Some people seem to think that from the moment we are born that our destiny has already been chosen and merely needs to be fulfilled, but I disagree.
I believe our life journey should be compared to taking the scenic route down a winding back road on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. And along this route, there are many interesting roads that catch your interest. Which one will you take?
Some are sparsely traveled, while others are a well-beaten path. Some of these roads have bumps, hills and curves along the way, while others may have be harder to get through, with trees in the path and big puddles to cross.
Some lead you to a destination that you never knew existed, while others are just a dead end. But that choice to follow these particular paths is completely yours.
Much the same in life…I believe that God gives us free will to make those choices and our ending destination is ultimately ours.
Do we cross those bridges that don’t seem safe, or walk over those trees that have fallen in our path or do we turn back in fear of what unknown obstacles lie down that uncertain road we call life?
Justin McCullers walked his path in life with big, heavy footsteps, embracing every step of his journey along the way.
Sometimes, it would appear that he would not only take long strides, but break into a run to overcome whatever obstacles that fell in his path and never look back. And regardless of how he was feeling inside, he cherished every part of his journey.
He played hard, loved with a passion, worked with intensity, and was fiercely loyal to those who loved him the most. His love for life was infectious and it was hard to be in his presence without feeling that warmth.
To my knowledge, Justin did not have any enemy out there. He was admired and respected by everyone he knew and if you were lucky enough to have crossed his path, you were greeted with a big smile and strong handshake that was as genuine as they come. He was the real deal.
In the words of his mother, Felicia, Justin was basically a God-made man. His love for the Lord ran deep inside of him and he wasn’t afraid to let that light shine, which is unusual for a teenager. But Justin stood behind many a pulpit and shared his testimony of his faith in God to reach others.
It’s really no surprise that Justin would go on to seek a degree in ministry. It just seemed like he was born for it. Justin loved hunting and fishing, singing, theatre, sports, video games, writing, but most of all, he loved God and his family. And he would have done anything for them, and did.
It’s hard to speak about specifics in Justin’s life because his life journey crossed paths with so many people, but it was impossible to meet Justin and not walk away thinking that you had made a friend for life.
I knew Justin when he was just a boy, because his stepmom, Pam, was one of my best friends, so I watched him grow up into an amazing young man. Little did I know that he would become a not only a trusted colleague, but a very dear friend as well. Justin was always there for you, no matter what. All you had to do was call him and he would make you a priority, usually going above and beyond in whatever situation was going on at the time. I guess that’s why the path of ministry came so easily to him.
Justin didn’t know much about writing for the newspaper when he started to work there during his school years, but he quickly learned and became an amazing writer. He became the face of the Clay Times-Journal and ultimately, the quarterly magazine “At Home In Clay County.” Being the perfectionist that he was, Justin spent many hours working on articles and making sure this magazine was laid out perfectly. It was his baby. He told me one day he would look back at it and say ” I did that”. Yes, you did Justin, and very well too.
Justin once told me that he looked up to me and wanted to be as good a writer as I was, but in the end, it was me who would end up wanting to be just like him. The teacher became the teachee, because I learned more from him than he ever did from me.
Justin was the most selfless person that I have ever known. There is no number to the good deeds that he performed. From anywhere to a spiritual need to a financial aspect, he would literally give you the shirt off his back. He loved a good cause and his writing reflected that many times. He was also an avid supporter of Down’s Syndrome Awareness, because of his brother, Cody.
Justin’s siblings, Amy, Cody, Dilan and Hunter, all worshiped him and he loved them back equally. But it was like that with everyone that Justin knew, even moreso with his family. Justin was loved more than he will ever know. His family was so proud of him in every way possible.
One of Justin’s downfalls in life was trying to please everyone and wanting to take care of all of them, one that may have gotten too much for him to bear. He could never seem to say no to anybody who came to him with a good cause, because regardless of what he had going on, he would jump in feet first. In the end, I think Justin just seemed to lose himself in the many tasks he had going on.
Justin’s wife, Stephanie, was the love of his life. The love they shared was downright inspirational. They adored each other and were soon about to welcome baby Will to their sweet little family. But somewhere along the way, Justin’s path took a wrong turn and no one ever saw it coming, because Justin cared too much about his family and friends to think that he may have been disappointing.
Each time you saw Justin, he wore that same beaming smile and carried that same friendly banter, so no one would ever suspect that there was a battle raging inside of him. Eventually and without warning to anyone, he succumbed to the silent demons in his head. And for those who knew him the best, life will never be the same. I know mine won’t and I will cherish every single minute that I knew him.
Regardless of how it all ended, Justin was the greatest life warrior that I have ever known and the best person. His footsteps will remain in my heart for all of my days and I thank God for letting him cross my path. I feel like I’m a better person for having known him.
I think if Justin were here today he would want to share this message with me. Celebrate life and don’t get bogged down with work and worry. Take care of others, but also remember to take care of yourself. Love your family, but most of all, love yourself and know that in the end, you are ENOUGH.
My heart is broken for Justin’s family who is having a hard time coping with this tragedy. I’m sure his absence is like a big hole in their hearts that will never be filled. Please keep them in your prayers as they have to learn to carry on without him. Please also be in prayer for his wife, as she will soon welcome their son into the world. I’m so sorry that he will never really know how amazing his Dad really was, but I’m sure his family will do their best to tell him along the way.
I’m sorry that I never got the chance to tell Justin how much his friendship meant to me. I have to hope that he just knew this.
Rest easy, Justin. Your battle is over.
When Tomorrow Starts Without Me
When tomorrow starts without me
And I’m not here to see
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me
I wish you wouldn’t cry the way you did today
While thinking of the many things
We did not get to say
I know how much you love me
As much as I love you.
Each time that you think of me
I know you will miss me too.
When tomorrow starts with out me
Please try to understand
That an angel came and called my name
And took me by the hand
The angel said my place was ready
In heaven far above, and
That I would have to leave behind
All those I Dearly Love
But when I walked through Heaven’s Gates
I felt so much at home
When GOD looked down and smiled at me
From his golden throne
He said this Is Eternity
And all I promised you
Today for life on earth is done
But here it starts a new
I promise no tomorrow
For today will always last
And Since each day’s the exact same way
There is no longing for the past
So when tomorrow starts without me
Do not think we’re apart
For every time you think of me
Remember I’m right here in your heart
Author: David M Romano