It’s been a year.
One year since I received the call that shook me to the core.
My best friend from my high school years took his own life.
I was devastated. I was confused. I was filled with questions. I was overwhelmed with regret. I was angry. I was ashamed. I was frustrated. I was hurt. I was all of these things and more.
I had already been reeling from the loss of two of my best friends that had passed away in the previous two years. I was now facing a third pillar of my life being taken from me.
I will forever be grateful for spending 40 years of my life with the pleasure of knowing Steve Schueren. My third pillar in my life. Steve was my closest high school friend. I looked up to Steve and I will always hold him in high regard as a man of God.
It has been a year… and I so wish I could hear him once again debate the political issues that we face today. He would have had a field day and he was never at a loss for words when it came to politics or his faith.
All the memories I have shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered. All of us who knew Steve know that he will live forever in our hearts.
Bryan Blakely was my childhood best friend. The first pillar in my life. The days of my early childhood were influenced by his presence in my life. Not much happened in my life from the age of 5 to 16 that Bryan and I did not experience together. Somewhere along the age of 16, we started to drift into different directions. Over the next 30 years whenever our paths crossed, we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets in Oak Harbor, Ohio. He died in June of 2009.
About the age of 16, I was introduced to a man who would become so influential throughout my teen years. My second pillar. He grew to be not only be my friend but he was no less a father figure in my life. Our father/son relationship lasted for years. Bob Emrich loved me as a son and he loved me unconditionally. God took him home after a battle with cancer. He wasn’t perfect but he taught me so much and I still miss him everyday. There is no doubt of his influence in my life.
The pain and loss that is associated with the loss of these men is huge. A mother shouldn’t have to bury a son, a wife should not have to lose her husband and children should not have bury their father before their time. All three of these men were gone too soon from this life. They are missed by many and I have to admit that over the course of the past year, I have felt sorry for myself. I just could not understand why God chose to take those in my life. I looked forward to growing old and having those pillars in my life for a long time.
For whatever reason, God sometimes allows people to be taken very quickly from us. Many times, so fast that we never get the chance to say the things we needed to say. I am still shocked and in some ways I am still not over their loss.
But this is one truth that I have come to appreciate. I still find myself under their influence. I can still hear the laughter and the voice of Bryan as I think of the memories of my childhood. His humor and his perspective on not taking life too seriously will always be imbedded in my memory.
I find myself listening to music and hearing Bob’s voice encouraging me to be better man. I can see him giving me the cheat signs that we had made up in order to win at our epic Rook battles or laughing so hard at times we couldn’t speak at the crazy stuff we did. His influence on me as teenager trying to find his way in life has transcended into an influence that still makes want to be a better man. He is still here with me… the signs are all around me.
It is no different with Steve. His influence is still evident in my life. I became a better student of God’s Word because of Steve. I still do things that I learned from him from way back in my high school years. Most importantly, he is part of my “Great Cloud of Witnesses” that is mentioned in Hebrews 12:1.
I am still under their influence.
This has caused me to think about what it means to influence others.
I looked up the word “influence” and the definition says:
“to affect or alter by indirect or intangible means; to have an effect on the condition or development of.”
To have an effect on the condition or development of. That’s huge!!! All three of these men had a profound effect my development.
I feel a bigger responsibility today as a result of my relationship with them. As if I need to re-think decisions that I am making or things that I do as possibly having an effect on others, whether positive or negative. I need to ask myself what kind of influence am I having on others. What kind of influence do I have on my wife? How am I influencing my children? my friends? my co-workers? Will they feel my influence after I am gone from this life? It’s a little overwhelming to contemplate that I could have the same effect on someone’s condition or development, just like the influence of these men had in my life.
I hope the Lord continues to teach me how to be a man of influence. To be someone who is to be remembered. My hope is to be that better man… that better friend to someone. To be a voice of influence. To be a shoulder for someone to lean on. To be the one who encourages… to be one that spurs others on to greatness.
Until that happens…I am thankful to always be under the influence of Steve Schueren… Bryan Blakely and Bob Emrich.
I thank them for the time that they shared with me of their life and I am forever grateful for the legacy that they passed on into my life.
For now… I am still here. I look forward to re-uniting with all of them one day. I cannot help but smile when I think of it. Steve will offer me the seat next to him… Bryan will be telling stories and Bob will be playing music and sitting at the table with a deck of Rook cards in his hand with a big smile on his face.
I look forward to that day…