(death is a part of living, but when a child goes before their parents, it devastates what should be a natural order of things. this is a personal eulogy for my son who died on the eve of his 25th birthday)
They say time heals all wounds. But there are some wounds too deep that time can never touch.
I can stand here and tell you how amazing our son was, but if you are sitting here, then you already know this.
I would like to go on about how smart, and gentle, loving, funny and kind he was, but again, if you knew Damien, then you knew that as well.
When Damien graduated high school in 2011, the biggest gift he took away from his four years at Orange High, were his close-knit group of friends that have stood by each other through thick and thin. They shared in adventures I couldn’t imagine, and I’ve no doubt they will continue to do so…and I have no doubt a little bit of my son will always be with them.
Damien figured out at an early age that it doesn’t matter what your occupation is, or your highest level of education was, or what is or isn’t in your bank account. He treated everyone with respect, regardless. Because he knew that one of the most important things in this world is who you love and who loved you back. Who stands beside you in the good times and in the bad…Damien stood beside a lot of us during both those times.
When the police came to our door at almost three in the morning on December 11, to inform us that our lives were about to be irrevocably changed forever once they delivered their news, my only question was, WHERE WERE YOU GOD!!!!!
More accusation than inquiry.
Where were you when HE needed you!
Where were you when WE needed you!
And the answer came over the next several days; It came in the form of friends that surrounded us with love, rushing to our sides to hold and comfort us as we tried to process what was happening.
That was God saying, I’m right here.
It came in a whisper in my ear that said, He wasn’t alone, Michele. He wasn’t alone.
[Matt 28:20] And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
He may have been by himself, but he wasn’t alone.
The answer came in Pierce’s friends that encircled him in comfort as he wept. In the small group that spent the night with him so he wouldn’t have to sleep alone in the room he shared with his older brother. Even though they had to leave early for school the next day, they stood by him.
And God was right there.
It came in the form of that one friend that sat watching tv while Pierce dozed off and on nearby in restless sleep.
It was in the form that when we had expected to gain a daughter by law, we ended up gaining a whole new family by Spirit.
God’s presence was evident in every hug, every text, every FaceBook message, every phone call and visit we received by those shocked and saddened by the news.
I’m right here.
By those that said, I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you.
By those that sat with us in awkward silence as we grieved our loss.
By those that cried with us in our grief.
[Matt 5:4] Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
And we were.
It was in the people that so generously donated to the Go Fund Me page, in the cards sent to us, in the meals that were brought to us, in the stories and photos shared with us…
and the whiskey in the coffee didn’t hurt either.
God’s presence was noted in the way that as our lives were being ripped apart, long term family rifts were finally healing.
I am reminded of another mom who lost her firstborn son in an untimely fashion. As His hands and feet were pierced with nails, and her heart was pierced with grief, it was her son’s sacrifice on the cross that laid the groundwork for my son to become the loving and caring man he was.
It was in this very church where both my boys were dedicated, raised and baptized.
It was this very church that taught my son how to have a servant’s spirit, and a servant’s heart.
And such a big heart he had.
When people say, he was different, loving, kind, and special…
that was because of the cross.
When Damien reached out to others, defended the underdog, helped those who couldn’t help themselves…
that was because of the cross.
When he made sarcastic remarks, inappropriate jokes at inappropriate times…
Yeah, that was probably because of me. That was my side of the family bubbling to the surface. And when he threw down at the poker table, or played a ruthless game of Monopoly, showing no mercy…
That was all the Johnson side.
When Damien was little, he would go through periods of high, intense energy, usually right before bedtime. It would be at these times that Keith and I would look at each other and say, Damien’s burning bright tonight.
That was our nerdy reference to a Supernova– an exploding star that before it burns itself out will increase its luminosity by as much as twenty magnitudes.
That’s how Damien lived his life. Completely and fully. Even if he was sick or tired, he would power through, digging deep into his energy reserves, because he didn’t want to miss out on anything.
He burned bright.
That’s who he was. He didn’t know any other way to be.
And in the end, against better judgement and conventional wisdom, he pushed himself too hard, too far, and burned himself out.
You can’t contain energy that refuses to be contained.
They say time heals all wounds…only some wounds are so deep, if we lived a thousand years, time would barely have touched it….
…but God can, if we allow it.
[Rev 21:4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain.
That is the hope and the promise we carry with us that makes any of this bearable.
It is said, what we see in others is a reflection of ourselves.
What I see when I look upon all of your faces is a reflection of our son.
When Damien burned his brightest, his physical body may have been extinguished, but his light moved on to touch each and every one of you.
It is my sincere hope, my sincerest prayer, that when you leave this place, you will all continue to share and reflect that light with others in the same way that our Damien, our D, our Bambino, did, making this too often dim world a brighter place to live in.
Burn bright…burn bright.