Tonight I attended the memorial service for Curtis Olinger, who committed suicide last week. I've never known somebody who died like this. When I first found out a week ago, it was an odd feeling. It's still weird to think about it in some ways. The thought that somebody you know and care about could undergo the kind of emotions that can lead to a decision like that - it's not something you like to consider.
I wasn't particularly close to Curtis, but I had the pleasure of being his cabin leader during Snow Camp last year, and talking to him when I subbed at Washington from time to time. He was an awesome kid, and had a lot more depth to him than many. I remember his eyes - they had a peculiar quality to them. I always felt there was a lot going on behind them, and I wanted in. He had an incredible sense of humor, and a way of making people laugh that I can only envy. Curtis was tremendously gifted with intelligence, creativity, a good heart, and any other number of things I know nothing about. By all accounts he was a stellar young man, and I am glad for the short time I had to know him. God only knows what he could have done with his life, had this not happened.
I can and do take solace in the fact that recently Curtis decided to trust God with his eternity and Christ's sacrifice on the cross for his forgiveness. At the service, they showed a video of Curtis being baptized. Apparently he made the decision to follow Christ late one night at summer camp, and wanted to publicly declare it immediately. So after 11 that night everyone gathered around the pool and they baptized him. The video was very short - but they showed it a few times. There Curtis was, going under the water and coming back up. This smile crept over his face - it almost looked like a private smile, right there in front of everybody. Again, I wasn't close to him, but it looked to me like he had genuine hope, and joy. Now I know that smile he had, the joy that it displayed - now that joy has completely overwhelmed him. The pains and tortures he felt here on earth are now gone.
We can spend time trying to think about how Curtis was feeling when he took his life - but thank God that we don't have to. There is definitely something missing in those who knew and loved him. But I prefer to remember the smile Curtis had. The way he could make you so uncomfortable but laugh so incredibly hard at the same moment. The way he, whether he knew it or not, blessed those around him with his personality in a very unique way. I can honestly say I've never known anyone like Curtis.
I also choose to remember that the joy he knew in part here on earth, he now knows in full. The God of Love he put his faith in here on earth - that God is now known to Curtis in a way we here on this side can only dream about. All the pain and brokenness and loneliness he felt is now replaced with restoration and wholeness and a joy beyond description. Curtis, buddy, we'll miss you. You beat us there. But we'll see you again. And I hope you've perfected your shimmy by then, because we could all use a good laugh on your account.