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Showing love in not-so-gentle fashion

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In last week’s column, I shared the first part of the message given at the funeral for Ian Frazier Lewis, whose mother, Missy, was like a member of our family when she was growing up. The message was given by my son, Jimmy, the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church of Wake Forest:

“We’ll miss the young man who came into this world in the first year of the new millennium with, as mother, Missy, wrote, a laid-back, mellow style that was true to his personality.

“We’ll miss the young man who seemed to have, as older-brother Erik described, a ‘dance in his step,’ Or as his father, Kendall, described, a ‘swagger’ just like his uncle and grandfather.

“We’ll miss the young man who shared much of his personality with his sister, Hanna, as shown, in part, by the way they always agreed on the type of pizza to order: Hawaiian stuffed crust.

“We’ll miss the young man who was protective of others, especially family and friends. When someone attempted to be rough on younger brother Payden while playing soccer, Ian would say to Eric, ‘Hold me back!’

“When Hanna ‘messed up’ her car by hitting a concrete barrier, Ian was in the car with her. He didn’t criticize her or yell at her. Instead, he hugged her. Then when she was comforted, he was angered why someone would put the barrier where his sister could hit it.

“We’ll miss the young man who loved water — whether it was in taking a notorious long shower while siblings waited, … riding the water slide time after time as a boy, … or, yes, swimming in the ocean.

“We’ll miss the young man who had a sweet tooth, who would come back from a trip to the drug store with packages of candy.

“We’ll miss the young man who grew his hair long, reaching midway down his torso. Girls told him his hair was pretty. His parents wanted him to cut it. They agreed on a compromise, and Ian had his hair cut to collar length.

“We’ll miss the young man who loved soccer, who played 16 seasons with the Condors as well as on the high school team at Wake Forest. When he started playing, his dad said Ian wasn’t a good player. He was clumsy and didn’t have great skills. He even had a defeatist attitude. Then something clicked. He became determined to play well. He spent hours practicing by himself, and he developed into a good player, a striker and winger on the team who regularly scored, including five times in one game. He was also competitive, and after scoring the five goals, he was upset he didn’t score six.

“We’ll miss the young man who was adventurous, who participated in the rigorous 10 days of mountaineering at the Boy Scout camp called Philmont in New Mexico.

“We’ll miss the young man who was good with people. Ian wasn’t outgoing, his dad said, but he cared for people. A freshman at school told his mom how Ian was in one her classes. Even though he was an upperclassman, he reached out to her, made her feel welcome.

“Yes, there is much this world will miss about Ian. But as we remember Ian, we don’t have to focus only on what we’ll miss. Even in our grief, we have much to celebrate, too.

“We can celebrate that Ian knew love from his family and others.

“We can celebrate that Ian made a difference in people’s lives.

“We can celebrate that Ian had what his family described as a moral compass.

“We can celebrate that Ian relished life. As Erik described: ‘Ian didn’t always know where he was going, but he enjoyed the journey.’

“The same Jesus, the human, who wept over the death of Lazarus, showed his divinity when he raised his dear friend back to life. That raising, though, was temporary. Lazarus’ body eventually died again. The greater gift was life for his soul — the same gift offered to us today.

“The day before Ian died, the church celebrated Maundy Thursday, a time to remember Jesus’ teaching in the Upper Room. The theme of that teaching is love. ‘I give you a new commandment,’ Jesus said, ‘that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:34-35).

“Earlier in his ministry, Jesus was asked what is the most important thing we can do. And his answer was love — love God with all of who we are, and love others as ourselves.

“We can celebrate that Ian loved.

“He loved in the way he saw past class and racial distinctions to see the person.

“He loved in the way he adored his siblings.

“He loved in the way he wanted to protect his family and friends.

“He loved in the way he could relate to animals and they could trust him.

“He loved in the way he ran off the soccer field after scoring a goal to hug his little brother, Payden, and his mom and dad.

“He loved in the last communication he had with his dad, a text message in which he wrote those words that are precious to any parent: ‘I love you.’

“His death hurts. And, yet, in our grieving we can begin to celebrate someone who made a difference — someone who loved.

“Last night at the visitation, Ian’s dad and I were looking at the photos of Ian. Erik took many of them, showing Ian on the soccer field making a corner kick with strength and grace, … celebrating with teammates, … getting a yellow card from the referee.

“Other photos showed him with family. One showed Ian with Payden and his dad. He is sitting beside his brother this past Thanksgiving at his Uncle Sherrill and Aunt Ginger’s home. He isn’t making a funny expression or being frustrated for having to sit for another picture. Instead, he is sitting beside his brother with his arm around Payden, smiling. He showed love.

“Kendell said Ian would often express love through touching, and not necessarily in a gentle way. He would playfully bump into his dad, grab him in a bear hug … and, then, every-so-often utter those precious words, ‘I love you.’”

Bob Allen, publisher emeritus of The Wake Weekly, invites comments at 919-556-3059 or