I don’t want to write this. And yet, I must. My heart cries out in longing for the friend I lost. I think to myself that writing about her will help the healing and grieving process. There’s something about expressing everything I feel by translating it into words that somewhat bandages the wounds. But the words themselves are not enough.
Sometimes, there just are no words.
I wrote the actual tribute below shortly after Jaclynnette passed away one week before Thanksgiving. It took me a while to sit down and write it, because there was something more final about her death by putting it into words. I put off writing because I had already hurt so much. I didn’t want to jump back in the waters of grief again, knowing the feeling of a tight chest, unable to breathe from the grief. Somehow though, I wrote it. And then I put off publishing it. I know I don’t have to. This is one of those things that I can keep just for myself, and that’s okay. The world doesn’t necessarily need to see these words. But I felt, again, that by publishing it, I could let go, whatever that means. I would have more closure than I did by simply writing it.
Except I won’t.
I won’t ever be able to fully “let go.” If I’m honest, I don’t want to. I don’t want to forget. I won’t ever have total closure. And I know that by publishing it, I will submit myself to feeling everything all over again, even though part of me is tired of feeling.
But for those who were closest to her, they don’t have a choice. They feel it every day. And every day, grief crushes their soul just a little more than it did the day before. Because every day, they are reminded again that she will not come bouncing in the door with a story to share. Jace, Kadin, Rhyston, Davin, and the rest of her family and friends will never have “closure.” Not on this earth.
And so, I write. I write to walk the path of grief alongside my brothers in Christ, whom I love as dearly as I loved their wife and mother. I write to join in their suffering as we share in the sufferings of this broken world together. I write to remember the beauty of my friend, and her friendship. I write to remind everyone who reads this that in the palpable void that Jaclynnette’s absence leaves in our lives, in our futile attempts to wrap this all in a box tied with a bow and set on a shelf only to be remembered upon occasional dusting, we will never ever have closure in death.
Because death does not own the privilege of having the final say.
If I may honor Jaclynnette’s life in any way, let it be in this: Jesus Christ has come. He entered into our suffering. He suffered on our behalf. Jesus died. But His death was not final because He rose from the dead. Christ overcame death. Once and for all. And He is coming again! For those who believe in their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord over all, there will never be closure in death. Only a pause. A semi-colon in a sentence. The terrible fact is, the semi-colon hurts. It’s painful. It’s grievous in the worst way. But for those who feel the sting of death’s punctuation, keep reading. There is hope. One day, death will receive its own final closure when the King returns to reign forever. And those who believe in the risen Christ will stand behind Him as He slams shut the door in death’s face, never to be opened again. But for now, take heart. We’re still living in the first half of the full sentence that has already been written; Jaclynnette lives in the second. And there is no period at the end of the sentence …
Jaclynnette Broadhurst: A Tribute
“I don’t want to just survive. I want to thrive.” These are the words my friend Jaclynnette Broadhurst truly lived by. She made the most of every moment. There was no adventure too great. She took advantage of every possible opportunity that would make life more fun. She squeezed out every available ounce of joy she could in her 43 years.
She made this earth her home away from her true home with Christ. She lived her life in such a way that showed everyone who was watching just how beautiful Jesus is. How great is the God she served in all things. How good He is, even in the midst of such pain and suffering.
Even in cancer.
People were drawn to her because of her love for her Lord. Her excitement and laughter was contagious. She had a way of making others want to feel the way she looked: joyous and beautiful. Jac, as some of us call her, was so beautiful. Her eyes sparkled with mischief when she got a crazy idea (which happened often.) Her brilliant smile lit up a room. Her hair danced on her shoulders as she sang in worship, or in her own kitchen at home.
And she turned into a giddy school girl when her husband, Jace, was around. He was her “eye candy” as she called him, and she wasn’t shy about how passionately she loved him, and vice versa.
I remember when my husband and I were visiting with them before moving to the area and I rode with her and her boys to church. Before we went inside, she pulled down her driver’s visor vanity mirror and put on some lip gloss. One of her sons commented on how she always did that. She matter-of-factly responded, “Of course I do! I want to look good for my man!” I don’t think she ever disappointed him. He had always thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world since seventh grade when they first met.
Jaclynette was a mother to three boys, now becoming young men. She homeschooled them all until they reached high school. (Her baby, now 11 years old, is in his last year in elementary school.) When our family first moved to Maryland for Kyle to serve as the church’s Associate Pastor of Worship and Family Ministries (her husband was the senior pastor), I was homeschooling my oldest in kindergarten. She was such a great support and encouragement to me. She took me to events of the homeschool co-op she participated in, especially the school supplies sale where families sold their used textbooks and resources. She knew where to find the best deals, and she was generous in sharing her own resources.
Jac loved hosting people in her home. She could have written the book on hospitality. She wasn’t so much of a formal hostess who served her guests (though she did that too!) as she was simply making her guests a part of her family. She was happy to serve them, but she also wanted them to feel at home. One of her close friends tells the story of the first time she went to the Broadhurst home. The first thing Jaclynnette said when she answered the door was, “Do you know how to make cookies?” She grafted in that friend to her family, and she became like a sister to Jaclynnette and Jace, and an aunt to her boys. She made all who crossed her front door threshold feel like they were at home. She had a heart especially for our youth, and she reached out to them, mentored them, and made them a regular part of her family life. Two of them spoke at her memorial service of the great love she had given them.
Having never been in ministry before, she was my role model for what a pastor’s wife looked like. Our church never placed heavy burdens or expectations on us as pastor’s wives, and she didn’t do it to herself either. She encouraged me to just be myself, which is like telling a tree to have leaves. Done. When she smiled and talked happily with people at church, she wasn’t putting on airs. She was smiling because she was truly happy. She didn’t over-burden people with her struggles when she had them, but she didn’t completely pretend they weren’t there either. She was genuine and real.
Jac was a servant at heart. She had always wanted to be a missionary, which is what kept her from marrying the man of her dreams for so long because he wasn’t as convinced of that life for himself. She did become a missionary for a while though in Kenya as a single college graduate. Eventually, after marriage, she and Jace did go to Kenya together as he taught at Scott Theological Seminary for a year. She stayed at home with their two oldest boys. Her third son had not yet come. About 9 or 10 years later, they went back again and took eight other people with them for a church mission trip, including all three of their children. My husband and I had the privilege of being a part of that mission team. I had never had an ounce of desire to go to Africa before I met the Broadhursts. But it was the most amazing two weeks, including seeing lions walking next to our vehicle on safari.
And somehow, that crazy woman talked a few of us women into riding on the back of a motorcycle back to the seminary campus from town behind some Kenyan guy. I’m telling you – she made the most out of every opportunity. Every day held a new adventure, and she took as many people along with her as possible.
Their family (minus their youngest) went on a mission trip together to China two summers ago (2014) when Jace was invited to teach at a university for a couple of weeks. Jaclynnette jumped on the opportunity to teach English to Chinese students. I know in the short time they were there, they reached out and ministered to several students. And of course, had a blast sight-seeing. What a phenomenal way to spend vacation!
As fellow pastors wives, we attended a Ministers Wives retreat almost every year together in Annapolis. There were a couple of years we missed, but it was something we both looked forward to each April. We only lived about an hour away from where the retreat was held, but we stayed in the hotel where the conference was hosted as a girls getaway weekend. We would drive into downtown Annapolis right on the harbor and find a place to park, then walk the cobblestone streets of downtown. We found a new place to eat every year. Then we’d have fun shopping in the cutesy shops, and occasionally we’d surprise each other with a gift we picked up behind the other’s back. Last year, she bought me a tervis cup that had yellow hearts on it and said, “Sunshine Sweet Tea”. They also had autism awareness Tervis cups, and she gave me a choice to pick from the two. She said, “You can pick one, because everyone needs a Tervis. I know part of your life and your passion is autism awareness, but I also know that you’re more than that, and you’re Sarah who loves tea. So, this is the one I’d pick for you if it were up to me, but I want you to have what you want the most.” I’m so glad I chose the one she would have chosen for me.
We had our favorite shops we’d always go in, and one of the things she loved to do was pick out cards (the ones with old black and white photos of real people with funny captions) so she could send them to whomever as encouragement, or for special occasions. Last year, she bought cards to mail to Jace’s mom, Sue, who was (and still is) battling cancer. Jac had been in her shoes just a couple years before when she went through her first course of cancer treatment, and tears welled up in her eyes as she picked out just the right cards. I don’t know if she ever got a chance to send them. But Sue, if you’re reading this, you were never far from her mind. She loved you so much, and she wanted to encourage your heart. Whether or not you ever received those cards, know that both the intentions and the love was ever present in her to love you well.
At the retreat, they had classes during breakout sessions with various topics. Some of them were serious, like dealing with parenting issues or finances, and others were more crafty in nature. There was also usually a spa night, and we did hand paraffin waxes together. Jac rarely took the serious classes because she considered this her time of refreshment and enjoyment. Sometimes she skipped altogether just to relish in taking a nap in our room without interruption from kids. One of the classes we did together was a painting session. We each got a canvas and they taught us in one hour how to paint a particular picture, so everyone painted the same picture, give or take a few flowers. We were at the back of the class, cutting up together. Sometimes we would miss what the teacher said, and Jaclynnette would just do her own thing. At the end, we had a pretty background on a canvas that we could fill in later as desired.
I would have never guessed I would use that canvas to remind me of my friend years later.
That canvas hung on the wall in my bedroom for a couple of years, blank, because I could never decide what to put in the middle of it. Maybe a Bible verse, or a quote…? I couldn’t make up my mind. But now, during the writing of this tribute (which has taken a few months), I finally decided what to do with it. I had created several canvases with quotes from C.S. Lewis to be displayed at her memorial service. They were gifts to her family and her close friends, so I didn’t bring one home with me.
But I had my own. Taking a verse from the memorial service, I chose Psalm 16:11, “In Your presence, there is fullness of joy.” It hangs in our living room, and is the perfect way to honor the memory of my sweet friend. It brings a smile to my face every day I see it.
She was such a thoughtful friend. If she saw a little something somewhere that she knew someone would love or appreciate, she would get it for them. (Sometimes, it wasn’t so “little” either.) She wasn’t a lavish spender, but she was incredibly thoughtful. Last year, she gave me an elegant teacup ornament for my kitchen Christmas tree. She saw the teacup and thought of me, so she got it. I have seen her give gifts to others for the very same reasons, like this cupcakes decoration for a friend who loves cupcakes maybe more than I love tea (so, a LOT!) Just because she thought of them and knew they’d appreciate it.
I hope she knew just how much those little gestures meant to us all. It didn’t matter whether she found the gift for free or paid any amount of money for it. I think I can speak for those of us who were recipients of her gifts in saying that we felt special simply because she thought of us, and did something to let us know how much she cared for us as friends. Sometimes there were gifts. Other times, there were notes or emails with a few sweet words just to say she was thinking of (and also usually praying for) us.
I have too many memories and photos of my sweet friend to write here – and I only knew her for six years. And there are thousands of memories stored up in the hearts of hundreds of people whose lives she touched all across the world. From America to Africa, China, Trinidad, Belarus, Venezuela, and Brazil, I’m sure that many of those memories are being given new life now as we grieve the loss of a beautiful friend, teacher, sister, daughter, wife, and mother. I remember how she talked longingly of worshiping her Savior alongside people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Now, she is experiencing that which she so desperately longed for on this earth with that little sparkle in her eyes. She is where we all long to be. Jaclynnette is home.
Rejoice, dear friend, and rest. You’re finally home.