Four weeks ago I was walking to get feather extensions put in my hair in Manitou Springs, Colorado. It was raining outside, and I had tied my floor-length dress in a hasty knot at my knees. I was laughing under an umbrella as I walked, chatting with my best friend Purple Hippo Girl (also known as Anna) and our new friend Jimmy Brazell. He was contemplating getting a feather put in his hair as well, talking about his Native American heritage and how cool it would be.
We encouraged him. "Yeah, do it!"
"That would be so cool!"
"You would totally be the coolest guy at Summit if you did that."
"Heck, yes! And if any of the other guys give you any flack, just let us know. We'll take care of them for you. They're just not man enough to get feathers in their hair."
"Haha, and then they'll see that we think you're the coolest guy and get all jealous, and then they'll come and get feathers too."
He grinned listening to us, and his entire countenance lit up. "Really? Do you think I should?"
"Yes!" We chorused, beaming back at him.
"Okay, I'm gonna do it," he decided. He was so excited, and that just made us more so. This kid was brave. We were proud of him.
I remember sitting on the floor at his feet on the gaudy carpet in the crowded and quirky little store, playing with my new pink extension and watching him flip through the huge blue binder with all of the colorful, striped feathers, trying to decide which one was just right. Anna and I helped him choose a black and white striped one, not too long, but just long enough to peek out of his curly, sandy-brown hair. He got it placed three or four inches above and behind his ear, and it looked great. "That is so cool!" We cheered as he admired it in the little mirror. "It looks so great, Jimmy!"
We all started walking back to the Summit hotel, having a great time.
"We should be a tribe," Jimmy decided.
"Yeah!" We agreed. "That would be great. What should we call it?"
We threw around some names for a while, and then I giggled as we passed the Colorado Custard Company. I thought of the cute old man who owned it with his family, Victor C. "Hey," I laughed, "We should be tribe VictorCee."
"Yeah!" Anna and Jimmy agreed. "Tribe VictorCee! That's great!"
"I guess since I'm the only guy, then, I'll be the leader," Jimmy concluded.
"Okay!" We grinned. We would be his little tribe, one chief and two squaws. We would follow him anywhere.
When we passed him in the hallway, one day he stopped and asked Anna, "Does my feather look okay?"
"Oh," she said as she went to fix it for him. "Did you just put stuff in your hair? It feels different."
"No," he said, "Sorry. I just got out of the shower, but I wanted to make sure my feather looked okay."
She grinned, and I caught it, though he didn't. "It looks great," she reassured him.
Every time he saw her, he asked. We were so tickled that he cared so much, but we always told him it looked fabulous, and it was always true.
Other guys got feathers then, like our friends Jarred and Keenan, but Jimmy was the first, and that made him the coolest in our eyes. Trendsetter.
He got me into his staff auction group to win William C. Doublestein's Official Seal of Approval, guaranteed to make your life instantly seventeen million times more incredible, awesome, and insanely attractive. Jimmy had twenty dollars to spend, and I had one hundred and fifty.
We were on the edge of our seats, side by side, watching the bid go higher and higher. We exchanged stunned and hopeful glances as our group kept donating more and more money to Sudanese Christians. As our bid steadily climbed to $2,750, I asked him, "Where is all this money coming from?"
"I have no clue," he replied, grinning and bewildered.
We jumped up and cheered at the top of our lungs as Russell crowed, "Sold!" and waved to our group. We were so happy. I can remember Jimmy saying as we made our way to the lobby to pay our portion that he was ashamed he had so little to spend, when others spent so much. "Don't worry about it," I urged him. "Just revel in the excitement of it."
He grinned. "All right."
Last night at 10:17 PM, on my way home from an amusement park, I got a call from Anna.
Jimmy drowned in an accident on July 31st.
I couldn't take it in. "What?" I demanded. "What?"
He had been so alive. It was impossible.
He was 19.
He was in China for six months before he went to the Summit. He had been teaching Chinese students English, and telling them about Jesus when he could. He spoke Chinese beautifully. I had never thought of Chinese as a beautiful language until I met Jimmy and heard him speak it.
Every opportunity he got, he was asking the speakers at Summit questions about Chinese morals and beliefs. He wanted to take back all he learned so he could lead the Chinese people to the cross more effectively. His heart was so there.
He was from Texas. He said "ya'll" and called the feather lady "ma'am". To me, an Indiana girl, his accent was adorable.
He gave his testimony one night, and I cried. He was in a car accident when he was ten. Everyone else in the car was fine, but he had to have one half of his face reconstructed, he had to relearn everything-- how to speak, to walk, to function. He almost died. He said the accident used to depress him, but God used it to show him that he had been given another chance to impact people, to live for Christ while he could.
He said that was the only thing he wanted to do. Impact people for Jesus. He wanted so much to see his Lord. He urged us to do all we could, because we never knew when we might be taken-- accidents can happen in a moment.
"But when He calls me, I'll be ready," he told us all.
He was so happy.
When he smiled at me, I felt like I had been given a beautiful gift-- it was so full of joy, so obvious his love of life, of his amazing God, and I tried my best to grin back with all I had. I wanted to give that back to him.
When I was around him, I felt like a beautiful person-- but it wasn't because he treated me any differently than anyone else. He simply shone. The glory of the Lord was about him like a garment. I imagine that when Moses came down glowing from Mt. Sinai in Exodus 34, after talking with the infinite God of the universe, he looked a little bit like Jimmy did every second I knew him.
I remember sitting at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, and he was sitting two aisles in front of my brother and I, facing us, waiting for the plane. There were a lot of teens in that terminal, waiting for that plane to Colorado Springs. Any of them could have been on their way to the Summit. But somehow, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the attractive kid across from me with the curly hair and the guitar case was headed to the same place I was. How? I don't know, really. I just knew.
He exuded Jesus.
He was sincere. Genuine.
He saw things differently than we did-- all of us.
He wanted to impact people. That was all.
He touched so many lives.
He loved so much.
He didn't just tell people about Jesus. He showed them Jesus. He witnessed to everyone-- he couldn't keep it in.
I didn't get to talk to him enough in those two weeks. I didn't say goodbye the last night we were both in Colorado. I didn't get my picture with him. I didn't give him a hug. I didn't contact him after I got home, even though he came to mind often.
If I would have known I only had four weeks, I would have.
So incredibly fast.
However, in the midst of my regret, and my hurt, and my multitude of tear-induced migraines, I can honestly say I am so happy that he is in the arms of Jesus right now. I am so thankful that he is face to face with our Lord, because he did so much for Jesus, and I know Jesus loved him incredibly.
In a way, it seems so unfair. He was so young, and he could have done so much more to impact the world if he had just had more time. But in reality, it's so gloriously fair-- after all, it's what he wanted so badly: to be absent in the flesh and to be present with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for all of eternity.
I'll miss him more than anything, but I am so thankful to have known Chandler "Jimmy" Brazell.
I pray, Lord, that one day, I'll have half the impact that he had.
To You be all glory.
Christina "Kuri" Rikkers