Monday, March 26, 2007

A Ray of Hope

(Ed.'s note: My brother sent this to me last night and said I could post it if I wanted to. I want to.)

I’m proud to say that Jason Ray knows me. That’s about the best way to sum up how I feel about him. My freshman year, he was the cool, funny guy leading my small group. My sophomore year, he was the mature, experienced co-leader who taught me how to lead. Both years he was one of the few guys I could go to with any problem. And he is always the friend with the coolest introduction tag-line.

To most of the world (and to new acquaintances whom I want to impress), Jason is Ramses. In the past few days, I have almost wished that he weren’t. At one point during this three-day roller coaster of ups-and-downs, of tears, anger, smiles, and hope, I vented to my brother that Jason was so much more than a costume. The world would see the headlines about the tragedy of the Carolina mascot; but they wouldn’t see the Jason whose openness in small group led me to address issues that ultimately saved my relationship with the girl I love, the Jason whose vibrant demeanor could only be outdone by his quiet humility when receiving praise and compliments, the Jason whose love for his friends and family came second only to his love for his Lord and Savior.

“Yeah, that’s my friend Jason. He’s Ramses,” I would tell people.

But I only learned the deeper truth of this statement yesterday. Scrolling through some message boards looking for some kind of update (even a rumor) on his condition, I came across story after story about Jason as Ramses. Moms with pictures of Ramses holding their sons. Dads with pictures of Ramses from their daughters’ birthday parties. A married couple with a story of Ramses introducing them at their wedding reception. Ramses bringing joy. That’s when it hit me. Jason IS Ramses. He IS a larger-than-life guy who brings happiness and light to all he encounters. He IS the sort of person to clamber up an inflatable slide in a sweatbox of an outfit just to bring a smile to a child’s face. He IS a man working to get people excited about something bigger than himself.

Jason’s body has been hanging onto life for two more days than it probably should have. Fighting a battle that the doctors now want to say his brain cannot win. So I guess in that sense, Jason Ray is not home yet. Not medically at least.

But somehow I’d like to believe that Jason’s been outside of his body from that first moment. Not because I’ve given up hope that he’ll come back to us. It’s just that I would like to think that Jason knows we’re all here for him. I would like to think that Jesus took him in his arms after that tragic second and said, “You are my son, with whom I am well pleased.” I would like to think that He then showed Jason the outpouring of love, faith, and prayer of the past few days. The bedside vigil. The tears. The renewed faith. And I would like to think that Jason now realizes just how much he meant to so many, including his former co-leader who never had the courage to tell him. And I would like to think that his life inspires all those he has touched to tap into the source of Jason’s strength and purpose, to see the power of Christ working in Jason and take the first step towards understanding how it should guide our own steps. And I would like to think that Jesus still has plans for Jason on this earth.

So as of now, at the end of my own private prayer vigil, I’m all out of sad tears. My brother and my pastor have continued to inspire me to keep hoping for recovery. “Don’t insult God by asking for a little bit. Ask him for a lot,” J.D. said. So I encourage us all to keep hoping period, not to talk about our brother in the past tense…not now…not ever. However this ends, it will do so with the power of the Lord of the Universe on our side, on Jason’s side. Either way, because of his relationship with Christ and because of our love for him, Jason will always “be”. And either way, either by his loved ones or by his Lord, Jason will be welcomed home. And that is a truly hopeful thought.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
And young men stumble and fall;
But those who hope in the Lord
Will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31


faith said...

That you for your honesty. Praying for the whole family.

Jeff said...

from writer Bill Simmons...

And one last e-mail from an anonymous reader in North Carolina ...
"I wanted to write you without my name or anything, just as a student of UNC. Our loss last night was tough-- some might say heartbreaking. But what's worse is that it may overshadow the death of a true Tar Heel. Jason Ray, our mascot, died this morning. He was the very first person I met at UNC. He was helping freshmen move into the dorms as a part of Intervarsity (a Christian ministry on campus). The elevators were all jammed up, so he helped me cart a refrigerator, futon, and all my other stuff (and girls have a lot of stuff) up NINE floors in the 100 degree heat. And he did it happily. We became friends and I spent a lot of time around him. He let me wear the ram head one time because I thought it'd be funny (even though I'm sure he wasn't supposed to). You've probably gotten a lot of emails about yesterday's game, but could you maybe mention Jason in your article, if only for a second. The world deserves to know who this person was. I don't just want him to be a 'UNC mascot dies' blurb on He was such a good person. A true friend. What every Tar Heel should aspire to be."