Two Sundays ago, September 18, 2006, Janae e-mailed me and told me that our friend and neighbor Joe Jennings had passed away. Joe had finally succumbed to the ravages of cancer. I immediately started to write a tribute to Joe but couldn’t finish it. Even now, I don’t know if I’ll be able finish it or if I should even try.
I knew that e-mail about Joe's death would come, but I was hoping that it wouldn’t come that day or any day for that matter. Now that it’s come and gone, I’ve had some time to think about Joe and what his life and influence has had on me. Reflecting on him and his life this week and especially since last night, has helped me find a solution to a problem that I’m faced with.
For those of you who knew Joe, you already know what I’m going to say. You know what kind of a man he was. He was the kind of man I hope I can be someday. He was kind and thoughtful. He was a great missionary. He was a man filled with love for his fellowman. He loved the Savior and you could feel His spirit whenever you were around Joe. I never saw him discouraged. He was an example of how to endure to the end.
When I was home on leave in August, Janae and I went over to visit him and Vicki. I’m so glad we did. What struck me more than the physical signs of the cancer was the warm reception we got when we went in and sat down. Even though I could tell he was not feeling well, he tried not to let it show. He made us feel welcome. He told me that while I was gone he would make sure my family was taken care of. Here was a man in no position to physically care for my family and yet he was offering his services. That was Joe.
Janae told me about the last time he bore his testimony. OK, I don’t know if I can get through this. I’m having to blink back the tears. How I wish I could have been there. As Bishop Ashdown said, his very presence was an example to us all of the life he lived. I just hope someone can say that about me someday. I’m still too much the natural man.
Janae told me about his funeral. Again, I wish I could have been there.
So why am I writing this now. I guess I need a little inspiration right now to keep on with my job.
In an effort to keep certain things confidential, this next part may become a little vague or even cryptic. But, last night I met with a couple of men who are in a position to bring certain other “men” to justice. These certain “men” have committed atrocities and since I don’t want to offend anyone or give up information that’s confidential, I’ll not share it with you. These “men” are also being protected by other men. It is this protection and the threats of reprisals that continue to keep them in their positions of power. It is the fear of those reprisals that nothing is being done. Discouragement doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling. Remember when I said that I’m working with Gadianton Robbers, well that fact was made plain last night.
And then I thought about Joe. I thought, if anyone could affect these people for good, it would be him. I thought, “If Joe were here, what would he do?” Well the answer was obvious, he would love them. He would roll up his sleeves and get to work and make a change where he could. He wouldn’t let a little thing like this get in his way. He would find a way to make a difference.
So Joe, this is my tribute to you. I will roll up my sleeves. I will love these people (or at least try to) and I will work as hard as I can to make a difference in their lives.
And if in the next 10 months or so I can bring these “men” down, so much the better. OK, that wasn’t what Joe would have said. Remember, I’m still a natural man after all.