“All you can take with you, is that which you’ve given away” -from It’s A Wonderful Life
After an emotional couple of weeks I felt compelled to update my previous blog about Jawhar. We were honored to be able to visit him once again, to celebrate his 19th birthday, a day that the doctors didn’t believe he would see. Surrounded by his family, friends and loved ones we were able to sing songs of encouragement as well as a rousing rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday song. Far more than that though, much time was spent in prayer for him, his mother and his family. You see that day wasn’t a good day for him health wise, indeed he wasn’t quite conscious during our visit.
During these moments, many tears were shed and very few words were spoken as we all felt a range of expressions of emotions from concern and relief and healing for Jawhar, to comfort and peace for his family and friends. So powerful was this moment that a room full of 45 people fell completely silent for quite some time, even as prayers were being offered quietly.
Early the next morning, we learned Jawhar had passed and been granted relief from his suffering. Our initial thoughts and prayers turned to support for the family and wondering what we could offer them in this moment. As it turned out, our gift was more of what we had already given as the family, as a result of the love they felt from us, felt moved to request the funeral be held at our church, even though they were not members.
As one might expect the funeral service of course was heavy with emotion and sadness for the loss of a life that shined so brightly for so many at such an early age. Friends and family recalled the big goals and dreams of a young man whose musical talents led to the creation of his own record label and whose personality served as a source of inspiration. It was recalled to Jawhar’s credit that in the midst of the pain and seemingly cruel hand life had dealt him, he still saw fit to keep smiling and inspiring those around him. We experienced this first hand as he singlehandedly was able to bring us together as a choir with his friends and family, forging connections that will continue on. So impactful was his life that hundreds of his fellow students braved 40 degree weather on a Saturday night for two hours for a candlelight vigil to sing, dance, share tears, laughs and memories of his life.
Jawhar led a life that positively influenced the lives of those around him, a life of giving. As God would have it, his greatest gift came after his death. At the conclusion of his funeral, an altar call was given for those who didn’t know Christ to have an opportunity to do so. As our choir sang, one person stepped forward, then a trio of young girls, then a couple more young people, then a few more, followed by a few more and on and on until 45 young people stood hugging and supporting each other offering their lives to God including his own family members to the great rejoicing and shouts of praise of the choir members and even his mother. Jawhar through his death, had encouraged others to receive the greatest gift, eternal life. I’ve been too many funerals and even sang at more than a few, but I have never seen anything like the outpouring we witnessed at this service.
After the songs had ended, and the family had departed, many of us sat, quietly in disbelief at what we had just witnessed. Words, as they were in the hospital the night of the birthday celebration, seemed wholly inadequate and unnecessary. Finally one member broke the silence and spoke to ther perfect symmetry of the situation saying ” You know, 45 choir members went to sing at the Washington Wizards game and then the hospital for Jawhar that day and 45 of his friends and family came to the altar for salvation today. ”
As we marveled at that reality, and the blessing that it was to play role in this entire string of events; we have all been thankful for Jawhar, the life he lived, the fact that our paths divinely crossed on Martin Luther King Day, that we were able to be included amongst those who felt his impact, and that we could offer some love and comfort to his friends and family. We realized in this moment that our lives and the lives of 45 other people would never be the same simply because of the positive life Jawhar lived and the willingness of a group of strangers to take a few minutes to sing songs of encouragement to someone in need. I will never forget Jawhar or his family. He coined a phrase which states, “You start dying when you stop dreaming.” Fortunately for those who loved him the most, he and his dreams will live forever through the impact on those of us around him.
The #Jawhar45 receiving the gift of salvation at his funeral.