A video tribute by Jonathan’s uncle, Vasken Sepetjian
A video tribute by Jonathan’s uncle, Vasken Sepetjian
There were a handful of people who have reached out to let us know they were not able to attend Jonathan’s Memorial Service and wondered if it was available online somewhere, so here it is. This is the full service, it is almost 2 hours long and includes the tribute video made by Jonathan’s Amo Vasken. Special thanks to my friend Tammy Harris who had the forethought to make sure this was captured for us.
I will post the link to just the tribute video separately.
To our family, friends and anyone who loves Jonathan:
As we approach the one-year anniversary of Jonathan being received home by his Creator, we wanted to let you know how we plan to spend the day. All things considered, we still wish that he was here with us but we find incredible peace and even some joy knowing that he is in the presence of his Savior in a restored body. We know that we will see him again one day.
Over the last year, spending time with the people closest to him has been so healing for us. We have loved to hear you share your memories of Jonathan. Knowing about the ways he touched your lives and what he meant to you is so precious to us.
March 8 is a Wednesday this year and we know that most people have work, school and other commitments. We are planning a brief visit to the cemetery after which we are going to release some butterflies in our backyard. My friend/pastor/boss will pray a blessing over us and we will enjoy some food together. We are hoping for it to be a simple day and our intent is to mark the day with reverence – to do something to honor Jonathan’s memory. If you would like to be included in any of those parts of the day, feel free to message Noah, Josh or me and we can give you more detail about times.
For any of you who cannot be with us but would still like to do something in Jonathan’s memory, we invite you to do small acts of service that include things he was passionate about. Here are some suggestions:
These are just a few suggestions, surely there are many more. Let the Lord and your heart lead you in this.
We would love to hear about anything that you do, but also understand that you may prefer to do something quietly, without fanfare. Message us privately, post it on social media by tagging Jonathan in your posts or treasure it quietly in your heart. Our desire is simply to keep his memory alive.
Susie (also for Noah and Josh)
P.S. A sweet friend suggested using a hashtag for this so that posts can be grouped. Keeping it very simple, use #JMSSickTricks as you share about your acts of service on or around March 8
Tag Jonathan in these feeds: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (does anyone besides our president still use Twitter?)
Several times since publishing and sharing my last post, I have wanted to write a follow-up. Not to change the original idea. I so appreciate God having given me the perspective of each passing day moving us closer to seeing Jonathan again. That thought still brings me comfort. The more I sat with it, though, the more it felt like an incomplete post.
While it is true the more time that passes the closer we are to seeing him again, it is also a fact that the days are often very hard without Jonathan. Random, unexpected moments and occasions or conversations bring him back to the front of my consciousness; the harsh reality of living without him frequently brings along with it sadness. His absence is such a hole in our lives and looking forward to seeing him again is sometimes only a small comfort in contrast to the depth of pain we feel.
Then again, without the assurance of being reunited with Jonathan one day I feel pretty certain I would not have made it this far. What a joy to have been his mama for almost 24 years here on earth. What a blessing to know that we will spend eternity with him. It is in light of eternity that this “time in between” is actually short, so that is another encouragement to hold on to… especially on the hard days.
Without a doubt 2016, was the hardest year of my life. As the year was drawing to a close and we began marking significant days that would not include Jonathan, part of me was just eager for the year to end. His absence at all of our holiday celebrations and even the ordinary days is an unimaginably painful hole in our lives.
We did some special things around Christmas to make sure Jonathan would be a part of our celebrations. There were definitely some tears on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, but we were together as a family and it was good. It was healing.
So when New Year’s Eve rolled around I was surprised that the thought of starting a new year without Jonathan was harder than spending our first Christmas without him. Somehow it felt like we were moving further and further away from him.
Here now a week into 2017 and I have not been able to shake that thought. Yesterday we marked 10 months exactly since he was received home by his Creator. So many of Jonathan’s friends are experiencing major life events like weddings, engagements, new babies, new jobs and birthdays. These are wonderful things and we are sincerely happy for the families who get to experience them. At the same time, these events are very real and painful reminders that we will never experience those things with Jonathan. Left alone with those thoughts, it would be easy to slip into a pit of despair and bitterness, but God. God is so gracious to pursue and pull me back out of that pit. Day by day, minute by minute He does not let me stay there long.
This morning the nagging thought of 10 months without him popped back into my head. In many ways, time has stood still for us since March 8, 2016. In other ways, it is moving faster than ever. I could not help but think that before we know it, it’ll be 11 months and then a full year without him here. Then two years. Then five. Further from the last time we saw Jonathan and spoke to him; heard his giggle. Further from the last time any of us received one of his super tight, warm hugs that always spoke louder than words.
Then this morning as the rain was falling outside and I was trying to shake the cobwebs out of my head to get ready for the day, God graciously gave me an epiphany. We are not moving further away from him. Today we are one day closer to seeing Jonathan again. It is so simple, yet it makes all the difference. My soul immediately felt lighter. What a gracious and merciful gift from a loving God. Praying that you also would possess this gift.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:1-9 ESV
Since Jonathan’s accident, I have joined a few closed Facebook groups for bereaved parents and others who have lost someone close to them. Sometimes I need a safe and semi-private place to vent the thoughts that seem so crazy in my head. Those groups have been helpful (at times) to make me feel understood and not so alone. These are parents who know the pain of my loss. However, I also see so many people there who are drowning in anger and pain and bitterness. It breaks my heart. I occasionally try to share where my own hope comes from. Often, I just have to take a break from them altogether at the risk of being pulled in to their despair in my own fragile condition.
Over and over the one thing that remains consistent in these groups is grieving parents who are chastised for not only how, but also how long, they are grieving their children. I just read a post of a mom who buried her 2-year-old son two months ago and this morning someone commented on her FB profile pic (of her and her baby who is now gone) that she needs to “stop living in the past and move on.” After two months. TWO MONTHS!!! I just don’t understand this. It feels so cruel.
I get it that social media seems to give people the platform to say whatever they want to with very little consequence, and if we chose to participate in social media we open ourselves up to that – it is a risk we take. What’s even worse is that many of these grieving parents are also being told things like this to their faces. From their own parents, or siblings or even spouses. From people who they considered to be their most intimate family, friends and supporters.
I am learning that grief is such a long and hard journey. One that is as unique to an individual as each person experiencing it. No one should tell someone else how to grieve, much less how long to grieve. I have heard that our grief will last as long as the love was deep and then some. I can say for myself that I will miss my son until the moment we are reunited in our Father’s house, not a minute less.
What these parents are going through has been so different than my own journey. In the almost 10 months since Jonathan joined his Savior in heaven I have not experienced any overt attacks like that. I have no idea if those things are being said behind my back, and I try not to care if they are.
This is not to say that I have not felt hurt by things people have said. There have been some words that have pierced my already broken heart like a hot knife. However, I know that it was not the intent of those people to hurt me. I truly believe that the majority of people mean well. They sincerely want to help and be supportive in some way. They want me to know that they are hurting with us or at least for us. At times words just fail them so they either don’t say anything (this can leave me/us feeling isolated/ignored) or they trip over the words and things just come out wrong. I try my best to assume only good intent and have compassion for those who fumble in this area.
As someone with the Spiritual Gift of Mercy it was initially hard for me to understand that empathy does not come naturally for some people. I generally have no trouble hurting with or entering into another’s pain, and I often feel drawn to encourage hurting people. I think that Romans 12:15 might be engraved on my soul. A friend and close confidant who has walked with me over the last few years (and even more so in the last few months) explained that some people have to work fairly hard at showing empathy and compassion. It is very taxing on them, but they might be the first person to step in and meet some other kind of need: physical, financial etc. Understanding that was probably one of the most helpful pieces of advice to interact with others over these last several months.
I can’t expect people to automatically know where I am at or what I need on any given day. So, I have become more bold to speak out about what I need. I feel freedom to tell some people a better way if something they have done or said hurts me. I have found that my vulnerability draws people in and then we move towards deeper connection.
As far as social media goes, I am always happy when my Facebook memories include Jonathan. Remembering him makes my heart smile. In a month or a year or even 10 years from now if anyone feels the needs to unfriend or unfollow me because social media posts remembering my son make you uncomfortable then I’ll say “so long” and wish them well. If anyone ever feels the need to berate me publicly for wanting to keep my son’s memory alive, well we can just part ways right now.
Today is Thanksgiving. I have been kind of dreading this day for weeks. Jonathan loved the togetherness of Thanksgiving and the prospect of marking our first one without him has been a bit overwhelming. We miss him terribly.
Then a few days ago God spoke into my heart through a devotional I’ve been going through:
Jesus Always. The author, Sarah Young, speaking in first person as Jesus Himself says this:“Thanksgiving is not just a holiday celebration once a year. It’s an attitude of the heart that produces Joy; it is also a biblical command” and “No matter what is happening, you can be joyful in God your Savior.” That was a fairly powerful message for me and one that I obviously needed to hear. Since then, Jesus has been drawing me in close to whisper all the things we have to be grateful for. It’s true, thanksgiving is a choice and a position of the heart.
Every year Calvary Church has a Thanksgiving Day service where we come together as a church family and have an opportunity to share all the ways we are grateful. Due to our plans in the past, I have been to this service just once in my 14+ years at Calvary. I had no intention to go today. My plan was to stay close to home, expecting the day to be hard and full of tears. I guess God had other ideas, because I felt Him prompting me to attend and share what He had put on my heart these last few days. Mind you, I would rather do just about anything else but speak in public. My voice, knees and hands shake and if I am sharing anything emotional there is a good chance I will cry. Who am I kidding? Crying is basically inevitable for me. I tried to push the thought away and rationalized all the reasons why it would be fine to stay home and ignore that gentle voice in the back of my head. It didn’t work. So this morning, Josh and I attended the Thanksgiving Day service and were blessed to hear people share their hearts and ways they are grateful. I jotted down some notes over the last couple of days, so that I would not forget what God had put on my heart (I also knew I would have to read it, because it’s hard to think clearly when your heart is pounding out of your chest). This morning I texted one of the pastor’s facilitating the “pass the mic” format so that I would not chicken out, because I felt my resolve wavering as I was drying my hair. Here is what I read/shared:
“Our 23-year-old son died this past March after a motorcycle accident. While I can’t quite stand here and say that I am thankful for that, as I lean into the love of Jesus I recognize that there is still so much to be grateful for.
I am most thankful that because of his salvation and ours we have the promise that we will see Jonathan again one day.
My husband Noah, our younger son Josh and I are thankful for the love and support of this church family that has held (and continues to hold) our family up in our darkest time over the last 8 months.
I have heard that losing a child is something that you never get over – whether you knew them for 23 years, 50 years, 6 months or even just minutes. That certainly feels true today. The additional layers of loss like a wedding that won’t ever happen, grandchildren that will never be born and an empty seat at all of our future holiday celebrations wash over us in unexpected and suffocating waves. However, in this moment I can say that as we trust in God’s perfect will, it is well with my soul.
So today I am thankful to know that pain, sorrow, joy and gratitude can simultaneously exist in a heart that even while broken is surrendered to Christ.”
And now this evening as our Thanksgiving meal is over and the dishes are done, I can honestly say that it was a good day. I clearly see how God has carried us through today. God is good and gracious. He deserves all of our praise. #blessed
I stumbled across this picture last night and it made me both happy and sad.
This was our now forever 23 year old Jonathan on 12-2-15. He was working really long, hard days, had come home from a particularly challenging day and was sleeping like this for the few minutes before he had to start all over again.
I’m actually surprised that I kept it because the look of his room with clothes and shoes strewn about everywhere and stuff all over the place used to get his dad and I so upset. Also, his pants were hanging halfway down his hiney and the tuxedo he would wear in his cousin Sahag’s wedding 2 days later is in a pile on his chair.
Now, I am so glad I have this picture. This is a perfect representation of the hardworking (and slightly sloppy) man he had become.
Just 3 months later on 3-8-16 he would be taken home to his Maker after a motorcycle accident. This past Tuesday was the first time the 8th of the month fell on a Tuesday since the Tuesday of Jonathan’s accident. Such an awful day for me. I miss him so much.
I can’t seem to catch my breath this week. The waves of grief keep crashing over me and knocking me off of my feet. I am having so much trouble focusing, it’s almost as bad as in the first few weeks after his accident. I miss Jonathan and see reminders of him every where I look. I miss his sparkling blue eyes, his smirky smile and his contagious giggle. I would give just about anything for one of his super tight hugs and to hear his laugh again. I suspect that with the holidays just 3 weeks away things will not improve significantly in the near future. Right now I am just doing the best that I can to lean into the strong and compassionate arms of my Creator. Nothing else even comes close to calming my racing heart.
Wanting desperately to dwell on Psalm 94:19 “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul” and Psalm 16:8-9 “I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely.”
Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You.
This guy made us parents for the first time 8,949 days ago and today it has been 235 days since his Creator took him home to heaven at the age of 23. All of those 235 days have been hard, but this evening is especially hard. My heart aches from missing him.
His empty room across the hallway from ours still has all of his clothes in the hamper and in the closet, except a few pieces that his brother has taken to wear. The bedding that he slept in the last couple of nights before his accident is still on his bed and sometimes I go in there to bury my face in them with hope that I might still catch a hint of his smell. It is hard to explain the desire to hold on to every piece of him. I’ve even gone as far as picking up his used contact lenses which were thrown indiscriminately onto the carpet in his room. I have some of them in a zip lock baggie. At least one person who I confided in that I had wanted to do that, likened it to saving his used toilet paper or old poop. Hardly the same thing as far as I am concerned. These were practically a part of his body and helped him to see the world that he liked to experience at full tilt. They literally touched the most beautiful blue eyes ever, how could I not want to hold on to them?
I guess I’ll just cut my rambling short for tonight and end with this: “We miss you like crazy and love you so much, Jonathan.”