Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Two years ago, I woke up in my aunt and uncle's house in Georgia. My uncle was going to be honored at a changing of command ceremony, where he turned his battalion over to another commanding officer. His time at Fort Gordon was up, and my parents and I had headed down to Georgia to be with him during this special time.
I watched Uncle Doug be honored and go through the ceremony -- the likes of which I had never seen anywhere else -- and afterwards we headed out for a family meal at Logan's Roadhouse. Those rolls were so good.
I was wearing a green sweater with a new purple scarf that I just bought the week before especially for this occasion. I dropped some barbeque sauce on the right arm of the sweater during lunch. The stain is still there. I was wearing some high heels that day, too.
As we were walking out of the restaurant, my phone rang -- I was still rockin' the purple BlackBerry -- and my caller ID told me that my CBSP sister Holly was calling me. I figured she was probably raising support for her job with Campus Crusade, so I figured I would pick up the phone, tell her I was busy, and call back later.
"Hey, Miss Holly! How's it -- "
"Bekah." Holly is one of the most upbeat people you'll ever meet. She doesn't end sentences with periods. It's usually an exclamation point.
"What. What's wrong?"
"Bekah. Travis is dead."
I know that my hip bone is connected to my leg bone and my leg bone is connected to my foot bone, but I couldn't remember where my feet were at that moment. I took a step forward to try to balance myself and I chastised myself once again for how bad of an idea my heels were that day.
"HE'S WHAT!" I yelled into the phone.
Travis was overseas. Travis was telling people about Jesus. Travis was having an adventure. Travis isn't dead.
"Travis is dead."
Holly kept talking and saying things. She explained to me how he was found in his bedroom and she said other words, too. I don't remember any of them. The sun was really bright, I do remember that. My family was hollering for me to get in the car; they didn't know that I was trying to process the most life-altering information I had ever been given.
Travis is dead. Travis is dead. Travis is dead. Travis is dead. Travis is dead.
The next thing I remember is being in the car with my grandparents and cousins. My mom was in the other car and was texting me if I had anymore information on my friend who had been injured.
No, Mom. I typed. He's not injured. Travis is dead.
My phone started ringing. Julia. Kerianne. My phone kept ringing. My sister. Jessica. Will.
I started calling people and asking what they knew. Information gets jumbled when we're relaying it across the ocean and then multiple state lines.
I called numbers I hadn't called in years -- Jill, Kelsey, Makenly -- and relayed the news over and over again: Travis is dead. Our brother has died. Our family won't be whole again.
Over the next few days, I didn't cry. I didn't want to feel anything, so I just turned into a robot. I went to work, gave my kids worksheets, sat at my desk, and stared out the window. I began to search for places in Travis' hometown to rent so we could all be together for the funeral and I looked up who had the cheapest flights for last-minute bookings to fly in our friends from outside driving distance.
A newspaper article from Travis' hometown made it public knowledge that he was dead. More than that, the article made it public knowledge that someone had killed Travis. What we had heard was an accident, a malfunction of his heater to cause an overdose of carbon monoxide, was actually murder.
Kerianne sent me a text saying "Julia says Travis's death wasn't an accident." I called her and she read me the article -- Travis was suffocated, found with a plastic bag over his head. I was driving down 440 heading back to The Manor. Wanna talk about distracted driving? I'll take your fighting six-year-olds in the backseat any day. She read me the article, and I held in my emotions. I went to The Manor, let out the dog, called My Kelsey and sped the two miles to her house.
I screamed. I cried. I screamed. I pulled out a few strands of hair. I said a lot of four-letter words. I screamed. I'm pretty sure I terrified My Lauren. I pounded my fists in her couch and on her floor. I felt everything for the first time in two weeks. It hurt like hell. I know what evil feels like, smells like. What the bile of it tastes like.
Someone murdered Travis.
I know someone else who was murdered.
They put nails in His hands, and stuck needles and thorns into His head. They whipped Him with chains made of broken glass and animal teeth. They raised His body up for all to see. They spit on Him, called Him names. Made fun of Him. They stripped Him of His clothes and humiliated Him. He is their Savior, and they crucified him like a criminal.
Travis didn't have to die. Someone else made that decision for him.
Jesus did have to die. He made that decision for Himself according to the will of His Father.
Jesus died so that Travis' death could mean something. Jesus died so that Travis' life could mean even more.
I am a public school teacher. I'm not supposed to talk about Jesus. However, when my kids see a picture of their Mama Sandy and some guy, they get curious. I answer their questions and I tell them about how Travis was the good one -- I swear he never got angry or frustrated. He had the patience of a saint. I tell them that the picture was taken my sophomore year of college at a dance that Travis and I went to together. We laughed a lot that night. The reason the picture is so old is because Travis died before we could take anymore. I tell them that he died because he loved Someone more than himself: Jesus.
Thanks to Travis' story I've told more of my kids about Jesus than I ever could before.
One of my most vivid memories of Travis is during the weekend we were all up in Kentucky for that dance. We were talking about when the next time all of us would get together and that we were sad to have to leave. We knew it was going to be a while before we could reconvene. Travis said, "Don't worry, you guys. Eventually everyone will start getting married and those can be our reunions!"
Weddings did bring us together a time or two, but our biggest reunion to date was for Travis' funeral.
Travis' entire existence had purpose. In life, his purpose was to make Jesus known. In death, his purpose is to leave a legacy that helps me make Jesus known.
Travis' life didn't end in death. He is more alive in this moment than I will ever feel on this earth. Travis' story isn't over. When life is in Jesus, it's eternal. I celebrate that Travis' death on this earth was simply a stepping stone to Glory. I celebrate that he ran the race well and finished to hear, "Well done, My good and faithful servant." I celebrate knowing that my Clearwater family is only separated here in this world, but will soon be reunited on streets of gold.
Hallelujah. Thank You, Jesus.