Life is too short to make a threat out of a non-threat.
Last Friday, I was on my way to a memorial service for my friend, Chad Rogers. He was always a great man, but I think we were a bit humbled to see how great he really was. As hundreds of people came out to honor his life, we were surprised to find that Chad was being “Chad” for so many different people. He made every person feel so special. How did he have time to fit us all into his 30 years?
Celebrating a person’s life after death can be a way of healing because an ending can allow us to wipe the slate clean. Every petty detail we held onto year after year can be wiped away; and it allows the person to finally be free. Free to be great. Free to be loved. Free to be forgiven.
What if we could do this for each other now? Why does it take death to realize that a person was good all along?
Honoring by Remembering
Chad’s not dead. He lives on in the people’s lives he affected. He lives on in me every day. If you keep reading this blog post maybe a small part of him can live on in you as well.
As a way to carry on his life’s message, I want to tell you a little about his story.
First impressions. If I had to sum it up, I would say that Chad was good, but often misunderstood. Wearing half inch gauges and sporting several different tattoos, I don’t think people in the Midwest always knew how to approach him… But that was okay, he’d approach you – and as he approached, he’d naturally be putting the biggest smile on his face. He liked everyone – no reason to be afraid.
Chad was an encourager. Often this was misunderstood as well. In the early days of meeting Chad, I sometimes found myself wondering “Can anyone be this genuine? He is so good!”
Was he trying to get something? What did he want?
It was simple. He didn’t want to use you or manipulate you. He wanted to love you. He wanted you to LET him love you and to love him back.
Sometimes I understood this, and sometimes I didn’t.
Our best memory…
Chad always loved to run. He actually got me through my first half marathon. He’s a faster runner than I am, so I don’t mean that he ran beside me the whole time; but we met up in KC the night before and I got to experience him as my “running manager.” We started the night by eating pasta with his family – who are all just as nice as Chad. After lots of carbs, great conversation, and laughter, I was ready for bed. But, not Chad. He insisted that we needed to go on a grocery run to pick up a few things. We walked around the store picking up an odd assortment of gear: 5 hour energy drinks, Gatorade, Breathrite strips, and Advil. I had no idea I needed any of these. I thought I would wake up and suffer through 13 miles, but my running manager knew there was more to it than that!
He was right, of course. I was amazed mid-race how much my dorky looking Breathrite strip was helping me breathe. I had no idea the 5 hour energy drink would help give me the extra energy I needed to keep going strong. As I ran without pain for almost the whole race, I silently thanked him for making sure I took Advil before starting. Thirteen miles later, I finished the race strong and Chad (after running his own 13 miles) was there at the finish line to cheer for me.
The craziest part of that memory is that I think he was more proud and impressed with me than he seemed to be about his own race. I was exhausted and barely able to stand, but he was rushing around getting me things to eat and drink while he told me how great I ran. He walked me around on my “cool down” and when I took off my running shoes for the first time and noticed I’d probably lose a toenail – he smiled and told me how many toenails he had lost over the years of running – happily snapping pictures of the process.
This was the best moment Chad and I shared.
After that, I broke up with one of our mutual friends and my “ex-boyfriend got Chad in the divorce.” I was unwilling to put he and Sarah (his wife) between our pain. So, I let my ties with Chad fade. A few months later, my ex-boyfriend left to go to seminary school and Chad took over his job as youth director at our church. Even though I had helped with the youth for the past three years, I stopped helping. I figured I was probably too attached to the last youth director’s style. It wouldn’t be helpful to have me there critiquing. I intended to try to keep my relationship with his wife, so I planned a dinner date with Sarah. But as the date got closer, I found myself putting her on the back burner as well. I cancelled last minute. I knew she was upset about that. I remember talking to Chad about it and I asked him if he thought Sarah would forgive me. He encouraged me to ask her to forgive me and see.
———–Well, it’s two years later, but I’ll say it now. “I’m sorry, Sarah. I shouldn’t have cancelled on you. I didn’t make you a priority and that was wrong. You’re more important than that. Maybe someday we can be friends again? Please forgive me for hurting you.” —————-
Nine months after that, Chad and Sarah had their first baby – and as much as I wanted to be a part of it – I had created my own distance from them. Occasionally, I would go back the church where we met and I would see them in the crowd. We all knew there were things not right between us and I would politely try to steer myself away from them on the Sundays I attended. Regardless of how much I had tried to ignore him, Chad would always come by to see me anyways. Not only would he come to see me, he would bring Matthew Job with him. Chad was so proud of him. Amazingly, it didn’t seem to matter to him whether things were “right” or not. He wasn’t going to let our problems keep me from knowing that he loved me.
Eventually Chad and his family left my town to go back to Kansas City. It was at this time that Chad and I really started to talk again. Chad liked to keep up with his friends. During the day while he was at home taking care of Matthew Job, he would instant message me at work.
A little message would pop up on my email and it was Chad. He was taking time to care about me, ask me how I was doing, and stay connected with my life. Slowly our friendship, that I had once let go, started to build up again. I started to trust him and rely on him. We talked about what went wrong with us in the past two years and we both had a chance to apologize/forgive.
With our healing started, we began making plans. We decided it was time to do another half marathon together. I thought we had lots of time. I was wrong.
The beginning of the end.
Chad loved running. He loved everything about it.
It’s somehow fitting that running was the last thing he did with his life here on Earth.
Over a week ago, Chad left his family’s house around 8:30pm for a run. He never came back. For days, search parties went out around Liberty, Missouri to look for this “lost/hurt/killed runner.” Everyone wanted to help. Everyone was outraged that anything would happen to an innocent person trying to pursue health.
But, the search came to an end at the end of last week. He was found dead.
Everyone was devastated.
The start of a new beginning.
Chad’s life was just the start. In death, Chad became bigger than himself. He became a great story and many people are telling his tale.
I’ve talked before about certain spirits that seem to have an openness to them. Chad was one of these open vessels. He was ready to share God’s love with anyone that would let him. He helped so many people grow to love themselves and the people around them.
Chad always said “Friends are family” and he meant it. So many people long to have a family that cares or a family that forgives. Chad offered this to people who were in need. A simple promise, but one he would fight to keep because he thought you were worth it.
The hardest part for me, still.
The saddest part to me is that his adorable son, Matthew Job might not have any real memories of what his dad was like. Chad LOVED Matthew Job so much.
Matthew Job might not ever feel like he ‘knows’ me, but because of Chad, I feel like I know Matthew Job. Chad kept all of us updated on their day to day activities through social media, and it started to become the highlight of my day to see what he and Chad were up to while I was at work.
I also loved the fact that Chad took the time to tag Mathew Job in every picture as: #MatthewJob. I always thought it was funny that he referred to Matthew Job by both his first and middle name. I wondered if that would stick.
Sadly, I guess including “Job” seems appropriate – as Matthew Job has suffered a huge loss so early in life. God, please protect him like You protected Job.
Pocketpelican likes your photo.
Chad was always the first person to like my Instagram photos – even if they were with people that he had never met. It became almost a joke between my boyfriend and I to ask if pocketpelican had liked our photos yet. Through the simple act of “liking” photos, he was forming a relationship with both of us. Even though Adam never got a chance to meet Chad in person, he was very affected by the news of his death.
Pocketpelican (Chad) was a supporter of love. He cherished the love he had for himself and others, but he also cherished the love a complete stranger could give to one of his friends he considered family.
I think Adam understood that.
Don’t wait. Time might be running out.
Looking back, I realize that Chad never waited. It took me awhile to come to understand that Chad saw things a little simpler than the rest of us. He wasn’t concerned about making people around him into unnecessary threats. He would take a compliment and cherish it. He would give a compliment back readily. It was like he was a bottomless pit of love for other people – as much as you poured out, he would give right back to you.
You know, I think a lot of people would be really embarrassed or not know what to say if I wrote a post like this about them while they were living, but not Chad. I think if he were alive today he would probably say, “Thanks, friend. I love you too.”
So, here’s my call for those of you reading:
Don’t let the mistakes and flaws of other people keep you from loving them. Don’t let the humanity aspect of people keep you from forgiving them. Don’t see people as a threat. Take a lesson from Chad. See them as an opportunity to love.
Different people in your life will be able to teach you different lessons. Pay attention. Be a good student. And never, EVER forget to make time to love.