Family, Friends, and loved ones,
It is an honor and privilege for me to stand before you today and pay tribute to a very special, and irreplaceable person in my life - my sweet brother Justin.
I struggled with what to say to you all today.
How could I conceivably communicate what a wonderful person Justin was?
How could I explain the kindness in his heart, the contagiousness of his joy, or the depth of his love?
It’s just that he was remarkable in so many ways. How could I ever be able to sum up his beautiful life in the short few moments I have with you here today?
And then I realized...I will never be able to explain how incredible he was, but it’s my duty as a loving sister to try.
First off, I didn't always love Justin like I did during our "adult" lives. As kids, he would pick on me and give me a hard time - like all older brothers do!
In fact, one day he decided it would be a great idea to give me a haircut. I was four years old - with a bowl cut! Let me just tell you - a bowl cut is not my best look.
Or when he would tag me out first in the sharks and minnows or pickle-games we would play at our endless days at the North Manor swimming pool.
Then I also remember when we would pull Aunt Becky’s extra mattress up from her basement and play WWF wrestling with our cousins. He always won In that too.
But most of the time he just wanted to be my buddy. We had so many playful childhood memories, like when our Dad would play horsey with us. We thought that was the best game in the world.
We loved it when our parents would tuck us into bed at night and read Billy Goat's Gruff or recount to us the tale of The Three Little Bears. I think back to those little moments only to realize that nothing can replace the love for a sibling or the lifetime of memories we shared.
Watching Justin transform in to a God honoring man was the greatest gift God could have given my family. We saw his faith mature, and his heart change. I was so proud to see him becoming such a strong person, and admired him in many ways.
The best adjective I could use to describe Justin is absolutely hilarious! He was so funny! And his jokes were so clever. Justin was a character. I remember when we were kids and he would say something ridiculous right after I had taken a huge sip of Kool-Aid or milk in hopes that I would cave, and he could watch it go through my nose. I would get so tickled at some of the things he would say. He really knew how to light up a room. I will miss him making me laugh like he used to.
One of Justin's crowning qualities was his intellect, and thirst for knowledge. I remember the endless days of his reading book after book. He seemed to know something about everything.
He was so wise. Often times he knew just what to say, regardless of my situation. He would give me the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it.
Lastly, late last year Justin dedicated his life to Christ. Out of all the chapters in his book, his relationship with the Lord was the most memorable to me. His love for God was evident in all that he did. When he chose to surrender his life to Christ, he changed. I saw an overflow of peace and joy within his spirit that he had never known. God changed his heart's desires and that was evident in the ways that he began to love and serve others.
The difference that I saw in him wasn't because he decided to call himself a Christian, but because he had fully trusted God with his life, and was operating out of God's desires for his heart not his own.
One of the things that gives me the most peace about Justin's story is that he got baptized a few months before his passing. Being there to witness Justin's declaration of love through baptism was such an emotional and rewarding experience. Although I am not in the same place spiritually, I recall feeling awe-struck watching him that night as the joy and love of God's spirit poured out of him. It was as if it was something he had been waiting his whole life to do. I can see it so clearly now that God was preparing Justin for his beautiful journey home in heaven.
Having to say goodbye to someone, especially someone as loved as Justin was, has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do. One thing that has made it easier for me, is knowing with all my heart that he found true joy and fulfillment at the end of his life. You could see the joy radiating through his spirit, and I would think; "Wow! So that’s what being truly happy looks like."
I am so grateful we were able to spend quality time together at the end of his life, because despite all the pain and struggles he faced, he had finally become the person he knew he could be all along.
So, how will I remember my brother? Well, that’s easy – he was just that; my joyous, big brother. When you met him, you couldn't help feeling he was someone truly special.
As I look out at the faces in the room, I see many family members and friends and I'm sure you all will remember him in your very own special way. Although he was taken from us long before his time, I know that you too will miss the friendship that Justin brought into your lives.
He left this world a better place than when he found it, and for that you have to be very proud. He ran the race and finished well.
Justin, brother, we will miss you, but we will always remember that God is in the midst of everything and will be glorified through the celebration of your life.
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