Jeremy and I were friends. Not close friends or best friends but we knew each other and had hung around in the same circles for a couple of years prior to his death. In fact, Jeremy and I had known each other years before I had ever met Veronica. The interactions that Jer and I shared together are something that Veronica and I both find a lot of unique peace and purpose in.
One of the first times I met Jeremy was at a youth rally. We both walked into the "hospitality room" (which is code for the room that adults go to at a youth rally to grab a snack and sanity after spending all day with hundreds of teenagers) at the same time and struck up a conversation. I don't remember much about it other than swapping hunting and fishing stories, but I remember walking away thinking that Jeremy was a guy that I could be good friends with. He was down-to earth, had a crass sense of humor (which we both shared), and was a "tell-it-like-it-is" kind of guy. We ran into each other several times over the course of a few years, always going out of our way to say "hello" and maybe sharing a sentiment that we should get together for a hunting or fishing trip in Indiana (Jeremy had never been hunting or fishing in Indiana before and was game for a new experience).
Our paths crossed again when my best friend, Adam Hill, moved from my hometown of Anderson, Indiana to Rochester Hills, Michigan. Adam and I have been best friends since elementary school and when he moved to Michigan he began working at Rochester College - the same place that Jeremy worked for the last couple of years before he died. Just a couple of years after Adam left Anderson, Chris and Vicki Lindsey - close friends of Adam, Jeremy and Veronica, moved down from Rochester Hills, Michigan to Anderson, Indiana to work in ministry with me. Sharing such close personal friends I heard many stories about Jeremy and over the 4th of July weekend of 2010 I got to hang out with Jeremy for what would be the last time. Jeremy and Veronica were driving through Anderson and we wound up getting together and going out for dinner. Jeremy and I sat on the end of the table. Sharing stories, cutting-up, and trying to make the other person laugh as much as possible. When Vee and I talk about this interaction she remembers looking down at the table at Jeremy and I laughing and sharing together. Little did she know that at that moment the two men at the end of the table would both give themselves fully to her and love her for all she is.
Needless to say I knew Jeremy prior to dating Veronica... but I didn't "know" Jeremy. When Vee and I began our relationship I wanted her to know that I validated not only her past with Jeremy, but her ongoing love for him as well. This meant I had to get to know Jeremy better. It may sound a little crazy or unorthodox but periodically on our phone calls or dates I would ask Vee questions about Jeremy. It wasn't all the time and it was never to put her on the spot, but when the time was right or I sensed that she wanted to talk about Jeremy, I would ask. I wanted to know how she fell in love with him, what made him tick, what he liked best, and what made him upset. I asked lots of questions. I still do.
I have also learned a lot about Jeremy through his family. Hearing about his childhood, his upbringing, and many funny stories. I listen carefully to Jeremy's dad, Byron, as he talks about hunting stories with Jeremy or when Arlene, Jeremy's mom, talks about taking him to the baseball diamond several nights out of the week. I listen to his sisters as they share stories about their older brother and how much they miss his presence in their family. I listen and I learn. I don't learn for information sake as if there will be some kind of test I need to pass but I learn to better honor his memory, love and respect Vee, and pass down his life to his children.
Regrettably I have learned more about Jeremy in his death than in his life. I have looked through countless pictures, heard countless stories, and listened to countless memories about Jeremy... but I am not done learning. As time goes on I always hear a new story about someones interaction with Jeremy that maybe Vee had never even heard before. Or I see a new picture from his childhood or one that surfaces on Facebook that I have never seen before. All these things help me know him and appreciate him even more. While I never got to be best friends with Jeremy while he was alive I have gotten to know him in a very unique way though the eyes and hearts of those who knew him best - and for that I am very thankful!