Have you ever been given a gift at a funeral? No, neither have I.
But gifts of Leave Nothing Unsaid were given to those who attended the funeral of 84-year old Jacob “Jake” Hammrich, a beloved resident of Ipswich, South Dakota (population 954) in June, 2021.
Most people knew him as Jake the Barber. Yes, he was the town barber for most of his adult life. He also was a four-time Mayor of Ipswich, a member of the city council, and had served as a school custodian and in the Walmart Pharmacy Department while maintaining his barbering business. (There was only so much hair to cut in Ipswich!)
Most significantly, Jake was known as everyone’s friend, a person who continually encouraged those around him.
According to his son, Brian, if Jake didn’t know someone, they would become friends within five minutes. And Jake had an uncanny ability to remember names and details about people he had met even decades before. He was genuinely affirming and interested in others.
That warmth and encouraging spirit was an integral part of the fabric of Jake’s family relationships, too. Brian remembers receiving weekly letters from his dad while at college. Every letter contained $5, a sum that, at the time, felt like $100 to Brian. The letters contained more than money. They will filled with the riches of words of encouragement, wisdom and the unwavering belief of a father in his son. Brian saved every one of those letters.
Several years ago, during a lunch break at a conference, I struck up a conversation with Jake’s daughter-in-law, Christina. As we chatted over our box lunches, I told Christina about the Leave Nothing Unsaid movement and gave her a copy of the workbook. She was so enthusiastic in her response that I felt like she had been sent by God to encourage me.
Christina shared the workbook with her husband, Brian. They ordered workbooks to give to their employees. We stayed in touch across the miles.
A year later came a message I never expected. Christina called to say that Brian’s father had died after a multi-year battle with cancer and that Brian wanted to give Leave Nothing Unsaid workbooks to those who would attend his father’s Celebration of Life service. As part of his eulogy, Brian shared about his dad’s affirming nature and how they had left nothing unsaid between them. No regrets. The love and affection they had for one another had been expressed throughout their lifetimes.
Brian encouraged the family and friends in attendance to follow his dad’s beautiful example. Yes, he pleaded with them to be intentional about expressing love and affirmation to their loved ones. And providing the gift of the Leave Nothing Unsaid workbook gave them a practical tool to help accomplish that worthy goal.
The last few years have shown us, again and again, about the brevity and uncertainty of life.
None of us is promised tomorrow. That’s why it’s important to be intentional about what’s most important in life. Our relationships.
What about you? Have you taken the time, to express, in writing, your feelings to those dearest to you? If not, I’d love to help you.
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.”
This photograph of Brian Hammrich hugging his father, Jacob, was taken eight days before “Jake the Barber’s” promotion to Heaven. It was the father/son’s last embrace.
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