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Friday, August 31, 2012

From Annette

Pin It Jason was the best teacher four of my children ever had. And that's saying something, because my kids have had some really good teachers. What made him so great? He didn't just teach, he helped them learn. He has an amazing website specifically for his class (check it out! http://classroomofchaos.com ) where he posted parent info, pictures, homework aides, and even music playlists. He taught with zest, bringing stories to life with voices, and made math understandable with hands on quirky activities. For instance, when he taught graphing on the x and y axis, he would practice with the kids, getting them out of their seats and "jumping" to Kriss Kross's song "Jump", and yelling out directions on the "axis". His teaching was unorthodox, but you never forgot what he taught. I would sometimes go to his class to help grade papers, but would end up spending half the time just watching him teach. I was jealous that my kids got to be in his classroom everyday. Not an understatement. He gave what many parents considered a lot of homework, but to him, it was simply preparation for Junior High and High School, and learning good habits. He provided amazing incentives for staying on top of assignments and homework with "Super Activities" and awards and recognition. He also taught "outside of the curriculum" things like friendship, kindness, responsibility, and thoughtfulness. Priceless lessons.

In addition, Jason was a colleague of mine, helping me with film making in my GT classes at the same school, as well as giving me ideas by his example. We became good friends and "hung out" as it were by helping out at super activities and in various and sundry events, like hiking the "Y", or  "Christmas in September". His friend-shipping skills seemed to have no limit.  He had a way of looking out for everyone. For example, when my husband was away for 3 months, he and his siblings had our family over for Thanksgiving dinner. He always aimed for the "exceptional" in everything he did.

Although I have mentioned a lot, I have barely scratched the surface. He was a wonderful teacher and friend. I am deeply saddened by his loss.  It feels like there's a hole in my heart now that he is gone. I loved him dearly and will forever be grateful to him for, well, for everything.

Annette Evans

Thursday, August 30, 2012

From Tanya

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J -
I had a hard time sleeping last night.  
I kept relieving all of our many memories… seeing your face, hearing your voice.  Even though it has been awhile since we have "seen" each other, it always felt like no time had passed at all.  Whenever I was having a rough time or a bad day, I would pull up your blog and read your latest.  You always had a way of making me smile, of helping me feel better, and of challenging me to see the world through different eyes.  What could I possibly do that would adequately honor all you are for me?
I remembered the day we first met.  
It was at the Newport Theater.  Brad brought you in and introduced you and assigned you to work with me on the concession stand that night.  You had a full beard and looked waaaaay beyond your age.  At first, some of our co-workers thought you were “weird”, but I just remember you made me laugh.  I had more fun at work that night than I had in a long time, and you made the hours fly by.
That was the night my life changed, the night I met you.  I knew then that I had met someone very special.  
We became fast friends, especially after I learned you were LDS.  We talked for hours and bonded over a mutual love of reading, writing, and movies.  Pretty soon you let me read drafts of stories you had written.  I would mercilessly mark them up and then we would have lively conversations discussing my edits up there in the film booth while you were threading movies.  I loved that I could give you honest feedback and you would always take it to heart, never offended.  “Tauny,” you would say, “it will only help me be a better writer.”  And then we would laugh together.  Oh, how you made me laugh!
I remember the day you told me that you wanted to be a writer, wanted to have a book published, and influence the world for the better.  I never doubted you could.  After re-connecting with you and discovering your amazing blog, I realized that you had accomplished that goal.  Maybe not the way you had envisioned, maybe not the way you wanted… but in my opinion, this was even better.  Through your blog, you have been able to bear your beautiful soul to the world on a daily basis, in a way you never could through a book.  That is something most writers are unable to accomplish in a lifetime of trying.
My mind raced through all the posts I have read on your blog, through all the lessons you have taught me.  So much humor and warmth.  So many acts of kindness.  I have a hard time accepting the fact that I will never get to read another story from Jason, see another amazing picture, read another blog entry. But I find a little solace knowing that the ones we have will always be there, to help me remember.
Suddenly I remembered a certain blog post I had read some time ago…  I grabbed my IPad and did a quick search, found the entry I wanted and read through it again. I knew what I needed to do. 
Smiling, I made plans for the next day, and sleep finally overcame me.
At 3:48 PM, my last meeting of the day finally ended.  I grabbed my things and almost ran to my car, giddy with excitement.   As I drove around I wondered where I could go that would make my tribute perfect.  I probably went to three different places before I finally settled on a destination.  I had butterflies in my stomach.
I pulled into the parking lot, got out of my car, and entered the convenience store. I glanced at the cashier and noticed a bald headed, tired looking older guy with a stern look on his face.  Walking over to the ice cream machine, I saw there were three flavors.  Vanilla, Adventure-Berry, and Swirl.  
“Adventure-Berry. How appropriate,” I thought, as I made myself a cone.
As I walked up to the counter, I wondered what the cashier would say and whether he would even agree to the scheme.  As doubt crept it, I saw two missionaries walk in and smiled to myself, resolve firm.  I knew what I had to do.  This was meant to be.
“Hi, will this be all for you?” the serious looking cashier asked.
“No, I want to pay for four.  One for me.  Then, see those missionaries over there?  Please let them each get a cone.”  I saw the question in his eyes.  “In memory of a friend, that passed away.”  My voice cracked… he looked at me and I knew he understood.  “Give the last one to someone who comes in and looks like they need it.  Tell them it is from someone who wanted to brighten their day.  You can even have it yourself, if you want.  Thanks so much,” I said, as I grabbed the change and receipt.  
“You have a great day,” he said to me, then glanced over to the missionaries.  I almost ran out in my effort to not let anyone see the tears in my eyes.  I got in my car before anyone could stop me, or thank me.   I drove up the road and into a deserted parking lot to let the tears run freely down my face. 
For you my friend.  I will never forget you.
Finishing my cone, I flipped the car around and headed home.  As I drove, I smiled as I passed two missionaries who were laughing and enjoying their Adventure-Berry cones.   Then I made a silent promise.
I promised that this will not be last time.  
Jason was always challenging people on his blog to do random acts of kindness, and he was always doing them himself.
Sept. 9 is Jason’s birthday.  Wouldn’t it be cool if, on that day, the many people that he has touched band together to remember him by following his example and performing random acts of kindness?  Think of the happiness we can create, the days we can brighten, the small difference we can make in the life of even one person.  Will YOU accept the challenge?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

From Mel

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Mel's Eulogy for Jason Zimmerman delivered at his memorial service on August 25, 2012

Jason and I had a fight this year.  It wasn’t that unusual for us to disagree - that was almost the basis for our whole relationship really.  But this one was a little more serious -  probably because I was pushing Z a bit harder than I usually did. Pushing him into an area that he didn't want to talk about and he…well, he was being difficult.  By way of an…..I was going to say apology, but it was really more an explanation, I wrote a post about friendship and what I feel constitutes the best kind of friend. This is part of what I wrote:

 - To me the very best kind of friend is someone I have a great time with, someone I can laugh with (I mean really laugh).

 - My best kind of friend is one with whom I can have open conversations, and who will prove loyal.

 - My best kind of friend appreciates my good qualities but also tries to help me mend my negative qualities - kind of the personality equivalent of the friend who'll tell you when you have toilet paper stuck to your shoe.

 - My best kind of friend encourages an honest and open dialogue and will volunteer to give (as well as receive) advice about different aspects of life not only because they care about me, but also because they want positive things to happen in my life.

  -My best kind of friend is a source of inspiration and motivation and we can hopefully learn from each other's mistakes.

The next time I saw Z, he brought up this post.  He had realized, of course that I had been, in fact, communicating with him via the internet when he hadn't been willing to listen to me face to face.  

Z didn't always like what I had to say to him. I often wondered why we ended up being friends, why he always circled back to our friendship even when he (or maybe I) was being difficult.  I have come to the conclusion that it was because I told Jason the truth about the way that I saw him -  the tremendous good I saw in him but also the things that made me worry about him… and he somehow appreciated that.  So I want to share some truths with you today about my friend Jason. I think he will be expecting that from me and be surprised if I did anything else.

 Jason was always talking about how important his alone time was to him. But I never quite believed him because he was the cruise director for pulling people together and keeping people connected. After I stopped working at Sunset View, he told me (not so much asked me, but told me) that we were having dinner once a week...and we did, almost every week for the last five years.  He was always the one that organized the Saturday morning breakfasts with the past and present Sunset View Colleagues. He was always the instigator for getting our sort-of-core Red Rock crew together for dinner once in awhile. And I know he stayed in contact too with people that had been important to him from years and years ago. He was a conscientious and thoughtful friend who remembered birthdays and anniversaries and other personal details. The relationships in his life were important to him, he didn't want them to fade and he made a serious effort to stay connected. It's something that I admired about him and an example that I need to take into my own life. Especially now that he's not here to do it for me.

Jason was one of the best teachers I've ever seen.  Jason in front of a class was a sight to see wasn't he? Like a great basketball player or a great chef he would fast break and rebound and slice, dice, saute and present a feast of learning for his students.  And he was a hard teacher too, right? He actually expected kids to do their homework, make progress and actually earn those bonus bucks.  But in return for all those high expectations he would put on quite a show. It really didn't matter if it was math, or reading or science or P.E he was able to teach and entertain and magically, almost without even realizing what was happening, the kids would learn something. 

It was magic.

Jason believed in magic didn't he?

He believed in the magic of games.  When we would go to Red Rock, we would give all of the kids a bandana - for practical reasons. To keep the back of their neck from getting sunburned, or to put on their head if they forgot a hat, or to cover their nose and mouth if we found ourselves in a sandstorm.  But I'll bet what most of the kids remember about those bandanas was that they needed theirs to play the bandana game with Mr. Z..  
I don't know for certain if he was the one that came up with this particular game (though he did come up with a lot of unique games). But I do know that Z was the ringleader of the game. I sometimes thought that we could have saved ourselves the trouble of planning all the puzzles and books, and climbs and challenges for Red Rock.   If we had played only the bandana game for four days, the kids would still have thought it was the best trip of their lives.  

Jason believed in the magic of words. He thought that words had a enchantment and a music of their own and he loved to try and use words to convey a sensory experience and make you not just read but feel or experience what he had written.

He believed in the magic of a good book. I think that he believed that when you read a great story, it becomes part of who you are. And having the privilege of reading a book 
out-loud was a chance for him to perform and interpret a unique form of art. And he really loved doing that.

He believed in the magic of music. Again using Red Rock as an example; A few years into the program, Jason came up with a tune on his guitar that we somehow decided to use as our theme song.  I wrote some verses about some of the uniquely-Red-Rock experiences like eating mostly sand for dinner or crowded tents, but the really fun thing about that song was that each group, or clan, would come up with their own verse for the song and we would share all of those on our last night of the trip.  It added a whole new level on top of anything that I had come up with and it was fun...it was just fun.

Jason believed in using all of these magical elements to create memories. Memories that became a part of who kids turn out to be and who we all turn out to be.    

But like any great magician, he never wanted anyone to see behind the scenes - to see how hard it was to make those magic tricks seem effortless. Being in front of a classroom full of students, or any group of people really, did not come naturally to Jason.  He had to work at it. It was something that he wanted to be great at, but it was also something that he wore like a coat...or maybe more aptly a suit of armor...a  really heavy suit of armor.  If you think he was hard on his students -  that is only a fraction of how hard he was on himself.  He would take every failure to heart. If a student wasn't progressing, he saw it as a personal failure.

At the end of the last school year, Jason wrote a post about how he worried about this. He compared his students to starfish on the beach that he would try to keep throwing into the ocean - even when so many covered the beach that the task seemed impossible.  In this post, Jason mentioned talking to a friend who was trying to remind him that the value is in the effort, not always the outcome. I was that friend and I can tell you that Jason had a very heavy heart when a student was, as he put it, “content to laze in the blistering sands.” One of the last sentences he wrote in that post was to say that “we should never feel that our energies are wasted in trying to help another.”  I was glad to see that he had written that, and I do hope he was at least trying to believe that bit of wisdom applied to him as well. I was always concerned that he would burn himself out in his endless quest for perfection. You see, despite the successes and awards Jason enjoyed and received he always wondered: Am I good enough, Am I cool enough, will they like me?  I told him many, many times and if he could hear me now I would say again, Jason, you were good enough and they did like you. 

One of the last things I was able to tell Jason...to write to Jason, was to remind him that we were never friends because I thought he was perfect. Any of you that ever saw us together knew that I was exasperated with him about 80% of the time. But in a strange kind of way, I'm grateful that he always knew that I wasn't expecting a perfect friend. I didn't need perfection because I saw first hand and was often a participant in the good that he accomplished in his life and it was valuable and it was real.

Jason was the most nostalgic person I think I ever met. As I said, he wanted to have memories, he wanted other people to have them too and he often used his beautiful photographs for that. I've never been a big fan of having my picture taken, but once in awhile Jason caught a picture of me. When Ian, my youngest boy was about 9 years old, I had painted a U.S. flag on his face.  I honestly can't remember why now. It was during that period of time we had year-round school and I think it was during one of our Summer Inter-session programs. Anyway, Jason took a picture of me peering over the shoulder of my little patriotic Ian.  Then, just last December, a few days before a 19 year-old Ian went into the MTC, Jason took another picture of us.  No flag on Ian’s face this time, but the same pose in every other respect.  Ian (probably thinking he was doing something nice) put those pictures in frame for me and gave them to me the night before he went into the MTC.
Jason always despaired a little that I wasn't as sentimental as he expected me to be, but I freely admit that I love those pictures and I am so grateful for them.  They are a poignant set of bookends to Ian's childhood. I look at them every-day and I am flooded with the memories that were made in that 10-year span.  I'll always be grateful for those pictures and for how many of those memories include my friend Jason.

 - My best kind of friend is a source of inspiration and motivation and we can hopefully learn from each other's mistakes.

I have been inspired by Jason Zimmerman, and he helped to motivate me. I have learned from him and I hope that I will be able to take the best of all those memories I have of him and continue to learn.  I think he'd like that. 

So, good-bye my friend.
I hope that you've finally been able to take off that heavy suit of armor. I hope that you’ll be ready, when I see you again to have some of those open conversations, and I hope that you will find that I have proven to be as loyal a friend to you as you were to me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

From Eden

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Mr. Z was one of the most inspiring people I have ever known.  I was so lucky to have him as my teacher last year.  Each time the news of him passes along many tears are shed.  Mr. Zimmerman died young.  But I remember such good times.  He was the greatest teacher!  He joked around a lot.  He would say things like, "That just made my brain explode out the back of my head" or call us funny names like "Muffin".

Mr. Z would take us out to recess and we would play games together.  If we got our homework all done and we got at least 85% on our grades we would get to do special activities like go to the park behind his house and play night games or watch a show at Comedy Sportz.  He always made learning fun!

Mr. Z is someone who everyone loved.  And I miss him.

Monday, August 27, 2012

From Emily

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Jason was a lot better at this than I am. He had a way about him – a way with words,
a way with photos, a way with his actions. I’ve spent the past few days reading his
words, hearing his voice narrating the stories he wrote so eloquently. For someone
like Jason, it sounds so cliché to say simply that he touched so many lives. Each one
of us feels as if we were Jason’s best friend. We all realize the magic he possessed.
He was truly a remarkable person, the kind you only meet once in your life. Doesn’t
it seem strange? He was just that remarkable – why isn’t this splashed on the nightly
news? Where are the paper headlines? We just lost one of the world’s greatest!

I met Jason about 9 years ago. I was dating his roommate, but Jason and I became
fast friends as I lived in the basement of the home he rented. I vividly recall the
late night hours we spent chatting, the videos we watched, the music he played.
He had a way about him that was easy and comfortable – hours felt like mere
minutes when you were deep in conversation. He could put a smile on your face,
comfort your fears, and fill your stomach with the most delicious (surely artery-
clogging, remember his post about butter?) treats. To me personally, he was a friend
and confidant. One who always had room for me on his couch, one who captured
priceless memories with his lens. He was an anchor when I was swaying, and gave
me wings when I needed to fly. An example of the selfless, energetic person I strive
to be.

The long hours he spent working for his kids was almost super-human. Working
until 2AM and up at 4, filled with excitement about a new idea (anti-gravity, anyone?
). His fondest memories were of the times he spent in his classroom. I can’t tell
you how many times he came to me about his class. His work ethic and absolute
passion and love for what he did, as well as whom he did it for, was so inspirational.
Never before have I seen a person who truly loved what they did so very much. It
was the very essence of his being. In his own words when writing abut his legacy,
he said “it’s not what I leave behind when the days of tomorrow have

passed, but it’s what I am living today…my living legacy. That ‘gift’
which I give back to the world, the heirloom I pass down to as many
as I can – I am a teacher”. He surely was, and will continue to be. Literally and

figuratively, he taught each of us something: how to take better pictures, how to
write, how to laugh. How to be a better person. I know I am forever changed for the
better, and forever grateful, to have had Jason in my life for the very brief period he
graced it.

There are so many memories I want to share, but right now they are all lumped
together, caught in the back of my throat as I try hard to swallow. I’m avoiding those
hot tears that scream ‘this is real!’, the ones that send me back into that whirlwind
again. The blog header photo of the classroom with the single, empty chair in the
middle strikes me as poignant right now. It speaks volumes of the emptiness he has
left behind, but the legacy he has kept that will go forward.

It is my hope that we will all carry a bit of Jason with us forward in our lives. That
we teach our children with a little bit of his creativity. That we look through our
lens with a little bit of his eye. That we stop and marvel at the true beauty of things,
like his beloved desert. I hope that we all reach out to those we love and care about,
telling them and showing them just how much they mean to us. Be involved in their
lives. Share their struggles as well as their triumphs. Because you just never know
when those moments will make a difference, and when you’ll no longer have the
chance to make them together.

Jason said it best himself (as per usual!) when he wrote about the death of Arlene:
“This was a person; a person who made a difference in the lives of many people.
A lifetime of achievement cannot be condensed down and crammed into such a
small section and truly do them justice. It simply cannot be done – not really.”

Jason’s parting is difficult to understand. But I think it best and fitting to end with
his own remarks, a comment he left about one of his posts on Four Perspectives. He
said (some parts omitted for context):

There are times in all of our lives when – I believe – we look at the skies above us
and we ask the big questions…we ponder.

We doubt.

When I write, it’s to share moments of my own life – I’m allowing you a peek into
what I’ve experienced, good or bad. This is one of those storms I weathered and
came through the other side.

Perspective is such a powerful thing, isn’t it?

We all come through moments (or read about others’ lives) and we related to
them all in different ways, and see them through the lens of our own living and
experience. We make sense of them through what we know, and infer as best we
can what we don’t.

Just know that life is good.

The world is a beautiful place.

There are no coincidences.

Thanks for your beautiful comments.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you for always coming back…

Thank YOU, Jason, for sharing your life with me. With all of us.

Things are “more better” now because of you!

Love you forever.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

From Kristen

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So, one day he had me come to his class - was it last year, or the year before.  I think the year before.  He wanted me to talk to the kids about writing books.  As I was fairly sure I knew more about that than the kids did, I accepted the invitation.  And in doing that, got an insiders view of what went on in the classroom-crowned-with-a-propeller.

He handled the room the way a magician handles an audience—slight of hand, phrase—I know a pro when I see one. He treated his kids pretty much the way he treated us grownups, with that wry, limit-setting tongue of his—sometimes a little sharp, but only because he respects us enough to give us a straight-up answer.  I teased him about his hair.  I teased him about marriage.  He gave me back as good as I got.   Which is why we became friends.

But the thing that gave me the most insight into him was what I saw in the halls of that school as we came back in from recess. It was like the man was a magnet, walking through a hallway full of iron filings.  Kids would leap out of the student flow and attach themselves to him - throw their arms around him and bury their faces in his shirt. That, or throw words at him, like they had five seconds to get in a round of speed tennis.  And I knew him then - the favorite teacher.  The guy piloting the fifth grade class.  I almost remembered him, because my own fifth grade teacher had won my own love, back in the day.  But I never would have thrown my arms around him the way those kids were doing.

I don't know much more than that about Jason. Well, a few things—we did have a chance to talk a couple of times. Funny - the last time we got together, it was him giving me courage and hope, strength to go on. The irony stings.  All I know is, I hardly knew him, but he loomed large in my life nonetheless. And he will be missed.

~Kristen Randle

Saturday, August 25, 2012

From George

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I was in third grade when Mr. Z came into my life. He had just finished his time as a missionary for the LDS church and was working as an aide in my class at Cascade Elementary in Orem, Utah. I had a learning disability that no one knew about back them and really struggled in school, especially in math. I was also the victim of a lot of bullying. Mr. Z spent hours of one-on-one time with me to help me learn times tables and get up to speed in other areas as well. While most of my peers and teachers at that time had me convinced that I was stupid, lazy, and would probably never amount to much, Mr. Z helped me believe in myself and have the confidence I needed to succeed. He always made me feel like I was the most important person in the world with the ability to accomplish anything I put my mind to.
Over the next few years, even though he no longer worked at Cascade, he continued to keep in touch with my teachers to see how I was doing and write me fun personal letters of encouragement. He gave my parents and teachers insight into my struggles that allowed me to find the individualized help I needed to eventually succeed in high school and college several years later, as well as set the goal of one day attending medical school.
Without the help Mr. Z gave me all those years ago, I don't think there is any way I could have performed well enough academically to get where I am today. I will forever be in debt to Mr. Z for the love he showed me that has played such a big part of what I have been able to accomplish throughout the course of my life.
I am so grateful not only for the way he helped me back when I was a child, but that God allowed me to miraculously get back in touch with Mr. Z during the last part of his life after he had helped me come so far. I'm grateful for the small amount of time I was able to spend with him over the last year or so, that I was able to at least tell him "thank you" for all of his help all those years ago and let him see what I have become because of it.
For the rest of this life I will always miss him, his encouragement, his ability to make me feel like I was amazing, his hilariously one-of-a-kind personality, his jokes, his pictures, his inspiring posts, his stories, his voice, his example of service, selflessness, and love, and his overall sheer awesomeness.
Thanks for everything, Jason. 'Til we meet again, my dear friend.
-George Benson

Friday, August 24, 2012

From Rachel

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It was several years ago that Jason, known as Mr. Z, came into mine and my family's life.  He was a teacher at the school where my children went.  My son was in the 5th grade and would come home from school and tell me about a Mr. Z who he adored.  I didn't know until later, but my son would follow Mr. Z into the lunchroom and sit by him to eat his lunch.  Mr. Z told me he didn't know who this kid was who had attached himself to his side.  Over time, he got to know my son and a friendship blossomed.

As that school year progressed, I would go to the school to help my son with projects he had in his class.  One day, I was waiting out in the hall and a teacher, Mr. Z walked by and told me, “Welcome!"  He walked into his classroom which was across the hall from my son's.  I continued to sit in the hall waiting for my son's project to begin and wondered and marveled as I saw student after student over a time of about ten minutes sneak into Mr. Z's classroom to wish him a happy birthday and then come out giggling heading back to their classes.  Who is this Mr. Z, I wondered?  It was obvious the kids in the school adored him and not just his students who were in his class at that time!

Months passed by.  Spring came.  I was waiting for my children to come home from school.  The door burst open and I was informed by one of my children that their special needs brother wouldn't come home from school.  Thinking that he was just being stubborn like he sometimes would get, I grabbed my bike and went to try to persuade him to come home.  Riding my bike normally worked.  As I rode up to the school where the cross walk was, I saw my son on the ground and Mr. Z kneeling by him.  I introduced myself and Mr. Z introduced himself.  After assessing my son, I very quickly realized that my son was going into what we call an attack.  I had very little time to get him home before paralysis took completely over.  I told my children to stay with my son and that I would be back shortly with our truck.  Mr. Z assured me that he would stay with the children and then told me that he had read my blog, had read what my son dealt with, and would take care of him until I got back.

I raced home puzzled.  A teacher at the school, read my blog, and more interestingly, had read my posts about our Levi.  As I got back to the school, Mr. Z picked up Levi and put him in the truck for me and told me that he hoped he would be okay.  After I got Levi home and settled, my son who adored Mr. Z told me, 'Thank goodness Mr. Z was the crossing guard today huh mom."

And so it began... I went to Mr. Z's blog to find out about this teacher who took the time to read about our Levi and in our time of need, would stand guard and help our family.   As the school year progressed, I had more interaction with Mr. Z and was impressed with the teacher that he was.  The relationship he had with his students and the joy of learning that he instilled in their hearts and minds.

Months passed and our friendship continued.  Mr. Z became Jason to us.  One day, he came to me and asked if he could do a photo shoot of Levi.  We agreed and what enfolded was a gift I will always treasure.  Jason was able to capture Levi.  Not the handicapped Levi that the world sees but the Levi that we, his family sees.  Jason's gift with photography is unlike any that I've ever encountered.

Jason became a part of our family.  He is a friend to us, an uncle to my kids.  When ever my kids would have a special celebration, we had to make sure and invite Mr. Z.  He made my kids feel like they were one in a million when he was around.  That they were the only kids in his life.

About two years ago, my son who adores Jason asked him if he would teach him to play guitar.  Jason talked to me about it and we set up a weekly time for he and my son to play and practice together.  That time would become one of the highlights of Jason's week and ours.  Having Jason in our home weekly, sitting and chatting for a bit before and after my son and he would play guitar, the impromptu singing jam sessions that would follow with several of us sitting around singing, the incentive to make sure my house was clean (or at least the downstairs) because he was coming... one must keep up appearances right? (It's a mom thing.)   It's been only a week since Jason left us and I miss him coming through our front door in a painful way.

Jason was always the gentleman.  He wouldn't speak negatively about others and he wouldn't let anyone around him speak negatively of others.  He wouldn't let me be down in the dumps which sometimes drove me nuts.  I would try to wallow and feel bad and he wouldn't let me.  He would remind me of the beauty and goodness around me.  If I was going through a hard time, treats would mysteriously show up on my front porch.  One time I caught him.  He had meant to sneak some peanut butter cups onto my front porch but I was sitting outside on my porch and caught him.  He sat down next to me and proceeded to spend the next hour cheering me up making me laugh with his goofy stories.

This past year Jason was my daughter's school teacher.  We will be forever grateful for the influence for good he was in her life.  When she started in his class she was painfully shy and when would try to talk in front of the class, it was just above a whisper.  Through the year he helped her to build her self confidence and both my husband and I were delighted as we saw her progress through the year and blossom.  All because of Mr. Z, Jason.

I could fill reams of paper with how much Jason has meant to us.  The good that he brought into our lives.  I consider it a huge blessing that we were able to get to know Jason and have these memories of him.  He has left a gaping hole in our family.  He will never be forgotten.  I know that he is busy on the other side doing that which he was busy on this side, building and encouraging children to be the best they can be.  Lifting others and making them smile and laugh. 

I miss you Jason.  Until we meet again...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

From Shawna

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I’ve gone back and forth with what thoughts to share and which to keep for myself, and I’ve stared longer than I care to at a blank screen.  You’ve got to write something, I would tell myself, but I would finally switch off the computer, realizing that my mind was still too distracted to write anything of real substance.  I can’t say anything good is going to come out now either, but I thought I would try writing anyway.  Maybe if I picked just one thing I could somehow, magically, find myself able to write….

When I think about my life with my brother, so many things come to mind.  After all, I have known Jason for his entire life.  Being only a year apart in a rural area not only forced us to play together, but it also contributed to the inevitable conflicts that arise between close siblings.  Not having a group of other people to turn to, our arguments would quickly fade and we would once again be laughing and playing together.

I cherish those memories, even the ones where we argued, fought and were petty with one another, because we always forgave one another in the end.  Jason truly was my best friend, as much as when we were children as we were as adults.

I could share a thousand little memories, each dear to my heart, but I think it best to share the very best part of my childhood with Jason.   As happens with a lot of little children for a time we shared a room together before we were old enough to attend school.   I wonder if my mother eventually grew tired of how late we would stay up laughing and gabbing away, because we eventually were given our own rooms.  I’m pretty sure my parents knew this (though we thought we were being so sneaky) because even as young children I would lie there, sleepy, and hear Jason come in through my door.  From there we would chatter all night about important childhood things that only matter to children. 

Jason would talk about everything and nothing, and those nightly discussions went on as we grew up and even after we left home.  We were roommates off and on for several years, and still we talked.  Eventually I married and he went on a mission: our conversations were a bit delayed, but I would send letter after letter and he would send back recorded cassette tapes of the adventures he was having halfway across the continent.

We continued to grow.  Jason came back from his mission and again we were roommates for a time, staying up late into the night talking.  After he moved out we wound up attending the same college, and would run into each other on campus a lot.  Jason would always stop to talk, even if it was only for a few minutes in-between classes. 

When Jason moved to Utah to finish his education I cried, thinking that our conversations would finally come to a close, but we just switched to phone calls instead of our usual face-to-face discussions.  When I followed to Utah years later we started a tradition of having Sunday dinners together…. first while he was living with roommates, and then when he purchased a home of his own.  We would feed whoever chose to sit at our table, and then as people drifted off to their own rooms or headed home, we would find ourselves chatting away until I grew so sleepy that I would finally head for home.

Looking back I now realize that it was Jason who would start all those conversations; I have very few memories of sneaking into his room to talk.  It makes me glad to think back and know that he didn’t stop simply because of my lack of initiative!  But then, I knew he would come in if he had something to say, and if there was a night he didn’t come that wouldn’t bother me either, because he’d probably come creeping in the next night.

I wish I could remember more of those conversations now.  We have spent a lifetime talking to one another, yet I can remember little except for the closeness I felt when we were sharing with one another everything and nothing, just chatting away into the night until the hour grew too late to stay awake any longer.  I guess the subject of those conversations mattered little, because it was really all about feeling less alone in a world filled with so many people; knowing that there was another person out there who knew us and who cared about the things that happened in our day, the good and the bad.

The problem with conversations is that they are a little harder to have when they are one-sided.  I find myself telling him about some big decisions I made recently, as well as so many little things.  I share family news; I still tell him my hopes and fears. 

Yes, I still talk to my brother, and I feel he answers me still.  Not in ways that I can hear with my ears, but with my heart.  I think I will always talk with my brother, because we have spent a lifetime talking, and we have an eternity of conversations yet to come.  And one day, hopefully far in the future after a long and fruitful life, I will reach the place where Jason is, and our conversations can once again be face-to-face…. the discussions between two people who reached out, and discovered that neither of us was truly alone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From Corine

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I am very honored to have been asked to write a tribute to a great man, and someone who has been one of my most cherished friends since childhood, Jason Frederick Zimmerman

Jason has led an amazing life and developed many beautiful talents: photography, guitar, teaching, drawing (in his youth), writing, acting… Volumes can be written about these talents and many others that he developed throughout his life. It seemed that whatever Jason does, he does it well. But the talent I think of most when I think of Jason is one that I continually witnessed in his character when we were kids. Because I spent most of my time with him in our youth, I will take you back in time and give you a glimpse of him in his beginnings…

Letters, cards, a poster and a banner... He spoiled me! :)
Jason was an incredibly sweet kid. He had a crush on me when we were kids (beginning about 10-12, and yes, I fell for him later on). I hadn't grown into boys yet, so when he would give me little love notes I would burn them in the fireplace. The notes kept coming, and eventually mom talked me into keeping them; she said I would later enjoy looking back on them, so at about age 12, I started keeping the letters. Mom was right. I cherish those sweet letters still. :) I could never mention this before, so as to not embarrass him, but I don't think he will mind now. These letters are precious. He is precious. He was such a sweet boy with an incredibly big heart.

Jason had a knack for making others happy. I don't think he could stand to not be there for others… Uplifting, Serving, Encouraging, Sacrificing, Giving, and Forgiving…This is how Jason lived his life. He did it in his professional life. He did it in his personal life. I wonder how many people, like myself, counted HIM as their best friend BECAUSE NO ONE TREATED THEM BETTER or LOVED THEM MORE THAN HE DID!

My favorite photo of him when we were 15
Looking back, Jason was the center of a small circle of very close friends that I was blessed to be a part of. He was the highlight of our lives! I looked forward to mutual each week - more for the time I would spend outside with him after the planned activity than for mutual (and I loved mutual!). He was so expressive and animated, and that drew me to him. I love the way he could come up with something cleaver and witty in an instant and made me laugh! His sense of humor is INCREDIBLE! He could have me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe! I also LOVE his enthusiasm; I am thankful to have caught it, and consider it my greatest asset; I will one day thank him for that. :D There are other things I also strive to emulate from my associations with Jason.

Jason has a way of making everyone feel special and important. He treats everyone with politeness and utmost respect. He always looked for the best in others. He was always smiling, always teasing, and always lifting the downward lips of others. And for as long as I have known him, Jason has been very quick to forgive. I recall the quarrels a friend and I had with each other in our youth. Jason was always the mediator who smoothed things out between us. Looking through an old letter he wrote to me I was reminded of his brief and gentle plea that I not be angry with her. His love and friendship are completely unconditional. Though we were both very young at this time, (and he was only 6 months older than me and treated me more than equal), he became, not only my best friend, but also my mentorI will forever strive to be more like him!

About 15 yo... He was so good to me!
Jason’s empathy and kindness allowed him to know what others were going through, and he found creative ways to uplift and help his friends when we needed it most. If anyone was sad, he could be counted on to cheer them up and bring a smile to their face. I was delighted to find him continue this as an adult; I noticed that he used his blogging as another creative means to send uplifting messages to friends in their time of need. And I KNOW he will continue to bless the lives of others and find great joy in doing so.

In addition to the finely tuned character traits mentioned above, Jason always strove to do the right thing. Being a good person was always important to him. When things got hard and he felt the pressures of teen life on his shoulders, he would tell me of his struggles, expressing his desire to always do the right thing. And he always did. Sometimes he wrote me letters about his righteous desires. When he saw friends begin to sin, it was stressful for him because he cared so much about his friends, and hoped he would not make the same mistakes. His determination to do what is right has always been contagious and inspiring. I am a better person today because of his example and love him for it! :D

I found in my pile of old letters from Jason a poem titled “The Measure of Man.” I smiled as I read it, and then cried like a baby as I thought of how appropriate it was that I stored it with his letters. I’d like to leave you this poem; along with the hope that the reflection of Jason’s life will leave us all inspired to stand a little taller…

The Measure of Man
Not – “How did he die?”
But – “How did he live?”
Not – “What did he gain?”
But – “What did he give?”
These are the units to measure the worth
Of a man, as a man, regardless of birth.
Not – “What was his station?”
But – “Had he a heart?”
And – “How did he play his God-given part?”
Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer?
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
Not – “What was his church?”
Nor – “What was his creed?”
But – “Had he befriended those really in need?”
Not – “What did the sketch in the newspaper say?”
But – “How many were sorry when he passed away?”

I know there are masses weeping over the temporary loss of the presence of Jason Frederick Zimmerman. All who know him love and respect him. I know I speak for many in saying that we sincerely thank our Father in Heaven for Jason's continued existence and the profound, eternal influence for good that he continues to have on so many.

Thank you Jason, for your legacy of seeing and bringing out the beautiful… not only through photographs, but especially in people. I hope you are blessed to read this from above. Know that you are dearly loved by many and continue to have a profound impact for good… Know that in our book, you measure very tall. :) Know that we love you, and that some will cease to fear death, knowing that you will be on the other side to greet them when they arrive.  
Thank you for being you. We love you Jason Frederick Zimmerman!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From Gerb

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Today is the day I planned to post something about my dear friend Jason.  I have tried over and over to compose something that would do him justice, but the words never come out just right.  For now, it will have to be enough to say that my heart is heavy when I think of his absence from this life.  I miss him, as I know many of you do, too, and the world will never be quite the same without him.

I thought it would be fitting to instead re-post an entry from his blog which he wrote on January 21, 2009.  The photos are beautiful and the words are a message to each of us, even today.

It has always been one of my favorites.


Jason, my friend, you are and will continue to be so very missed. 

"Don't be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends." ---Richard Bach 

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