In Memory (A Tribute to Brian Crockett…a message about life and our passing from it)

Three years have passed since the untimely death of Brian Crockett.  I suppose people need to move ahead with their lives and “live life to the fullest” as Brian did and would have wanted everyone to do.  I am sure that the pain is just as real and difficult today as it was 3 years ago for his family.  No parent should ever have to bury their child.

It is hard to reflect on the past three years and ponder the changes I have made as a result of Brian’s life and his death.  Many lessons were learned.

Enjoy all of life

Always choose the adventure

Cherish time with friends

Love family deeply

As I wrote three years ago, Brian lived more of life in his twenty-six years than most people do in a lifetime.  Something can, and should be learned and modeled from that.  I am trying my best to take advantage of any and all opportunities provided to me now.

I stand with his family in the hope and belief that we will see Brian again face to face.  This does provide comfort at times.  This is a faith that, as challenging as it may be, can stand up to any adversity or loss with confidence.

But it does not make the grieving process lighter or shorter.  Pain comes from memories but also for the many new memories that would have happened.

When an elderly person passing away (such as a grandparent) one can look back with fondness at all of the memories and be thankful for a full life.  When someone young like Brian passes away you realize that she or he still had an entire life to live.

It makes it more difficult.

So, I stand in solidarity with Brian’s family as their mourning, hurting, and healing continues.  They have remained examples of strength, peace, and hope during these years.  They also took action and have faithfully taken up causes and projects that Brian would have supported.   Lives have been touched and changed as a result of these past three years.

I suppose we have all lost loved ones.  Friends, Parents, Spouses, Grandparents, Students, Teachers, etc.

I suppose that over time their memories begin to fade a bit, and that is probably a good thing to help recover and move ahead in life.

But may we never forget the memories, laugher, tears, experiences, embraces, and simply the joy of being in the presence of those no longer with us.

For the sake of remembrance, I will include my full blog post from two years ago.

-In memory of a good friend and example to all, Brian Crockett

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The following was written in preparation of the funeral for Brian Crockett.  For those of you reading this who knew him, you will be able to relate and enter in to this story and message. For readers who did not know Brian, I hope you can find hope and inspiration in these words.  This is a message about untimely death and the questions that come with it.

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Early Friday morning, March 27 2009, Brian Crockett was tragically killed in an automobile accident. He was only 26 years old.

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I mourn the loss of a student, friend, and brother in Christ.  For many of you reading this, you mourn the loss of a dear friend, family member, teammate, roomate, classmate, or childhood friend.  Regardless of how long we knew Brian or in what capacity, together we deeply mourn his passing from us.  There are no easy answers and this has been and will continue to be a difficult time for us all.

I had the privilege of meeting Brian back in 2001 as he entered his first semester at Gordon College.  I remember reading about him and hearing the stories of his past and recent change and transformation. Little did I know that our paths would cross again later that same year as I moved out to New York and took my job at Bedford Community Church. It was during that time that Brian transferred to Syracuse University to play lacrosse. I was able to witness first hand over the next few years his continued change and how his renewed faith sparked a remarkable turn around in his life.  To know Brian was to admire, respect, and love him.  He was always kind, gracious, funny, and thoughtful. He probably even felt bad every time he laid out an opponent on the field!  I think part of the reason I mourn so deeply is that Brian was a great, great guy.  He always brought a smile to my face and brought energy and joy wherever he went.

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He was a fierce competitor, yet did so with great humility and gentleness. I have never seen such balance before in my life.  If you did not know him or his story, you would never know what an outstanding lacrosse player he was. That was just Brian.  He never boasted or bragged about himself but always wanted to put others and his teammates first.

Seven years later, I am preparing for his funeral and to watch my friend be buried in a box beneath the ground. This should not be be happening.  This is not right.

Over the past few days I have wondered questions such as “Why did God allow this to happen?”  and “Where was God on Interstate 95 at 12:42 AM that Friday morning?” and

Of all people, why Brian Crockett?”

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Friends, there are no easy answers to these questions.  The more I ask, the more questions I still have.

While I simply do not have any “absolute” answers to these questions, I continue to wrestle with them openly and honestly.  I have also confronted some pat answers that I do not believe to be true.

I have heard it said “Well, God just needed Brian in heaven more than us”.

As my pastor Dwight Ford says, that is B.S.  (Biblical stupidity…to be nice about it)

I don’t believe for one second that God needed or wanted Brian in heaven more than down here with us.

What does God need Brian there for?

What God does need and want are for his children to follow and serve him here on earth.

God desires for his people to be agents of restoration and reconciliation and to be ambassadors of joy, peace, love, grace, kindness, and self-sacrifice for the blessing of others.

If you knew Brian, then you knew he did an excellent job at that and was passionate about doing so.

So no ,I don’t believe that his “time was up” or something along those lines.  This was a terrible accident and it was not the right time for Brian to go.

Nor do I believe what some religious people offer (supposedly so we can find comfort), that God is sovereignty in control of everything and nothing happens apart from His will and decision.

That would mean that God actually planned for the accident or somehow decided that Brian’s time was up.

Also, B.S.

It’s as if God controls every single aspect of human existence and we are basically robots.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t find much comfort in that view.  fortunately, the Bible paints a very different picture of God.

Besides, if that argument was true, than a God who would willfully plan a plan to crash or a young child to be raped and killed is not a god that I want to follow or serve.

But again, that is not the God we read about in the Bible.

The God of the Bible is a loving, caring, compassionate God who is pained and hurt to see human suffering just as much as we are.

God mourns with us today.   We read in the New Testament in the gospel of John chapter 11, that  when Jesus’ good friend Lazarus died, Jesus went to his grave and wept.  The actual verse in the Bible is this “Jesus wept.”  It is the shortest and yet one of the most profound verses in all of the Bible because it clearly demonstrates that God can and does sympathize with us and knows the anguish we feel is losing someone we love.  Yes, we also read in that story that Jesus knew his mission was to destroy death and gives us life that could never be snatched away.  He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25-26)

God  loved humans enough to allow them freedom of choice and will (so that hopefully we would willingly choose to love him and not out of force).  Yet with his freedom, comes a huge risk that humans will mess up, make bad decisions, and that God’s original plans and purposes will somehow be distorted.

Just read the newspapers or watch TV, and you will see the effects of sin and evil all around us.   Things have definitely gone wrong. But it was not this way in the beginning. God’s dream for humanity was to enjoy the peace and pleasure of an intimate relationship with him and others in the context of health and wholeness.

Anytime we see sickness, illness, hatred, injustice, oppression, and death  it is not a part of God’s plans.

Have you ever realized that the majority of Jesus’ mission and ministry was to put and end to those things?  He spent his time healing the sick, lame, and crippled. He restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute.  He destroyed the evil and violent presence of demons and restored the outcasts of that culture such as lepers and prostitutes back into society.

As Pastor Dwight Ford reminded us about, Jesus interrupted every funeral he ever attended…including his own!

You see, those things are not (and never were) a part of God’s redemptive plan.  That is why Jesus came.

And each one of us knows that to be true deep within our hearts because when we hear of people getting cancer, getting kidnapping, or dying in wars or car accidents, something inside us screams,” This is not right! This is not how it is supposed to be!”

The philosophical writer of a book called Ecclesiastes writes, “He (God) has also set eternity in the hearts of men”.

We long for a time and place were those evils will be defeated and destroyed forever.

Where the words of old echoed by the apostle Paul will ring true:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

You see, each one of us longs for that time and place…we long for heaven.

Jesus prayed that God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven”.

He came to show us the way; to bring health, wholeness, restoration, deliverance, and salvation to humanity.

We continue on his mission today while waiting with great anticipation for all things to be made new and restored back to God’s original intent and dream.

But the question still remains to why God allows these things to happen?  If God did not plan for this accident, couldn’t he have stopped it?

The simple (and yet not so simple ) answer is Yes.  God could have, I suppose. He certainly has the power and ability to do so.

But can, or should God go about preventing every single bad thing from happening throughout the history of humanity?

And where does one draw the line?  Should God step in every time someone makes a bad decision that will bring harm?

Should God have prevented me from breaking my wrist or hitting my thumb with a hammer?

While I must confess that I don’t know these answers, I do know that God deeply cares about what is happening and realizes that we live in a broken and flawed existence where accidents happen and are just that…accidents.

We don’t know why they happen, but they do, and it once again proves that we long for something better…someplace better.

Now if you knew Brian over the past few years, you were well aware of his transformation.  He had a sincere and strong faith in Christ that did not just give him hope for after he died (like some sort of fire insurance), but it actually changed his life.  What we so loved and admired about him; his joy, gentleness, care, kindness, selflessness, and humility were characteristics of Christ living in and through him.  Brian would tell you the same.  In fact, let me share with you from his own words from an interview with him after his Senior year at Yorktown High school.

“I made some stupid decisions last year and didn’t fully understand the consequences until I was in the stands watching,’’ Crockett said. “It hurt watching my best friends out there and not being part of it.

“That’s when I realized I needed help to stop what I was doing and to refocus what was important in my life. I sought help and it absolutely benefited me – in every part of my life. In school, in lacrosse and in restored relationships with people.’’

“My advice to others is to keep your focus, and if you’re having a problem do something about it. If you need help, seek it.’’

Well said Brian and thank you.  Thank you for your advise to us and thank you for leading by example.

The great thing about Brian was that he was real.  Yes, he had his struggles as we all do. But he was willing and wanting to share about them and work through them.  As his mother Karen said, “Brian had a way of sharing his soul with those he loved and trusted.”  As he did,  he discovered grace, forgiveness, and freedom unimaginable.  Brian was the type of Christian that made you want to become one.  He was not some self-righteous, unapproachable, holier than thou type of guy.  That was never Brian!  He was someone who had a deep love and respect for God and others and sought Christ during times of difficulty. He found his strength and hope not in programs or religion, but in his relationship with Jesus.

Now I am not trying to convince you of anything. I am simply sharing what I know Brian would want me to share.  That Christ changed his life and clearly for the better.  So in the midst of this awful tragedy, we are able to find comfort knowing that he is in good hands now.

Even so, we continue to mourn his loss.

Yet, as the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the church in Thessalonica, “You must not carry on like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14, MSG)

We mourn Brian’s loss from us, but we have faith and hope based on the promises in the Bible that we will be reunited with him someday and sometime in the place we long for…heaven

We can and should also celebrate the life of those who pass from us.

It is easy to celebrate Brian’s life. It was so full, rich, and dynamic. Brian lived for adventure and excitement.  He was an avid world traveller (Europe, Central and South America, Israel, Africa), spoke Spanish fluently, spent significant time in Spain and Argentina, loved golf and scuba diving, was a brown belt in martial arts, and was one amazing lacrosse player.

Ok, so I will take a moment to brag about him. He was the player of the year in 2001 in our region during his senior year at Yorktown High school and I think is still the #2 scorer all time for that dominant school.  He was an All American standout at Syracuse and helped lead them to the National Championship in 2005.  He finished his career with 113 goals and 44 assists for a total of 157 points. He played on many national lacrosse teams as well, but his favorite was the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (which again goes to show you where his heart and priorities were at). For information on making donations to FCA in memory of Brian, you can visit the Facebook group “A Tribute to Brian Crockett”

“He’s a Yorktown legend,” former teammate Mike McCall said. “On and off the field, for many, many good things. We’re really going to miss him.”

“He lived life to the absolute fullest with no regrets,” McCall said. “It’s something that we all admired about him, he never took one day for granted. He’s a worldly traveler, moved on his feet, and just a fun-loving guy.”

We should learn from the life of Brian Crockett to make every day count, live with no fear and no regrets, and make the most of every opportunity. I know that may sound cliche, but Brian honestly embodied that so well. He lived and experienced more in his 26 years than most people do in their lifetime.

We love and miss you Brian. You will be forever a champion in our hearts and we hope to make you proud as we carry on your legacy in our lives

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Here’s the story that ran after his final season at Yorktown:

What a difference a year makes for Yorktown senior

Mark Alan Teirstein
The Journal News

Yorktown’s Brian Crockett, who capitalized on scoring opportunities and, more importantly, a second chance in life, is The Journal News boys lacrosse player of the year.

“Brian Crockett absolutely deserves to be the player of the year, for what he has done both on and off the field,’’ Yorktown coach John Nicol said, expressing an opinion that was repeated over and over by lacrosse coaches and players throughout the area.

“Crockett is my pick for player of the year, hands down,’’ Fox Lane coach Paul Carcaterra said.

It’s a sentiment felt strongly by Crockett’s own coaches and teammates, those who were affected most by Crockett’s season-long suspension from the team last year because of personal issues.

“There was no bigger bridge burned than there was last year with Brian, but his transformation from last year to this was incredible,’’ Nicol said. “He earned everyone’s respect by the way he dealt with his situation and how he played on the field. He became a real leader on this team, an unofficial captain. His whole demeanor changed.’’

The senior attackman was the Cornhuskers’ go-to player on offense, with 59 goals and 38 assists for 97 points this year. With 138 goals and 76 assists for 214 points in his career, Crockett is tied with Tom Nelson for seventh in Yorktown history in goals scored and ranks ninth, behind Roy Colsey (221), in total points.

“Brian is one of the best all-around players to come through our program,’’ Nicol said. “He’s a huge big-game player. Whenever we needed a big play, whether it be a goal, assist, ground ball or turnover off a ride, Brian came through for us.’’

In the Section 1 championship game, a 12-4 win over John Jay, Crockett had a hand in nine of his team’s goals – four goals and five assists.

The Cornhuskers’ 19-2 season ended with a 7-6 state semifinal loss to Wantagh – after Crockett had tied it with 34 seconds left with his third goal of the game.

But the highlight-reel game for Crockett and his teammates was a regular-season meeting with mighty Ward Melville in which Yorktown came back from a 5-1 deficit to win at Ward Melville for the first time ever. An amazing goal by Crockett tied it at 5-5 with 49 seconds left in regulation before he set up Ryan Culligan for the winner in overtime.

“Ward Melville coach Joe Cuozzo told me he thought Brian was the best player in the state – and that was before the game,’’ Nicol said.

Teammate Chris Watson takes it even further.

“Brian might be the best player in the country,’’ said Watson, a three-time All-American. “There is no question he is the player of the year.’’

What a difference from last year.

“I made some stupid decisions last year and didn’t fully understand the consequences until I was in the stands watching,’’ Crockett said. “It hurt watching my best friends out there and not being part of it.

“That’s when I realized I needed help to stop what I was doing and to refocus what was important in my life. I sought help and it absolutely benefited me – in every part of my life. In school, in lacrosse and in restored relationships with people.’’

When practice started this year, he wondered how he’d be perceived.

“I had been selfish and let the team down last year, and I felt ashamed the first week this year,’’ he said. “But everyone welcomed me back and made it as easy for me as possible.’’

He went on to earn All-America accolades and the interest of top Division I programs. But he chose Division III Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts college in Massachusetts.

“It’s the next step for me,’’ Crockett said. “I want a year there to continue to mature as a person, focusing on school and the right priorities. Then, if I want, I can transfer to a different school.’’

The main thing is he’s on the right track.

“I got sidetracked by things that came close to destroying me,’’ he said. “I was fortunate to get a second chance to play lacrosse and to play lacrosse in college.

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8 thoughts on “In Memory (A Tribute to Brian Crockett…a message about life and our passing from it)

  1. I never met Brian personally but wish I had !! I work with the fellowship of christian athletes in syracuse where brian played after gordon !! All I know is that in Brian’s untimely passing from us is that CHRIST is being acknowledged and hopefully Glorified ! Rest in peace Brian and we as christians REJOICE that WE will meet again !!

  2. Dan,

    I am sorry to hear about Brian, didn’t know him but it is clear to me that you were close. Just want you to know I love the fact that you can ask the toughest questions, be as authentic as possible and still come out with your faith. I am inspired by how you write exactly what we all are thinking and dealing with and you do it without apology. Thanks.

    Mark

  3. This was really beautiful. Thank you for writing this about Brian. He was an amazing person,and will be missed.

  4. Wow…..amazing. I did not know about Brian till I read this. From all you have said, Brian lived a worthy life in what we may see as a short 26 years. I believe his purpose from God was lived, and he is happy where he is. So much to ponder on from your article.
    May His soul rest in peace.

  5. It is comforting to know Brian lives on. We may never understand why, but I have found comfort after my husband passed on at 54 to realize that God there are some things which only God knows and understands (Deuteronomy 29:29).

  6. Superb site you have here but I was wondering if you knew
    of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get comments from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!

  7. Pingback: The Brian Crockett Africa Memorial Fund continues….. | ACP Youth's blog

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