Last night a friend of mine, Jon Stoffel, and his eleven year old daughter Olivia were shot to death in a tragic senseless killing while the family was out for a walk.
I remember fishing with him and his little kids awhile ago on lake Winnebago. He advised me not to eat the sheepshead I caught but I wanted to see for myself why these are considered “junk fish”… and save some for my garden. He also advised me to sit down as I was standing, or rather stumbling, on the edge of his boat as we experienced some stronger waves. He let his kids play with the fish we caught and to ‘catch them again’ out of the bucket we put them in.
After he helped remove a fish hook from my hand, we went back to his house and he spent some time looking for a small fish that had slipped down beneath the floorboards. He showed me his garden and we talked about gardening. While hanging out with him I thought, ‘I want to be more like this guy when I grow up…’ and I think I am older than him.
I was looking forward to going fishing with him again this year.
Last night I had a dream I was a grief counselor at a nursing home. I felt woefully unqualified. Why I had to forfeit my pants as collateral when I came to work I’m not sure. I suppose that’s represents how I feel whenever grief is happening around me. Helpless. Embarrassed about being so useless to others in their grief.
When I was told today by a friend about Jon and his daughter being shot and killed, it didn’t seem real. I felt nothing. This disturbed me.
Where is my love? Is my love dead? Has my love grown cold like the Scriptures say happens to some people? God help me.
I went to play at a dementia unit at a Nursing home after I heard the news. One lady through the entire hour concert was saying, “Help me! Please help me! I need you! Help me!”
I resonated with her words. My heart was saying the same to Jesus.
I talked about calling out to Jesus for help and that he always comes to our rescue when we call for help. The Bible tells us, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (rescued).” Psalm 107 is full of people in desperate situations and scenarios who called out to the Lord and the Lord heard and came to their rescue. I then told the woman that I knew a song called “Help Me” and I played it for her:
I wonder why some of us just go numb when tragedy strikes. Is it because we’ve already experienced so much past pain in life that we’ve kind of shut down? I just started perusing a CS Lewis book “A Grief Observed” which I found online regarding when he lost his wife to an illness. Very interesting.
I finally felt the grief, and the tears came, after I came home and I saw a few of his photos on Facebook. I asked Jesus to give Jon and his daughter a hug from us. I then told Jon that I’m glad to be his friend… notice I didn’t say glad to have been his friend. We are still friends and he is more alive now then he ever has been.
I imagined the moment he and his daughter left their costumes (as Ted Dekker would say) and experienced perfect peace and the greatest love as they were greeted by none other than Jesus himself. There they were, hand in hand bursting with joy looking at the biggest smile on Jesus face as he came for them.
“The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.”. Psalm 116:15
I felt his care. It was good. Thank you Jon Stoffel for being my friend.
From Jon’s Facebook page (in the about him section):
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5
The latest update from the family perfectly sums up the kind of guy Jon was.
“The family would like to make it known that Erin said Jon’s last words to her after he was shot were, “Forgive the shooter.” We truly love because Christ first loved us. This was the heart of a man who walked the talk — his dying breath and last wish was only that his wife forgive the gunmen.”
Here is another photo from Olivia’s baptism: