This Day Did Not Start Well

Posted: December 13, 2011 in Seven Youth Ministries

“This day did not start well.”

So reads the last status update on FaceBook from a young man by the name of Justin Berry.

Last night (December 12, 2011), Justin was driving on Oklahoma 10 outside of Miami, Oklahoma. It was a rainy, cold night in Oklahoma, and not easy to see on some of these country roads we have in our state.  A man swerved into Justin’s lane hitting him head on. Justin died immediately.

I did not know Justin personally, but I am connected with some people who called him friend.  Even though you don’t know someone personally, when you hear of the death of one so young (only 24 years old) your heart breaks.

After I heard about this accident, I went to Justin’s FaceBook page where I read the posts that appeared after his death.  Page after page of people thanking him for who he was. Comments like:

“You were a true friend”

“You called every week just to see how I was doing.”

“Thank you for making me laugh.”

“I remember when I felt alone and you had me sit with you and you said, ‘You are cool in my book.’”

“That time I didn’t have anything cool to wear and you told me that I was the only one that could pull off what I was wearing. This gave me so much confidence. Thank you.”

On and on I read.  Before long I found myself truly wishing that I had known this young man named Justin Berry.

Then I got to the last moments of his life on FaceBook, and his last post said simply: “This day did not start well”

I don’t know what happened that his day had not started well – I know we all have bad days – but then it hit me.  From what I could see reflected in his FaceBook page, even though one particular day had not started well, his life certainly had.

It appears that Justin really cared about people and after all, people are what truly matter in this life.  God cares about people and He has asked us to do the same.

I began to wonder – if Justin had known he had just a few short hours left before an oncoming car ended his life, would he have let those little things ruin his day?  You know – those little things that put us in a bad mood and cause us to call our day a “bad day.” Would those little things have even mattered to him?

I don’t know what Justin did on his last day on earth. He may have had a great day. He may have started it over from the time he made his last post. (It is possible to restart our day at any moment; at any time. I hope that’s what Justin did. )

A few days before his death, Justin posted this statement,

One reason why you can do something is worth more than one hundred why you can’t.

What a great philosophy from one so young.

When a loss like this happens, it should cause each one of us to stop and think how fragile life can be.  I know it did for me.  It made me think to call the ones I love and thank them and remind them how much they mean to me.

What if today I lived my day just like any other, and on the way home someone swerved into my lane? Would I have lived this life in a way that people really knew I cared about them?  Some of you may be thinking, Well of course — you’re a Pastor. Your job is people.

While this may be true I still have to ask myself – am I living my life to the fullest?   Do I have a genuine care for the people around me, because in the end that is what matters.

Today, if my life were taken unexpectedly – even if it didn’t start well, would it finish that way?  Did I hug my kids today in a way that I cherish that moment? Did I honor the ones around me? Did I help those who needed help? Did I encourage those who needed encouragement? Did I love those who may not even deserve it?

Each one of us needs to stop periodically and take stock of how we are living and determine to live each day as though it were the last.  History has proven that success in life has no effect if there is no contribution to others. Let those around you know just how important they are to you.

Determine to live life to the fullest each day – as though it were your last day.  And if it were – how would your FaceBook posts stack up?  Would your page have endless stories of how you reached out and helped and how you made a difference in the lives of others?

I hope mine would.

Jeremy Donovan is youth pastor for the Seven Youth Ministries of Destiny Life Church – Claremore and Owasso, OK.  He lives in Owasso with his wife, Annie and two children, Cadence and Cale.

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Comments
  1. alisa west says:

    Great article Jeremy! This boy was a blessing to the lives of many people, he got it. Hate it for his family :(.

  2. clw says:

    I was a close friend of his, and I can confidently say that he did turn his day around. From his sister’s facebook I know he spend the evening with his younger brothers. Everything you read about him is true. He was always positive and was a true friend to everyone he met. We should all try to live our lives more like he did.

  3. Kim says:

    What a touching article. I’m so blessed to have read it! I have to share it!

  4. PJ says:

    If you knew Justin you would know he wouldn’t let anything keep him down for long. The last day of his life is not near as important as the message his whole life preaches. Good read, thanks for honoring my friend.

  5. CLW thanks for your Comment and I am so sad for your loss. Justin seemed like a truly amazing person.

  6. JUST ME says:

    You put my thoughts into words . . . THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. JB says:

    Justin and his family have always been a blessing to our community. This article is very touching and he will be missed by so many people. He will be missed by friends and family but more than that he will be missed by those who only seen him once in a while around town, in church, or in passing.
    He was a great individual who always wanted to help others and seemed to get great joy in helping.
    Thank you for blessing my family and being such a great mentor.

  8. Debbie says:

    I am so glad you wrote this article. My daughter and her close ring of friends were Justin’s friends. Possibly everyone in this group is a Christian. They enjoy life in a good way. Justin’s last text messages were about who would come up with the ugliest Christmas sweater. It was fun to hear his words and the fact that he knew he had something good to wear. He had a positive effect on everyone in this group. Justin’s closest friend, one of the group, is a real special guy inthe life of my daughter and our family. He and my daughter played praise and worship music for our church. My daughter lost her 20 year old sister when she was only 4 years old. She never knew the pain and hurt because of her age. I have watched her hurt each day this week as I know she is not only hurting for Justin but also for her sister. God is a real part of her life. I am confident that God will comfort her in the days to come. I am so thankful to have a God who loves us and cares. How do people make it without God’s help? My heart is heavy for yet another set of parents who have to endure the loss of a child. It isn’t easy. But through God they will learn the way to go on. Thanks again for sharing and caring.

  9. Debbie Barnes says:

    Thank you for telling your story abt Justin he was a beautiful soul I hope others read this and can llearn and live like he wld have and did!!!! :)

  10. Sheryll Woods says:

    Beautifully said pastor. Have a awesome day. God Bless you!

  11. Gary says:

    I did not know Justin, but reading this article and the comments that followed, it reminds me of my younger brother that was killed in a motorcycle accident a little over a year ago. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were talking about him instead of Justin. God bless Justin’s family and friends and give them strength to get through this extremely rough time. Keep Justin’s memory alive by living your life following the example he set.

    • Debbie Barnes says:

      Awe sorry for your loss and I’m glad your brother was a positive one and I’m sure you are too God Bless you and your family!!!

  12. Brandy missingherbro keeney says:

    Beautiful, simply beautiful and true. My 19 year old brother passed this year, and I have looked at the same things on his fb, and he was also a caring young man, the little things really shouldn’t cause a bad day, the littlest things can make you extremely happy. Great article <3

  13. Sheila says:

    I did not know Justin…My hearts breaks for his family and friends. But I seen this link on my news feed….and WOW what a blessing this message you have written above is! I just had to share this link on my own page. This young man has touch so many lives…and even after he is gone still filling peoples hearts with hope, faith and love.

  14. Lorey says:

    I knew Justin from childhood, buy I hadn’t seen him in a couple years… But your right. He was one of the best guys I knew. Always ready to help put a smile on someone else’s face. This article is how I’ve been feeling since I found out Justin had gone home. I just hope when its my time, people remember me as fondly, and I had touched half so many people as JBerry. -thanks for the night you took away my tears Justin. I’m glad the last night I saw you was then. Your laughter is still bringing smiles bub. <3

  15. lydia says:

    This story really touched my heart. Your so right, life is fragile and a young life lost like this man is a tragedy. I do believe that this man seemed to matter to a lot of people, and vise versa. I will strive everyday to make everyone around me know, that they matter in every way possible! I prey for this mans family and love our technology that gives a women in canada the chance to hear his story. It could really change someones life, which by the sounds of it, is something this man was able to do in life and in death!

  16. Becky says:

    Thank you so much for the beautiful words! I only knew Justin because he was my friends sons best friend. I truly never saw this young man when he didn’t have a smile on his face I once told him it should be a sin for a boy to get those beautiful curls and long eyelashes like he had and he just laughed at me and said well I’m lucky I guess. This is my friends sons 2nd best friend he has lost. I would like to ask for prayer for him also he is not handling this well. My heart and prayers go out to Justins family and all the pain they are enduring. We lost my brother 5 years ago and my mother still grieves for him it has taken a toll on her and my brother was 51 Justin had not even gotten to be married enjoy the pride of being a father and do much more !! I too had went to his fb when I heard the news and began reading all the post and read the one he had wrote and wondered what had happened! I work at the high school in miami now and truly wish that all of those kids could read your words I had had a bad day yesterday at work and reading your words hit home. I’ve been a Christian 43 years and sometimes you need to be jolted! I sometimes get sick at listening to the kids at school and their foul mouths and their ideas of oh what was such a fun weekend. Instead I should be on my knees praying for them to wake up and find the lord Once again thank you

  17. Callie says:

    I didn’t know Justin but I wish I did. I know a lot of people who knew him and I couldn’t help but become emotional after I read some of the posts on his wall. He left a wonderful legacy behind. We can only hope to have such an impact on so many lives…

  18. mike says:

    the sadest part is that this happens everyday several times a day to way to many young beautiful people and it just showes us that you never do know when your time will be up and you will be called up to god!! but it is sad and im just glad at least a couple people took the time to think about him and hopefuly say a prayer for him and his family…..i know i have

  19. ashley langley says:

    This is an amazing article, just like Justin, an amazing person!!! He had an infectious smile, I don’t think I ever saw him not smiling!! Justin we will all cherish the memories we had with you and you will never b forgotten! I know you are still smiling down on each and everyone of us:) so glad I had the privilege of knowing you!<3

  20. Mikaela says:

    Justin was my daughter’s friend and she too has lost two people she was close to in 4 short years. Justin was a great kid. I always liked when he came by the house with the group of kids he hung out with. As a parent it’s hard to know what to say to consol our kids. They aren’t supposed to have to experience this kind of loss in the teens and early 20′s. I hope your words help them get through this time of grieving. Tomorrow is the funeral so please everyone say extra prayers of comfort for all the kids whose hearts are so tender. Parents hug your kids close and make sure they know how you feel about them!

  21. JD says:

    Unfortunately I personally didn’t know Justin, but I have many friends who did. I have always heard and am still hearing wonderful stories about him. Hearing those stories and reading the comments on FB have had me in tears and made me wish that I could have gotten to know him. He sounds like he was the kind of person that everyone needs in their life and that everyone should strive to be like, a wonderful human being. Thank you for this article, I truly believe that you said what so many people like myself have been struggling to find a way to say. To Justins family and friends, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  22. Mary says:

    Thank you for such an inspirational story and wonderful tribute to an incredible young man. Justin truly did touch all of our lives, and his death leaves a huge void in so many. I had just started playing a game of “Hanging With Friends” with Justin the morning he was killed…….. when I look at my phone now, I am reminded he is no longer here as I see the message, “Waiting for Justin”…
    I am comforted by the thought that Justin is waiting no longer…. He has fought the good fight.. he has run a good race… he is in the very presence of our Lord and Savior and experiencing such joy that I find myself smiling again… Thank you Jesus for letting us have him for as long as we did……

  23. Thank you all so much for your comments. As I said when I wrote this the more I hear about Justin Berry the more I wish I could have known him. I am thankful my writing has in a small way helped in remembering him. I am praying for his family and my heart breaks for them. I know there is a Justin Berry Memorial fund all who read this can give too. I have had some questions on how to get in touch with me. You can follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/jeremy_donovan or email me at jeremy@sevenym.com .. I am honored by how many people have shared Justins story and know his friends and family are too. Continue to pray for Justins family and be sure to live every day to the fullest letting those who are important to you know it and not letting those little things get you down. I was blessed to hear Justin finished his day strong, he was a young man who knew how to live life alive

    • I am very good friends with Justin’s mom. I’ve had the incredibly difficult task of putting his slideshow together for the funeral over the past few days. I can honestly say that out of the hundreds of photos the family gave me, he was smiling and having fun in every single one of them…well, except for his “in action” basketball pics where he was all business!! As I followed his journey from birth to death, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had a good life. He lived it to the fullest, loved his family and friends, and made each day count. Well done, Justin, well done.

  24. Linda says:

    Recently I lost my sister to a seizure do to stress..i feel for the family. My sister was only 33. Just like the pastor and justin would say.. Live life for today. Love those around you and truly show it to those very close to you..my prayers go out to those coping with this loss

  25. Tyler Atnip says:

    Thanks for this modern introspection on ‘what will people say’? All of us, but young people especially (those that think they’re going to live forever) need a reminder that everything done in life, on a daily basis… matters to someone.

  26. Marc Osmon says:

    I am Justin’s second cousin. Justin’s funeral was today and it was absolutely amazing. Well over 800 people attended his viewing last night as estimated by one of the funeral directors, and at least that many attended his funeral today. I have never seen a standing room funeral before and this is not a small church. It is truly a testament to how many lives Justin touched and what a wonderful person he is. He will be sorely missed, the world needs more men like Justin. Jeremy thanks so much for your kind words.

  27. Carrie says:

    I have been friends with Justins mom for 20 years. Thank you for sharing Justins life of fellowship. One of the boys who spoke at Justins funeral said Will Rogers said” he never met a man he didnt like “,and that he could say that he never met a man who didn’t like Justin Berry. His day started by locking his keys in his truck, somethimg he had done more than few times, his sister told at his funeral. I would invite anyone to contribute the Justin Berry Memorial Scholarship fund. Help Justin keep paying it forward for someone else. Hug your kids, tell them and your friends you love them. Love the people that God gives you because you never know when he will need them back.

  28. Jori Free says:

    This Article is very heart touching. i didn’t know Justin but I see that he touched alot of peoples lives, god bless all you who new him…

  29. Abby Woods says:

    Justin was my brother MY AMAZING BROTHER! the reason his ‘day did not start well’ He locked himself out of his car.. just like him… and I THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH for writing this!

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