remembering with stones
When the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan River, they were instructed to take twelve stones from their new land and place them in the middle of the river. The stones were to be placed where the feet of the priests stood as they held the Ark of the Covenant while the Tribes crossed over to the Promised Land.
They were also instructed to bring twelve stones out of the Jordan and place them in the new land – at Gilgal – as an altar. This was so they would not forget where they had come from and all they had experienced as they entered the Promised Land.
This ceremony was God’s way of helping them remember; thus it became a memorial. God told them that the stones would cause their children ask their fathers in time to come, “What do these stones mean?” They would be able to answer them and tell them how God took them through the Red Sea at the beginning of their journey and through the Jordan River at the end – on dry ground. The stones were their memorial.
Remembering God’s goodness
Scripture says those stones placed in the Jordan River are still there to this day. Sometimes I wonder just where in that river those stones were placed because I’d love to see that pile of stones after all these years!
During their forty years’ journey through the wilderness, the Children of Israel faced many trials and tests. They experienced God’s might and His miracles. They buried loved ones in the wilderness and in the desert. Marriages were performed, and babies were born. They lived with a pillar of fire during the night and a cloud by day to lead the way.
The Israelites left many things behind as they crossed over Jordan; they also had many new experiences to encounter. Placing twelve stones (one for each tribe) on the other side of the Jordan was a way to remember.
Our memorial ride
It’s a good idea to have memorials so we don’t forget our past. It’s a good thing to have memorials so we can look back and realize how far we’ve come (or how much farther we have to go). We did that on Saturday, June 14, 2014. Every year since that year, there has been a memorial ride, and it is almost always on the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend. This weekend, another ride will take place.
This is the 12th year that siblings, sons, nieces and nephews, cousins, and friends will rev their bikes, put on their helmets, and head out to remember. A memorial helps people reminisce and remember. And that we do. The grief is not as rampant as it once was, but riding together back memories – and tears. It also brings healing.
The route we ride changed in recent years. Instead of following the path Jerrel and Paul took, the cycles head west instead of north. Yet, the reason (and our memories) for the journey is the same.
Paul Brian Slabach
In October 1998, Paul Slabach left the office of the church he was pastoring in Lyndhurst, Virginia and headed home to his pregnant wife and three children. He never made it.
A fire truck heading up the mountain with one last load of water for a forest fire lost control around a curve and hit Paul head-on. Before he could be airlifted to UVA, he was gone.
Three months after Paul’s death, his widow Regina birthed their child by emergency C-section and a few weeks later was airlifted to UVA because of post-eclamptic seizures.
In the ensuing years, Regina married Myron Brubaker. She and Myron raised her (and his adopted) children. Myron, their children and grandchildren are all a part of the Slabach family – and always will be.
Their four children are married. There are four grandchildren (and another one to arrive soon) to enjoy, and life continues.
Paul was thirty-eight when he was called Home. We have not forgotten Paul. We miss him still. I know we will always wonder what life would have been like had he not died when he did.
Jerrel Lynn Good
In December of 2011, Jerrel Good, his wife Joyce, and their youngest of seven children were traveling back roads on their way to a meeting in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. Coming around a curve on Rt.151, they were hit head-on by a young man on his way home from work. The man, a diabetic, either fell asleep or had low blood sugar; he does not remember what happened. He suffered a crushed heel and other injuries.
The Jetta Jerrel was driving was pushed off the road and came to rest at the edge of an embankment. In the darkness, Joyce came to after a few moments of unconsciousness. Jerrel was unresponsive, so she picked up her phone, which just happened to be within reach, and called her oldest son, a nurse.
“We’ve been in an accident,” she told him. “Your father is not responding. It’s bad.”
She was right. Yet, in those moments, Joyce saw a light and felt a Presence and a sense of peace and calm in the vehicle as she waited for help to arrive.
Little Tabi, only three, related to folks later, “The angels just came,” and she demonstrated by raising her hands in the air, “and took my daddy to Heaven.” Jerrel was forty-eight.
In the years since Jerrel’s death, his family has experienced many changes. Five of his seven children are married. A stillborn granddaughter is in Heaven, and there are ten grandchildren (soon to be eleven). Joyce completed a nursing degree. It seems that Jerrel has missed so much since he’s been gone.
Cousins and friends
Paul was Dave’s brother, and Jerrel was his cousin. Paul was one of Dave’s greatest supporters and his friend. Jerrel and Dave were friends and camping buddies and planned to grow old together. They had a lot of things they were going to do when they got old – things they didn’t have time to do then.They didn’t get that chance to grow old and do those things together.
The summer before Jerrel’s death (June of 2011) Dave and Jerrel and their sons spent a Saturday on a bike trip. They didn’t have an agenda; they just wanted to ride with their boys, so they did. They decided to start a tradition: every year on Father’s Day weekend, they would plan a father/son bike trip on Saturday. Six months later to the day, Jerrel went to Heaven.
Remembering and riding together
Come June, there was still a bike trip because Jerrel’s sons wanted to continue the ride. Jerrel’s sons, brother, his cousins, and their sons and daughters joined the ride. In memory of both Jerrel and Paul, the bike ride was completed. Each year, more people have come, and more bikes participate. Anyone who knew Paul or Jerrel is welcome to participate.
Questions asked are not always answered, but this we know: God gives strength and courage to go on, even when life is unbearably hard. God provides resources and people to help carry the load. Riding up the mountains and around the curves reminds us of how far we’ve come since these tragedies ripped us apart.
When the gentleman who hit Jerrel’s Jetta comes along on the ride, it is both difficult and special. One year, standing at the site where Jerrel lost his life, he shared his journey following the accident he caused that claimed this father’s life.
There were many tears – his and ours. It has been poignant and painful – and healing. In our grief, there is healing when we reckon that we’ll never understand this side of Heaven, but we know that God does all things well.
StoneS of remembering
So we carry our stones out of our deep waters and place them on the ground for others to see and for us to remember. They help us remember how He was there in those dark days and nights when we cried, “Why?” and there was no answer.
There are many different ways to remember loved ones. For this extended family, it makes sense to do a motorcycle ride. Paul and Jerrel both loved biking. The plan for an annual ride was made before Jerrel’s death, and his boys wanted to continue the tradition afterwards.
Riding with hope
Each year, the group is different. One year all of Paul’s brothers participated. Another year, all of Jerrel’s sons, a son-in-law, and grandson rode. Cousins travel in to participate, and others wish they could. Co-workers join the ride, remembering a fellow worker.
We ride, not as those who have no hope. We ride because we have a reason to celebrate. One day, we will be together. For now, we ride and we remember.
God has been good, and we never want to forget.