In Loving Memory
Skylar Patrick Blackwell
May 22nd 1994 - June 15th 2017
Skylar Patrick Blackwell
Some might think it would be a cruel understatement to say that Skylar Patrick Blackwell died to soon – too early – with the best part of life still to come. In some ways we would be justified in thinking this way, but humans do not see as God sees, nor can we see beyond the veil of the created order. As Jerry just sang, “I am a flower quickly fading, a wave tossed on the ocean, a vapor in the wind.” In the enormity of time and space, we are less than a breath, a whisper of God’s thoughts becoming flesh and blood for only a flash of time. Like the psalmist, we can sit out under the huge canopy of stars on a cloudless night, and wonder, asking God, “What is man, that you are mindful of him? Or human beings, that you care for them?”
Because we do have these thoughts – all of us – we have a sense deep in our souls that we must belong to something, someone greater than ourselves. We are mystified, at these ideas, but at the same time, we are so hungry for answers, to make a connection with the God that we believe is there – just beyond the reach of our senses.
And so, while we may immediately have sorrow and grief at an earthly life cut short, we also feast on the word of God, that there IS a greater life that this one, that this life is not the end, that Jesus understood these things and meant what he said when he offered this promise to his Disciples: “I am going to prepare a place for you, so that where I am you may be also.” And, “if this was not true, would I have told you so?”
The question then, is, do we really belong to this God? How do we know for sure that we are the recipients of a promised life with Christ after our days on earth are over? If we could know that for sure, it would not end the grief we feel in the loss of loved one, but it would help us to realize that the grief is temporary – a storm that will pass, leaving a freshness and beauty behind – a hope for days to come.
I know without ever having met Skylar, that he is certainly the recipient of the promise of eternal life in Christ. I know this without knowing whether or not he was baptized, whether or not he attended church regularly, and whether or not lived as a model or less than model citizen. I know this because of the stories his sisters shared with me.
“Skylar loved to read the Bible,” they said. “He knew more about the Bible than most people we know,” they said. Maybe I was supposed to be impressed.. but I wasn’t, because Scripture says that even the Devil knows the Bible. No, it was something else they said that impressed me. They said, “Skylar was always asking questions about the Bible and looking for answers. We remember one time him asking a question about the Ten Commandments, and that ending up in a 3 or 4 hour family discussion. Skylar was always searching, always trying to figure it out, always asking questions.” (Just like Jesus when he was 12 years old, I thought…) My heart jumped in my chest when they told me this, because one of my favorite passages of Scripture reads like this: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God working IN YOU both to WILL and to DO.” In other words, when a heart is hungry to understand, to put the pieces together, to know God, -- AND that person goes about SEEKING those answers, then that is a sure and certain sign that the Spirit of God is already working in the person to draw the person close. God already knows Skylar by heart, and was calling him by name.. that is, by his ‘nature,’ by his character. God knew that Skylar wanted to know God, and God was opening the path to make that possible. He was looking forward to coming to St. Paul – and had said so – just before he died.
We all make mistakes. We all look at trouble and say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Skylar was driving too fast. God didn’t push the accelerator, and God didn’t “call Skylar home,” or “pick another flower for his garden.” God weeps just as we weep for the loss of Skylar Blackwell. But what God DOES do is REDEEM us from our sins. God is in the business of bringing good out of bad for those who love him. And Skylar was hungry to know God.
In theology we have something that is called “concurrence.” It means that God, knowing all things – having foreknowledge of all things, works things together for good for those who love him. If Skylar ever doubted that God know his name, and that God loved him and cared for him, he lost those doubts on the day of that tragic accident. For as he was lying mangled on the side of the road, a person stopped, and intentionally walked over and knelt and prayed with Skylar… out of the blue, uncalled, unasked. I am telling you will full conviction that that person was called by God to comfort and care for his child Skylar.
And all those questions Skylar had? How did God write the ten commandments on stone with his finger? How did Jesus walk on the water? How did he feed 5,000 people with a few fish? All those questions are now being answered. You see, God has people all over this earth whose hearts and minds are opened and who can teach the scriptures in a way that people understand. This was the original meaning of “speaking in tongues” – sharing the Gospel in a way that people can understand. But Skylar’s path didn’t cross the path of those folks. In a way, he didn’t have the same chances that some others have – to go to church every Sunday, and to be baptized with family all around, and to live his life surrounded by a faithful congregation sharing his burdens and lifting his spirits. Again, we might be inclined to say Skylar died too soon, or didn’t have the same advantages as other folks. But you know what? I’ve seen plenty – PLENTY of people who have lived their whole lives in the church and who, instead of being hungry for more understanding, like Skylar was, they think they know it all. One thing is for sure, when we think we know it all, there’s no more room for God to work in our hearts. God’s ways are not our ways, and God sees differently that we do. In God’s sight, Skylar was surely a child of God – and when that child’s life came to an end, God has someone right there with him, praying, bringing comfort and assurance that Skylar wasn’t just dying an earthly death, Skylar was COMING HOME.
Likewise, I was not surprised when LaKeisha and Trisheena told me that Skylar had the biggest smiles and the warmest hugs of anyone they’d ever known. Even though he carried many burdens in his short life, in every picture he always had the biggest smile on his face. In their own words, “Skylar could brighten anyone’s day.” He didn’t have to have a lot of belongings, he took joy in the simple things.” “He was like a magnet,” LaKeisha says… people were drawn to him. He only had 67 cents to his name when he died, but look even now how he has drawn us together.”
Growing up, Skylar was very close to his sisters and loved to spend time with them. “He was like my puppy,” said LaKeisha… loved and cared for. They bought him school clothes, and supplies, and whatever else they could. And Skylar loved to come and stay with them.
He loved to fish, and work with his hands – and Jayden now has his toolbox… all organized. In few weeks there will be a new tree, maybe a live oak, planted out along Lake Conroe at the park, planted in Skylar’s name.. Out there in the out of doors, just like Skylar loved. Near the water and the fishing, just like Skylar loved.
No, on this day, I don’t think we need to feel sorry for Skylar. Yes, we will miss him in the flesh, but he is in a place with at least one person who, deep down, was a lot like Skylar. Someone who loved the simple things. Someone who brightened up the room wherever he went. Someone who after he left his parents, never really had a permanent home of his own. Someone who had the biggest smiles and warmest hugs. Someone who died with even less than 67 cents in his pocket. Someone who also knew pain and rejection, and who died mangled – but comforted by prayer.
Someone who had many questions as a child – questions that not even his parents could answer, but who now sits on the right hand of God. Skylar’s sins are forgiven; Skylar’s life in eternal, and he is not “gone,” he has simply found the home he was looking for, in the arms of Jesus. Skyar is home. Thanks be to God. Amen.
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