The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Jenny is her amazing smile. She had the ability to light up an entire room with that smile. As sad as we all are at this time, it is impossible to look at a photo of Jenny and not feel the warmth and sincerity exuding from her face.
I can’t talk about growing up with Jenny without mentioning her music. I always thought the trumpet was the best fit with her personality. The sound of a trumpet can capture a room with its blast. Jenny’s laughter could do the same thing.
Jenny and I grew up here at Grace and she became something of a moral compass for me. She helped me with many of the most important decisions of my young adult life. She particularly taught me not to take things for granted or spend all my time looking forward to the future at the expense of enjoying right now. We also spent a lot of time discussing our faith over the years. We both struggled to integrate the faith of our parents with the concerns and issues facing our own generation. While these questions are never fully answered, Jenny provided amazing insight and wisdom to our discussions. I think Jenny would want me to encourage people to question their faith. To spend time thinking about things bigger than themselves-and more than anything, how best to love each other. As evidenced by the number of people here today, Jenny was loved. But Jenny also serves as a great example of how to love. She spent time cultivating and maintaining her relationships. She kept track of the details of her friends’ lives and knew that the little things counted. I was constantly amazed in the last few years how often her thoughts were of other people when she had every right to be selfish. One of her friends mentioned to me this week that after coming to visit her during some rough times in her illness, he always left feeling like she cheered him up, instead of the other way around.
One of my favorite memories is of a trip to the beach in high school, a youth group trip. Some of the younger boys were particularly annoying to us older and more sophisticated girls. At Jenny’s urging, we decided the best way to deal with the pipsqueaks was to mess with their heads. Being ever resourceful, Jenny scored a key to their room. We then fabricated a story about overhearing the hotel cleaning staff complaining about some "messy boys". With the conviction the cleaning staff was out to get them, the boys never suspected our involvement in icy-hot on their toilet seats, fish flavored candy on their pillows (thanks to a local prank shop) and soap that turned red when wet and left dye on their hands. This fun-loving and crafty side of Jenny brought fun and laughter to all our youth group activities. One year, on our annual ski trip, Jenny and I were skiing with some beginner girls. We wanted to make it less scary for them when we went up to the big mountain so we decided that every time someone fell, we would all ski over, fall down in a big heap on top of them, and take a picture. I think we ended up using an entire roll of film on just one run down the hill! I included that story because to me, it is yet another example of Jenny’s fun spirit and enthusiastic nature. But it always illustrates how she always found a way to make everyone feel comfortable and included.
It has been a wonderful blessing the past few days to meet so many of Jenny’s friends from other parts of her life and swap stories about her unique contributions to each of our memories. Jenny had so many facets to her personality-it seems like each of us experienced only a part. Some of her guy friends shared with me that she never let them get away with anything when it came to girls. One said "Jen had the ability to freely call you out when you made excuses without making you feel lousy. When you would shy away from your true feelings about someone or something, or ignore a reality you didn’t want to face-she would present to you that which you needed to face in order to fix the problem". I also appreciated Jenny’s ability to tactfully and gracefully tell you the truth you needed to hear even if it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. The kind of honesty and accountability she offered as a friend was a rare gift.
The world seems a little dimmer without Jenny. I am shaken to the core by this loss and cannot fathom why she has been taken from us. But I know Jenny would tell me to search my faith, to know that there is something bigger than I can understand and to take peace in the idea that she has gone home. In the meantime, I will miss my friend. I will miss her guidance. But more than anything else, I feel the weight of the responsibility to appreciate every moment of life and to follow Jenny’s tremendous example of strength, laughter, and love.