hearts of hundreds but it would change the life of thousands and bring people to Him. I miss Jon; his smile, infectious laughter and constant encouragement…But Jon lives on in everyone who had the blessing of knowing him. He taught me more about life and perspective, and for that I am eternally grateful.
So where is your perspective today? What can you do with the limited time you have to make a difference?
Photo by: Corey Wolfenbarger
Photo by Jaret Peerson