Jaalen Watkins (photo cred: Ouachita Baptist University)
Two dear friends died last Thursday within at least 12 hours of each other. I first lost Jaalen, a football player and fellow Mass Communications major who was transferring to a college in Missouri from Ouachita. He was killed in a wreck early last Friday. Jaalen and I became fast friends in our Intro to Mass Communications course this past fall. We started hanging out and got to know each other better and better. He asked me to look over broadcast scripts of his plenty of times, and all I could ever suggest were minor edits. Jaalen was talented and he was such an easygoing guy. He was someone I could go to if I needed to vent or just wanted to hang. When I lost a classmate during spring break and left her memorial service on campus, he let me cry and listened. In short, Jaalen was one of my most trustworthy and closest friends, and losing him absolutely broke me.
Then I would learn that I lost Chris that afternoon. Chris was one of my Sunday school teachers when I was in the youth program at my church. Chris was more than just a friend. He was a mentor, a father figure, and someone who not only understood youth, but made every effort to know that you mattered and that your talents and gifts were a gift from God. When he watched the band's halftime shows during home games for Friday night football, Chris always told me how awesome we were and told me specifically what he liked about the show. Our church learned that Chris had been diagnosed with brain cancer, and he had to take time to be home. As his cancer spread, we could see the effects that it took on him physically, and it wasn't just the hair loss that came with chemotherapy. I knew this cancer wouldn't be beat easily. I just didn't think that he couldn't beat it.
Christopher Whitaker (photo cred: eParisExtra)
Then again, I must remind myself that, no matter how it seems, it was all part of God's plan for their lives.
Yes, I'm still grieving. I probably will grieve for a while. With Jaalen, I already knew that I wouldn't see him on campus because he was transferring, but I knew we could always meet up in Little Rock or if he traveled to visit us at Ouachita, which lessened the sadness I already felt. Now, knowing that the next time I will see him again will be the day I die makes not seeing him that much worse. I had prayed and prayed for Chris to beat his cancer, but God had a different plan. God called Chris home, allowing him to see all four of his children graduate high school. Even as I'm reassured that Chris departed Earth in peace, I still wonder what purpose the cancer served in God's plan. I still wonder how Jaalen's sudden death factors into God's plan.
I guess I'll keep wondering in prayerful thought. I won't try to decipher God; believe me, nobody can decipher His plan. But I know this much: it was time for Chris and Jaalen to enjoy their homecoming. And we have something to take away not from their deaths, but from their lives. We must look to the future when Christ wins over Satan, when no more will we be plagued with sadness and misery. Christ is coming back. We will be reunited with Chris, Jaalen, and everyone that has been welcomed into heaven.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. -Revelation 21:4