In Memory of My Friend, Justin Key

By Tuesday, December 15, 2009 6 0

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

I learned this morning that a high school classmate of mine, Justin Key, died yesterday from a pulmonary aneurysm. I haven’t spent much time with Justin since we graduated, because he went to BIOLA and I went to Oregon, but we’ve Facebooked and we commuted to Seattle on the same bus a couple times a few years ago. It was such a gift to be able to spend an early morning chatting with him about what we’ve been up to and how our lives have changed. Of course, now that he is gone, I wish I had shared more fully the influence he had on my life.  I’ll share some details with you now.

Our freshman year of high school, Justin hosted a party at his house. My parents were really worried about what kind of party it would be, and I really didn’t know what kind of party it would be because I didn’t know Justin very well at the time. But, his parents and siblings would be there, so I was allowed to go. It turns out they had nothing to worry about – Justin had planned a simple, fun party for a big group of people he knew would get along. Looking back, I notice two things about the party. First, many of the people he invited are still friends to this day. It was a group of people, though not a clique, who would go to school dances together, host parties and even campaign for one of them to be class president together. Second, most of the people at the party were not Christians. I won’t say whether Justin intended for the party to be an outreach. Maybe it was that intentional, and if so, I applaud his youthful faith. Even if it wasn’t intended as an outreach, it was. It was, because Justin walked the walk and talked the talk. He’s been known to say a few controversial things, a baccalaureate speech where he pointed out the hypocrisy of people of a certain faith, comes to mind, but he never gave anyone any reason to question his God.

It took me a little while to see Justin in that light, because I wasn’t a Christian at the time. But a series of touches, many of which came directly from Justin himself, led me to give my life to Jesus a year later. He was always a gentleman. He knew things about me that he could have judged me for, but he never did. He would tease me about them; I think he did that because he knew that I knew they were wrong. And he was a faithful witness. I took my own sweet time growing into my newfound faith, and Justin answered a lot of my questions, sometimes with words. He never judged me for my slowness. He was just genuinely happy that I had decided to follow Jesus, and he merely went on my journey with me.

When we met again on the bus in 2007, I hinted at the change in my life and his influence, and I hope he was perceptive enough to hear all that I was implying. In the 7 years since we’ve graduated, he traveled the world, ministered to young men, worked as a business analyst, wakeboarded his summer days away, and entered a business school on the East Coast. He seemed to have all his priorities in line, and in a day and age where living for the moment actually means wasting the moment, that is truly inspiring.

Now, Justin is reaping the rewards of his faithful walk, and I know he is gratefully laying those crowns at His Savior’s feet. I can’t wait to join him there!

A blog from one of his professors.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Justin lived that verse.

A blog from his friend Christoff

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  • Karla

    Amazingly well written, Rose. Thanks for sharing. You captured him perfectly – such an excellent example of what a good person and a faithful Christian should be. Nonjudging, fun loving and always willing to listen. Although he was always so humble, I believe Justin was aware of the immense impact he had on people, and I’m sure he knew what his influence has meant in your life, even if he didn’t get to witness it directly the last few years. You’ll honor him the rest of your life 🙂

  • What more can I say that Karla didn’t? It was a beautifully written entry. I didn’t really know him, but this piece makes me feel like I really missed out.

  • Rose, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of person who was so dear in your life. You are in my prayers, along with Justin’s other friends and family. <3

  • ali

    I just wanted to share that I just heard that the autopsy showed that he actually died of a pulmonary aneurysm…

    I loved what you wrote about who he was, thanks for sharing…i didn’t know him at all personally, just friend of friends…thanks for bringing a little light to who he was.

    • thanks, ali. I heard that at the memorial service – a blood clot stuck in his lungs. 🙁 Thanks for your kind words.

  • This is such a wonderful,sweet,holy message. It kinda makes me sad :/ but this Justin guy seems like a wonderful man of God. I love that verse. 🙂 this story will encourage a lot of people. Bless and thank you for sharing.
    Matthew 17:20