Tuesday, December 18, 2007

a story

My mission companion and I were knocking doors on an average suburban cul-de-sac when a guy pulled up next to us and yelled "Sisters! What are you doing in my neighborhood?" This guy had been baptized a few months earlier, and we sat on his porch for well over an hour as he gave us the play by play.

He had worked in marketing at some hotshot real estate firm in the South for a couple of years after college. After one of his employees yelled at him on the phone, he slammed the phone down, frustrated. He picked it back up, decided to go to law school, and called a 1-800 number to register for an LSAT prep course. That's when it started.

Months later, he was at a law school fair in the east, where law schools from all over the country set up tables and answer questions. The BYU table was deserted (he claims it looks like there were "tumbleweeds") and he felt sorry for the lonely man sitting at it, plus he'd had a buddy go to BYU a decade earlier, so he stopped at the table for quick pity-hello. (The dean sitting at the table later told him that he'd had a feeling when walked by. He felt like this man would come to the law school and join the church, but figured he should act natural about it, because talk about a quick way to freak someone out and let them know exactly why your table's deserted).

Anyway, this guy was well-qualified and could've gone anywhere, but quickly realized the J. Reub was three times cheaper than anywhere else and figured hey, nowhere else is actually three times better. So, he did it! And his first week there, he got turned away from the financial aid office for wearing too short-shorts (ha!) and felt like an alien when he washed his truck outside on a Sunday with his shirt off as church-goers gawked. People had warned him that in Provo, he would eat freakish amounts of ice cream and a friend even told him to tie a ribbon above his knee underneath his jeans in case any girls looked for his undies, because then they'd be more likely to date him.

So, during his three years at the law school, he was given 5+ copies of the Book of Mormon, met with a dozen sets of missionaries despite his consistant "thanks but no thanks" response, even met an apostle or two, had multiple leaders and even mission presidents sit him down and invite him to learn more, yet miraculously survived three years in Provo without joining the church...only to go home to NY and have a change of heart years later.

He compared his joining the church to barfing. Like when you know you're going to throw up, and you don't want to get up, and you think you can suppress it, but then you realize "Uh oh. I better run for the bathroom, it's coming up no matter what I do." The missionaries told him, "Our job is to help you find the toilet." Everything about his baptism was great, he told us, except the outfit they made him wear. Straight out of the 70s, way too snug, slightly off-white with some Dumbo-ear-sized lapels. Besides the outfit, it was the best day of his life.

As we sat on the porch that sunny-but-freezing day, he found out I would be applying to law schools shortly; naturally, he began recruiting in earnest. I was as anti-BYU as they come (remember? I went to high school at EFY) and laughed in his face, though I admit I was shocked and secretly impressed that he had such a great experience there as a non-member. He was normal, smart, fun, and funny--the opposite of everything I imagined about BYU Law students who only wore khakis and didn't laugh when someone said "bastard." When I told him I had way bigger plans and threw out some of the schools I was thinking about, he responded laughingly, "Do the math and get back to me." And it's true. I'd owe six figures right now if I had gone any of those places. The rest of my mission, he kept telling me perk after perk about the law school, put me in touch with some of the deans, never let up. The more I talked with him, the more I felt nudged toward the J. Reub but just kept kicking bc seriously, it's BYU.

But of course, he was right, I gave in, and you know what? I am happy. Looking back, he and his miraculous story were definitely an answer to my prayers for where-the-freak-should-I-go-to-school-guidance and he became a great buddy. This baby wouldn't be on her way if I'd gone anywhere else, that's for sure. Some of the funniest things he told me about law school:
"You won't find a job you like. You're a lawyer, not a Disney guide."

"Sure, you can be a purist and write your own outlines and it will be a good learning experience. And writing Microsoft Word software would be a good experience too, but useless when all you need to do is print a document."

"Briefing every case is like mowing a lawn with your hands, grabbing fistfuls of grass."

The year after he was baptized, and a year after we met him, he married one of his law school classmates in the temple. Two months ago they had a baby girl. Last month, I asked him to give a presentation at the law school about his conversion story, along with the dean who first recruited him. In that presentation, he said "You can sum my story up like this: Man unhappy, man joins church, man now happy."

I just found out that he died yesterday in a skiing accident.

Thank you for making me go to BYU and thank you for your example and thank you for your helluva story and thank you for your life. I'm glad you gave into that barf-baptism feeling and I'm glad I met you. We'll miss you, Jason.


andrewsmiracledrug said...

That was a beautiful tribute.

I love you.

Justin & Kamie said...

That really was a great tribute. I wish I could have met Jason, but your description of him helped me see a glimpse of what an awesome guy he was.

erin g said...

i remember you telling me about him. i'm sure this is an emotional thing for you -- and i'm double sure that being pregnant won't help -- so i am feeling for you and, of course, his family.

Megs said...

I'm glad I lived through much of this with you. I actually think of him often as an example of living the gospel. Remember when he told us he got road rage on the way to do service in Palmyra and then quietly reprimanded himself for being so un-Christlike. He was really great.

Anonymous said...

This made me cry. I'm so sorry.

supalinds said...

What a terrible loss. He left an amazing legacy.

Wonderful tribute.

EBV said...

Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it.

megandjon said...

yepper. that made me cry to. sounds like an amazing man to have known. my heart goes out to his wife and baby!

Ashley said...

You should give this to his family.

K8 said...

That is def.a story for the books! What a great guy. SKiing accident? How? Where? That freaks me out a bit. I just went yesterday.

I really like his own story sum up of "man how happy". That definetely sums up the power of the gospel.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Just found this story through a link in a friend's blog.

Thank you for sharing.