The book of Job says, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” That scripture could not be any more heartfelt than it was Wednesday at 4 p.m. The words “He has passed” still ring though my head.
Twenty-four years old is not the age that death should rear its ugly head. Compared to many things, 24 is the age of a child, a youth. It was the age of a man who had already seen more than most everyone he had ever met. From 13 years at Harmony Grove, to defending his country overseas, to his newborn son, Jeremy “Lew” Lewallen was not just a man. He was a soldier, a friend and a brother. He was kind, funny, lovable and now missed — forever.
While most will cry and wonder why he was taken so soon, I will forever cherish the memories I made with Lew. Like the time in fifth grade when Mrs. Younts told him to clean out his desk before we went on holiday break and, as he was cleaning, a molded tangerine rolled out onto the floor, cuing an eruption of laughs and smiles throughout the classroom.
Or sitting next to him in band while he attempted to play the trombone. Yes, Lew was a band geek for a short time. Many probably don't remember that.
He had quite a few names other than Jeremy. After being called “J” for many years by me, he finally shortened his last name to “Lew” around the ninth grade — a name that stuck until the day he died.
Lew was one heck of a basketball player for Harmony Grove. He was the type to drop his head and draw the foul even against the biggest guy on the court. He had no fear. He was a fighter. He set out to win every game and wouldn't settle for anything less.
But that was not the best part of his game. While scoring was his forte, Lew could shoot the 3-pointer with the best. With the game on the line, like it often was, he was the guy you wanted to shoot late. He was on from nearly anywhere.
But Lew was so much more than sports. He was a good student in the classroom. He was a girl chaser. With his good looks, curly locks and Southern charm, Lew was the true man and the girls knew it and loved him for it. But to his friends, he was family.
If any friends ever needed anything, Lew would be there for them. From a ride home from school to loaning lunch money, Lew had their back. Even if there was a plumbing problem at one of his friends' homes, he was there.
Lew believed in working hard and idolized his father, Clifton, who was a plumber. I'll never forget waking up on a Saturday during the summer to the sound of Jeremy rustling around in my closet to get to the water heater. The kid never missed a beat at anything.
Another fond memory of Lew is one that only a select few are able to share. Lew and I rode the same school bus home. From the time we got on and sat down, the conversation was on.
“So, are you going to race us again?”
“Of course,” Lew would say.
He and his dad were avid hunters and owned multiple 4-wheelers. From the time he stepped off the bus and we made a short loop with one more stop just up the drive from his house, Lew had run in, grabbed the 4-wheeler key, headed out the back door and started the ATV. As the bus approached his house again, Lew hit the gas and raced the bus, passing through an open field where his dad’s house now sits.
Memories like this are what will forever live on in me. Not to mention the countless conversations on Tuesday mornings when we would relive Monday Night Football all over again. Too bad Lew was a New England fan. Poor guy.
Now that I'm older, I often look back at our high school years and think about how I would give anything to go back for one more day. Just to hear Lew tell another joke or talk about another touchdown pass. Or to hear him ask to look at my homework; beating me to the punch to ask him the same question.
The last time I spoke to Jeremy was at JJ’s Truck Stop while he was eating with his dad. I asked him how he was and he said "good."
Though things were bothering him, he didn’t let it show. Instead he said, “Good to see you, 'big'un,'" calling me by a name that he often used throughout our childhood.
For as long as I live, I will never forget the last time I spoke to one of the greatest men I ever met.
While it is hard to say goodbye, saying thank you is a better way to move on. A way to enjoy the life God gave everyone Lew came in contact with.
Yes, Lew truly will be missed forever, but for his friends and family, the memories will always be there every time the thought of him crosses their mind.
From the tangerine, to popping each other with towels in the locker room, to celebrating on the court after winning a ballgame, Lew will forever live on through us.
Rest In peace, Jeremy. You will be missed.