It’s so funny how the most benign things can bring back some of the best memories.
As I was driving home tonight I switched CD’s (yes my car only has a CD player because it is old, and yes I still have CD’s because I am old) and put on one of the discs from the amazing Stadium Arcadium album by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. As I started to listen to the music I was instantly reminded of a great memory from high school.
I had a good friend named Greg that had an old white hatchback Ford with a sound system that was likely worth more than the car itself. Greg and our other friend Sam, who now has his doctorate in music, always had impeccable taste in music and opened my eyes to some of the great artists of all different times like Prince, David Bowie, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
One of our favorite things to do on weekend nights, in particular during the winter, was to drive around with amazing music screaming through the speakers, windows down, letting in the bitter cold Utah winter air, and the heater cranked up so we wouldn’t all freeze to death. It was nothing ground breaking, or something that I thought would be particularly memorable at the time, but as I look back now I realize that it is those moments of simple joy that bring me the most happiness and inevitably put a smile on my face.
I know this often took place without me, or with our other friends Jon, Borsos, Naysahn, Mike, Thayne, Jamison, Mark, Jason, or the occasional female like Mary Jane, Liz, Erika, or Tricia, but it honestly didn’t matter who it was. All that mattered was that a few teenagers were together making a memory that still puts a smile on my face even 15+ years later.
The older I get the more I realize how important memories like this are for one simple reason, they are about people. I don’t regularly talk with any of the aforementioned people, and some of them I haven’t seen since we graduated high school, but that doesn’t matter either. What matters is that these people were an integral part of my life during one of the most important times in any person’s life. They helped me make good choices, and the occasional bad one, but I will forever be indebted to them for helping me become the man that I am today.
I did have the opportunity to see some of these friends a few years ago and it was so fun to see how all of our lives have developed over time and how quickly we just caught right up. Even our children became immediate friends and had a great time running around my Grandparent’s old yard making their own memories.
So, as The Red Hot Chili Peppers serenaded me on my way home, I couldn’t help but turn up the heat, roll down the windows letting the cold air in, crank up the radio, and think back on some beautifully simple memories from my past.
I hate to again be a downer here amongst all of the fun that gets posted but I had to take a moment to pay homage to a great friend that has returned home to his Heavenly Father.
I first met Marshall when my family moved back to Utah to live in the Sugarhouse neighborhood of Salt Lake City where he lived just a few doors down from us. Much like me, he had a bunch of older brothers of similar ages so we sort of naturally were around each other. We spent a significant amount of time together at church events, scouting trips, and various other youth activities. Marshall always shed such a positive light wherever he was which was a characteristic that would stay with him throughout his life.
The vast majority of our time together was spent playing basketball at my next door neighbor’s house who seemed to have the only setup in the neighborhood. CrashDad and I would spend hours out there with Marshall and his brothers playing every different basketball game there is: 21, horse, 2 on 2, knockout, you name it, we would play it. Admittedly, he often drove me nuts when playing, but if I am being honest it was because he was better than me despite being younger and shorter. I was always impressed by his incredible drive and his ability to pursue his passions with everything he had.
He always refused to listen to someone telling him he couldn’t do something, and was determined to always give his best and exceed everyone’s expectations, though I don’t know that he ever exceeded his own (maybe with the one exception of finding his sweetheart Amanda who I am sure he would say was more amazing than he ever would have expected), because Marshall had this incredible vision of how great he truly was, even if other people didn’t see it at first. He never failed at showing the rest of us just how much we had underestimated him.
That would hold true throughout the final years of his life as he battled Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia for four long years.
It was tragic to hear about such a terrible disease striking such an amazing person, but I was endlessly impressed by the way he handled it. There was never talk of how much it sucked or how he was being robbed of a long life, only optimism and happiness. His wife referred to him as her “ballistic optimistic.” He spent his time lifting others and making memories with his beautiful wife and son. He shared his passion for music with everyone that would listen and refused to be put down by his own struggles. He was anxious to share his faith in Jesus Christ, and did so whenever he was given the chance.
I am sad to say that I hadn’t had much contact with Marshall since we left that Sugarhouse neighborhood and life got in the way, but it has been inspiring to watch him over the last few years. He lived more of a life in his 31 years than most people do in 70-80. He is an inspiration to be admired and emulated because that is what really mattered to Marshall. He always cared about other people, and not himself. Even when his face was paralyzed he drew a smiley face for himself so he could still smile for people who came into his room.
That is the Marshall I will always remember. He had the most intoxicating smile that would drive me nuts on the basketball court, but that couldn’t help but bring a smile to your own face when looking at him. I’m pretty sure it comes from his mother because she has the exact same smile. (Speaking of his angel of a mother, Lucile is every bit as inspiring. In the days following the loss of her son she has continued to support other people who are struggling with cancer and other diseases. She refuses to let this tragedy stop her from living which is just the way Marshall would want it.)
We never truly know the impact we have on other people’s lives, and I don’t know if we ever fully realize the impact other people have on our lives. Marshall Jensen was an inspiration for thousands of people all over the country, and likely the world, but for me he will always be my smiling friend from the basketball court.
If you knew Marshall I would love to hear your memories of him in the comments which I will gladly pass on to his family.
A service to celebrate Marshall’s life will be held Monday, November 30, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1335 West 1500 South, Woods Cross, UT 84087. Viewings will be held at the same address from 9-10 am prior to the service and Sunday evening, November 29th, from 6-8 p.m.
After the service, interment will be at Mountain View Memorial Estates Cemetery, 3115 E 7800 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84121
If you would like to learn more about Marshall or support his wife and son the following links will provide that opportunity.
The Headstrong Foundation played a major role in the final years of Marshall’s life. They are an amazing foundation that tries to “improve the quality of life of those affected by cancer.” Since 2006 they have helped more than 12,000 patients and their families. Spend a little time on their site and you will see how amazing they are.
The Marshall Jensen Memorial Fund or The Marshall and Amanda Family Trust at any Wells Fargo Bank. You may also contribute to a college fund for his Kezman by donating to the “Marshall Jensen Memorial” account at Mountain American Credit Union.
A Forever Gift for AJ is a gift that the wife of Marshall’s younger brother is trying to create for Marshall’s wife.
I am not generally one to recommend specific movies in this type of setting because there are so many people that like specific things from movies it is hard to make such a generalized recommendation. With that being said I simply must recommend the DreamWorks’ movie Home for a number of reasons. I have seen this movie multiple times now, but for some reason as I watched it with my kids tonight it just seemed to hit home a little harder.
All of the typical reasons to like a movie are definitely prevalent here. It is a fun family movie with some really creative writing and jokes, as well as a pretty fun soundtrack. It is also has a pretty great cast including Steve Martin, Rhianna, Jennifer Lopez, and my personal favorite, Jim Parsons from the Big Bang Theory. They all did a great job of bringing out the best in their characters that really accentuated the movie in ways that many animated movies simply do not.
With all of that being said, there is just a really great message that I enjoyed. As I think about it, it may be because I am so far away from “Home” right now. As a military member I have grown accustomed to being away from family and moving regularly. I certainly empathized with the main character “Oh” as he tries to make friends on his new planet but finds that no one wants to be friends with him. It can be really difficult moving often and having to constantly start over.
However, they simply nail it in the movie showing how adversity can bring even the most unlikely of characters together as friends. It is often in the midst of this adversity that we find out not only “who your friends really are”, but also forge those bonds of friendship that can never be broken. I have been blessed with a handful of people in my career that I truly cherish as friends. We are not close together physically but I am grateful for the experiences that we have shared that brought us together.
I also really loved the message of the importance of families that is shared. The world is increasingly diminishing the importance of families in not only entertainment but in everyday life. Many people only communicate with their families through social media, texts, or emails. Even with all of the amazing technology that we have these days that can allow us to connect on a personal level, we often choose to stay disconnected. I will confess that I am just as guilty of this at times, and I need to do better because family is the most important thing in the world.
That family may consist of the parents and siblings you grew up with, close friends, or even the people you are deployed with overseas, but what is really important is that we build those family bonds so that we understand that we do genuinely belong and that people do care about us. It is amazing the difference it can make in someone’s life just to know that someone cares. It is that much more important when we are separated from family, just like “Tip” in the movie because it is that love and concern that will get us through seemingly insurmountable challenges and back to the ones we love.
The odds of our planet getting invaded by a group of aliens that peacefully move us all to live in Australia so that they can take over our homes is admittedly quite remote, but it is nevertheless important that we truly understand what is most valuable in life, and that is the people we love and care about.
I don’t know exactly why it’s the case, but I’ve always had a special affection for old people. While many people can’t stand to spend time with them, I adore the opportunity. Sometimes I’ve wondered if my love of older people comes from this scripture:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. –James 1:27
You can ask my wife. It’s almost embarrassing how much I enjoy spending time with older people. I love to hear their stories. I love to find out who they really are, where they’ve been, and what makes them who they’ve become. Most of them love to share.
If I’m being really honest, I bet the reason I love old people so much is that I love putting a smile on their face. In many cases, they’re lonely and need a friend. When you extend a hand of love and friendship to them, they grip on with both hands. It’s a lovely experience that’s hard to replicate. I’ve had it hundreds of times and I never cease to enjoy it.
While I act like I’m bringing some care and friendship to these older people, the reality is that I always end up with more love and affection in return. In fact, if you’re not getting enough love and affection, go and become a friend with an old person. You’ll be amazed how much you get back in return.
I saw all of this first hand with my friend Lola. I met Lola at church. I can’t remember how we became friends, but it’s not uncommon for me to seek out the older people at church and become their friends. Over the past 9 years Lola brought me such immense joy. My weekly ritual was to go and give her a hug in the library. We’d take her and her husband Thanksgiving dinner the past couple years. I was so happy to have my kids help me with this so they could see how grateful they were for the kindness. My kids were blessed to spend time with them. I loved singing with her around the piano as her husband played. My life was better with Lola in it.
That’s why it hurts to hear the news that Lola passed away. She was suffering all sorts of crazy illnesses, but she suffered it well. I’m sure a part of her was happy to leave those illnesses behind and depart this mortal sphere. I know she’s happy in heaven and that I’ll see her again one day where I’ll give her a massive hug. However, that knowledge doesn’t hide the sadness I feel with her gone.
Loving old people is great, until it starts to hurt. I’ll miss you my dear friend Lola.