At first, I thought she didn't like me. She might not know that, but she does now. But seriously, now I understand it was my overactive imagination and nothing more.
We first met at the ACFW conference in Dallas in 2006. I remember laughing with her in the lobby, but what I remember most is feeling overwhelmingly sad when she got a call that someone close passed on. I felt the need to pray and she doesn't know but I was praying silently when I hugged her. I had also signed up to take a shift in the prayer room, I prayed for her family then, as well.
I really got to "know" Jeanne reading her blog and her every-other-Thursday posts at The Master's Artist. Then I found out she takes photographs (like really outanding ones!) And though Jeanne's words are phenomenal, down to earth, and always seem to leave you with an unexpected sense of hope and peace, her photography spoke its silent language to my heart.
This picture of Natalie, Jacob, and baby Lawson Jacob touched me deeper than I realized at first. When I saw it, all I knew was that Jeanne was a great writer, a funny gal who gave points to people who made her laugh, a great photographer, and a woman who loved her family deeply. I sort of knew that Jacob had brain damage, but I didn't know the story and I was didn't want to appear rude by asking. Little by little, the pieces came together. Jacob had an accident, he nearly drowned. He lived. He has brain damage. The photos of him are always stunning, there's so much in his eyes, they speak that silent language, too.
This was my first chapter in the story that is Jacob Damoff.
In August of 2007, I found out that Natalie was Jacob's best friend. I found out she named her baby Lawson Jacob. Soon after, Relief published selections from Parting the Waters.
And this photo then meant more...look at Natalie. I know that feeling of--what do you call it? Blessed pain? Or as Jeanne appropriately called it: Beauty in Brokenness?
Those moments in life, we all have them, or maybe not everyone does?
I have had them. When my grandma died. It was so hard to watch her go, yet knowing she was finally in peace was peace for me. When my uncle committed suicide. The single most painful event in my life, yet knowing the demons no longer could taunt him and that he's resting in Jesus now--overwhelming pain and relief simultaneously.
Is that a taste of what Jesus felt when he commanded His spirit to His Father?
My mind captures images and holds them, the first photo is one that comes to the forefront of my mind often. This is the other one.
There's something in Jacob's smile that commands attention.
I often find myself wondering what it's like to be that happy. Then I remember I am, I have only let life drag me down.
Parting the Waters is so brutally honest. The reality of it all is bitter and heartbreaking, yet through it all there is a hope bigger than explanation.
My mind captured an image from the book and will not let go. Jeanne and George had just brought Jacob home after a lengthy period of rehabilitation. Jacob, at this point, was not able to speak. They were at a special chapel service and the pastor, "...at one point said 'God,' Jacob pointed first to his own heart and then straight up in the air. "
Jeanne continues, "After that day, when someone mentioned the Lord, Jacob pointed. Always to his heart first, then to the sky. He hadn't uttered a single word, but his actions preached a thousand sermons."
* * *
Another aspect of Jacob's story that I appreciate, one that helps me in my own life, is hearing everything the family and community did with Jacob while he was in a coma. I mentioned above that my grandma's recent death has affected me. She was not conscious for a week or more towards the end. I posted the story of the last minutes I was blessed with sharing with her. As Jeanne put it, "What a precious memory you'll always have of singing her into eternity." I still struggle with the last breath she took, at such a meaningful moment. I feel like God gave me a piece of this Beauty in Brokenness we're talking about.
My friend Elaina, said this to me, "Reading Parting the Waters reminded me that we understand so little of the way our brains work and to presume that someone doesn't comprehend is not a good plan. Even in dementia and Alzheimer's, they're still themselves. They just have trouble piecing everything together. I believe she heard you, Michelle."
Jacob has given me so many gifts, I can only imagine the crowns in heaven adorning his head, and I bet he'll have that big smile each time another is placed for the blessing he's been to a number so great, only God can know.
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