I have had this title sitting in a draft with some random notes waiting for the right time to finish and publish, and then got news this week that we lost a pillar of our nonprofit community. News broke that Brian Stutzman, Executive Director of YPN, died suddenly. I didn’t know Brian personally, but I have several friends who have served on the YPN board and am connected enough to the nonprofit world to know he had a profound impact on individuals and our community.
I could hear the shock and disbelief in the voices of my friends as I reached out to offer condolences and prayers. There are no words. Sometimes there are no feelings. Sudden death, especially when it’s someone young and unexpected, just leaves us empty and confused asking, “Why?” or “What now?”
I remember shortly after I graduated high school, I got a panicked, confused, and grief-stricken call late one night that one of my closest guy friends…my sophomore year homecoming date, my confidant, my adventure buddy…had been in a car accident and died. In a split second, all of the fun of our last summer together and dreams about what was to be in our next chapter came to a screeching halt.
That night among tears and hugs with friends, reminiscing about Luke we kept coming back to “Why did this happen, why Luke?” I stayed there toiling over that question for months, maybe even a full year after the funeral. But “why” wasn’t helpful to me. It kept me in a place of bitter resentment, and I still never understood. After some counseling, I started to focus on something I could control…how I could carry Luke’s legacy on through my own life. He always had a smile and a positive attitude, he loved goofing around, and he was genuinely kind to everyone he met. I realized if I started to live my life like that, I could carry him with me. It was a gift that I had him, even if only for a short time, and I would honor that gift by living my life the way he would have wanted to live his.
As I write these words, tears stream down my face. Partly because I miss him, but mostly because I’m sad that more people in the world didn’t have a chance to experience Luke’s grace here on Earth, and be touched by his kindness.
To that end, I look forward to seeing all the ways that our community, and Brian’s friends and family choose to live out their lives as a reflection of him so people have a chance to be impacted by his legacy far beyond his last day on Earth.
Prayers, hugs, and love to all who are hurting right now. Be there for each other. There is no right way to handle emotions or the situation, everyone copes differently. Feel your feelings, let others feel theirs, and when you are ready I hope you will give it to God.
It feels appropriate to end with lyrics from a great song by one of my favorite bands, “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day:
There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
And love for the broken heart
And there is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus
Cry out to Jesus