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TeensGrief with a Legacy of Hope
By Toni Smothers

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV), it says, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." Yet my husband and I do grieve. You see our seventeen year old grandson passed away this April.

The news media were all over the accident, reporting it even before some of our family members knew about it. His other grandmother actually got to find out about Brandonís death on the television. The media called it another reckless, fatal, car-surfing prank. The family had to issue a restraining order to keep the camera crews from pursuing the family to the funeral.

Brandon was hanging around with some friends in the early evening hours on a seemingly normal day when he impulsively jumped onto the hood of his friendís car. No big deal, he was just fooling around. He had a mischievous way about him Ė just part of his nature, like his innocence and his huge heart. There were no drugs or alcohol involved. Brandon was a good kid.

Whatever possessed the girl behind the wheel to start the car and accelerate, is unknown to human logic. Before she realized what she had done and could stop the car, she had spilled Brandon to the ground and run over him with the front tires, trapping him beneath the car. He died instantly; she faces vehicular homicide.

It is devastating when someone we love dies. Sadness devours every thought. It feels like a portion of ourselves is gone too and there is a permanent void torn into our family forever. Yes, we are Christians and yes, we do believe in heaven. We also want to know why one we love dearly, who was so young and good, could be so abruptly plucked from our lives. In an isolated instant in time a young man made a foolish, irrevocable decision to jump up on a car hood. Thatís what happened Ė there is such a squeezing in our chest as we remember him.

Brandon was a boy with many friends. He knew the Lord and served his fellow man in the Second Harvest Food Bank as a volunteer. He was a good person, a normal person, just like anyoneís grandson, maybe. He was no model citizen, he got a few Cís, had a fight or two in his time, but he was good and loving also.

Scripture doesn't tell us not to be sad. It doesn't expect us to bury our pain and anger and just get on with our lives. Instead, Paul gently reminds us that as believers in Christ we are different from those without faith. Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, we can grieve with hope.

His ROTC team was at the funeral, all dressed in uniform, as they made the flag presentation to Brandonís mother and carried Brandon from the building. Also, his friends from school swarmed the place. It was a full house. Every one of those kids got up to say something good about Brandon that they remembered because they wanted to honor him.

There is life beyond this life. As Christians, we can still go on because we know that truth in our hearts. Our eternal hope means we will never again be separated from God. "And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:17 NIV.)

Brandonís mother wanted to be sure that all of Brandonís friends knew about Jesus. She had a meeting with the Pastor prior to the service and asked that he find a way to make an altar call, an invitation to any who did not yet know Christ to receive Him in that service that day. Brandon would have liked that.

My husband and I have a small ministry that gives away free literature. We brought a box of 65 new testaments. The assistant minister held the box by the exit giving the books away to whoever had made a decision for Christ to take and read about their salvation.

As we were leaving the funeral, the box was completely empty! We couldnít believe it. There were even a few kids that came up to us asking for more, so we gave out a few pocket sized books of John. God used this most horrendous tragedy for the good of many hearts that day. So Brandon left more than a loving family, he left a legacy of hope in the truth and strength of salvation.

Our hope assures us of a new life, without sin or death. "God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4 NIV.)

Knowing that Brandonís death may have sparked the rebirth of many of his friends makes the awful squeezing in our chests just a bit more bearable.
Toni Smothers is a child of God, wife, mom, grandmother, writer and lay-speaker. She has had serious exposure to the rougher side of life and from that experience has been left with a heart full of love for others who struggle with learning about our beautiful Savior. Through her writing, Toni delights in helping young people especially, who are seeking to find a true, intimate relationship with their Heavenly Father. You can write to Toni through the Your Letters page of this magazine.
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