The auditorium was dark, hot and surprisingly somewhat full. I was just another grad student who had nothing to do on Friday night, so I went to the talent show.
The first act was, well–just okay. I debated for 10 minutes with leaving but then I heard Jerome would be singing. I knew then, what I had to do, I stayed for his song. I was curious, but if not for anything else, I stayed out of respect for him.
You see Jerome was a severely handicapped student at our university. He was also very old or at least in my opinion at that time in my life, he seemed old. He could barely speak (his words were loud and barely comprehendible) and he was immobile. He was wheeled around everywhere and was dependent on someone for every single area of his life. So I was very curious what he was going to perform. I don’t remember exactly what Jerome’s story was whether he was born this way or if he had suffered an accident that left him this way but all I knew was Jerome was full of life and he was loved on our campus.
He was rolled onto the stage in his very high tech wheel chair that kept his neck and arms in place. He sat there alone with the spotlight on him.
With no introduction, he began his song, “God sent His son…” and I got goosebumps all over. Those kinds of goosebumps that transcend past your body and open the flood gate of emotional rain down from your soul.
He bellowed from the depths of his soul, ” he lived and died to buy my pardon, an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives…” it was a slur of words in song, but everyone knew exactly what he was saying.
Then with a long pause, he continued with the chorus. The veins popping from his neck and the passion written all over his face, he sweetly sang “because He lives I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone, because I know he holds the future…”
Here was a man who depended on someone every minute of his life. He hadn’t been able to live a “normal” life, not even to go to the bathroom on his own and in his most humble state he clamored and claimed the promise his very existence depended on each day–“My savior lives. Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.” Or I should say the promise our very existence should depend on each day.
Then the auditorium got silent and you could hear the sniffling sweeping over the whole audience. Jeromes face shone with His glory and His truth echoed in the room not because we were hearing it but because we were seeing a life lived through each word that was slurred, “And life is worth the living just because he lives”.
I wasn’t aware, if any, of Jerome’s bouts of darkness as he struggled with his limitations in the stillness of the night, but I did know the smile he wore each day I passed him in the hall. With a huge grin on his face he sang what I would’ve considered the hardest stanza to sing, “And then one day I’ll cross the river, I’ll fight life’s final war with pain and then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory.”
Then before his song was over, to my surprise in his most clearest of words, he continued, “And I know He lives. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.”
I’m weeping just recalling this day but I tell you Jerome’s song left an impression on my soul. To this day I can’t sing this song without getting teary eyed, as I picture his precious face looking toward heaven and his wheel chair rocking side to side. As he sang his body couldn’t keep still, his face shining forth looking toward heaven with a huge SMILE . He praised God with ALL his being, with all his heart he sang, “because I know He holds the future and life is worth the living just because he lives.
So, I don’t ever want to hear you say, I can’t sing.
Don’t ever. say. you can’t sing.
Don’t ever withhold your praise from Him.
My parents taught me this as I watched them at church and heard them bellow (not just sing), mind you, off key–with all their heart. Back then I observed them with much embarrassment but now it’s a testimony.
But still even with their example, up to that day, I would lip sync all of the songs at church because I was embarrassed by my off key voice. But no more lip syncing for me, not after the lesson Jerome taught me.
I don’t know if Jerome is still alive or not, but I tell this story in hopes that it encourages you to sing with all your heart to our Savior–because He lives.
Here’s one of my favorite artist singing this hymn–the words are also written in Spanish and English on this video. The violin strings playing in the background is simply beautiful. Because He Lives is an old but amazing hymn from the 1960’s, here’s a link to some history about the hymn.