In more than ten years of youth ministry, BJ and I have had the privilege of working with thousands of incredible teenagers and college students. But Brendon impressed us perhaps more than any other. He was a cowboy made of magic. He lit up the room, just by being in it. He made everything more fun and funnier. He was charismatic, hard working, responsible, and knowledgeable. A gentleman with the gift of hospitality, he hugged all the women and shook hands with all the men. And men and women alike were a little bit in love with him.
In my mind’s eye, I can still see him standing at the stove, cracking jokes and flipping pancakes. I see him poring over the printout from my mechanic, patiently explaining all of the charges. I see him loading up a giant bowl of leftover chili and kicking back to share with us the story of his childhood. I see him bursting into our living room, excitedly revealing that God’s Not Dead was playing at the Lovell Theater and insisting we all go see it. I see him playing Mafia and Catch Phrase and making us all laugh with his ridiculous stories. I see him building huge, raging bonfires just to roast a couple little hot dogs. I see him fishing in Shell Canyon and tipping his hat when I introduce him to my family.
And I hear him, too. I hear his spurs jangling with every long stride. I hear him laughing, always laughing. I hear him bragging about his truck, and I hear him dreaming aloud about riding broncs. I hear him encouraging, teasing, questioning, informing.
I see him coming into the office that last morning, dressed to the nines as always, a Wild Rag neatly knotted at his throat and his Wranglers tucked into his boots. I hear myself telling him to have a good day and be careful. I see him grinning ear-to-ear and walking out. And I see him in Billings, Montana at the hospital late that night. Only then he’s no longer smiling, no longer laughing, no longer hugging the girls and shaking hands with the men. In the midst of our heartache, he looked so perfect, so at peace.
Looking back, I see that his knowing him and losing him were the both the most precious and heartbreaking aspects of our time in Wyoming. A year later, I celebrate his life and mourn his death. I am grateful for the time we had with him, but I’m homesick for all the memories unmade and moments unspent. But, more than anything, I am thankful that this life is not the end. Because Brendon knew Jesus, he traded this old world for an eternity in paradise. And because I know Jesus, I will see Brendon again. Until then, I’ll miss him, but I’ll say his name with a smile on my face and hope in my heart.
Found in the brim of Brendon's cowboy hat, along with notes from our last crew Bible Study:
Ten Principles to Live By
1. Live each day with courage.
2. Take pride in your work.
3. Always finish what you start.
4. Do what has to be done.
5. Be tough but fair.
6. When you make a promise, keep it.
7. Ride for the brand.
8. Talk less and say more.
9. Remember that some things aren't for sale.
10. Know where to draw the line.