Stunned. A couple of weeks ago I sat waiting in my Sunday Bible Study room and felt the urge to check on one of my friends. I had not seen a Twitter update in some time and hoped he had not lost his battle with cancer.
Jordon was 44.
I met Jordon Cooper online in the very late 1990’s, maybe even 2000. While attending the National Pastor’s Convention in San Diego that year, I learned of an online community for those with questions who felt there was no safe place to ask without fear of rejection from their faith communities. It was there on The Ooze that I encountered Jordon, who was from Canada. Not long after, and maybe even prior, Jordon created Resonate, a similar online community in Canada.
We met in person in Minneapolis in the early 2000’s. We spent a week together as house mates in Nassau in 2007. Since then we followed one another on Twitter.
Routinely Jordon would remind me that perspective matters. We might be enduring a severe Winter cold spell in Central Oklahoma. The temperatures may have reached below freezing for, say, a week at a time. I would Tweet about the frigid weather. Jordon would reply with a comment about the temps in Saskatoon. Quickly I felt our weather as a heatwave compared to Saskatchewan. My how warm 25 degrees can feel when you try to approximate -45.
One summer while we were on our annual family trout fishing trip I posted a Tweet of our success. Jordon replied. He noted that I should venture of to Saskatchewan for some real fishing. How I wished I had done so before last month.
That Sunday as I read the news on my iPhone, I recalled how I felt just last Spring when I first learned of Jordon’s diagnosis. Like you, I have been there before. The news of someone you know, respected and had spent time with swimming with sharks had received the C diagnosis takes your own breath away. I have struggled to even write this reflection. I know other friends for whom this story is too close.
Jordon tried his best to track his experience. His first video blog attempts aimed to provide something for his sons in the event the cancer could not be subdued. He often wondered just how much and what to share.
When he and his doctors realized the end was near, Jordon planned his own Funeral service with a couple of friends. He wrote a last entry for his blog. It begins,
If you are reading this, it means I am no longer here. The liver and colon cancer stopped toying with me on March 26, 2018. The last laugh is on the cancer, it is going to the grave with me. I was 44 and glad to be done with the damn cancer.
Only those who have never had someone close die from any form of cancer would miss the depth of feeling bound up in those opening words. We lost two women to brutal forms of cancer some years ago, one near Christmas and one near Easter. I am sure their families understand the sentiment no matter how uneasy they may be letting on to it for fear they somehow come off faithless.
I have only had time to watch about 30 minutes of Jordon’s service. I do hope that I will get to finish it before it is decided to take it down. In fact, I hope Wendy and the boys will leave it up. Period.
Reflecting on my interactions with Jordon I cannot help but recall our conversations on the patio of the townhouse we shared with other friends in Nassau. Jordon was a big fellow. He moved a mattress outside and slept on that patio. Maybe it was soothing to hear the waves crashing the rocks just feet from where he and I cooked hamburgers for the group. We narrowly escaped the island before a hurricane hit. We made the last plane out before the airport closed.
We talked about Church and church. We compared notes between Canada and the United States. Between Saskatoon and Tuttle. Though she had not yet published her book, the late Phyllis Tickle seemed to capture the sense we felt. Something was changing in the way people perceived church, practiced their faith and understood the world. Since that time a whole vocabulary was emerging and emerged to give some sense to it all.
Some of those friends I met responded to the developing ethos different. A few eventually left the Faith. Some looked to new forms. Still others spent a great deal of time wrestling with what Tickle would describe as determining what could go on the front lawn for the every 500 year yard sale. She used that metaphor to loosely trace Church history to comparable eras where a perfect storm of conditions created the occasion to both conserve and liberate the Gospel from cultural clutches.
Jordon’s own story illustrates that sifting. He was a pastor. He helped plant churches. Jordon’s open conversations helped others work through their own challenges to faith. Jordon spent time working with and advocating for the homeless. The work he did and the voice he lent to the important issues of addiction and homelessness won him respect and a column in the local paper.
Many folks get bogged down working through their questions, wrestling with their doubts and keep things theoretical, in their heads. Jordon worked it out on the ground. His canvas became the material lives of real people. I have little doubt that Jordon kept thinking, reformulating and moving forward despite his own questions, doubts and affirmations.
Though we were not close in proximity, I learned a great deal from my young friend.
He is missed.