YOU DO HAVE A PURPOSE–ADVERSITY DOESN’T HAVE TO KEEP YOU DOWN–YOU CAN COME OUT OF TRAUMA EVEN STRONGER–NO ONE ELSE CAN LIVE YOUR MESSAGE- NO ONE ELSE CAN TOUCH THE PEOPLE YOU WERE MEANT TO TOUCH–YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
HERE IS HOW JACOB’S LEGACY CAME TO BE:
“Well, my name is Jacob. The type of person I am is a whole different ball game…I think of myself as an introvert functioning daily as an extrovert….I try to be a humble and thoughtful person, although sometimes I miserably fail. I do enjoy helping people though. It gives me a sense of pride in myself that I don’t get anywhere else.”
I’m Heather Oden and these are my son Jake’s words, written about himself as an assignment at school almost exactly a year before he was killed in a car accident. Growing up, he was always described as a “gentle soul” or an “old soul” by adults who met him. However, his compassionate soul along with some other circumstances, contributed to a tumultuous 8th grade year that consisted of battling depression, anxiety, cutting, and suicidal ideation. Though it took the better part of a year, he fought his way out and light broke through his darkness. If you were to look inside of his journal, you would see these quotes, which he read often:
“It doesn’t matter if you win as long as you give everything in your heart.” “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. What I can’t accept is NOT TRYING.” “You had a purpose before anyone else had an opinion.” “Don’t count the days. Make the days count.” “Give your best in offering.”
Not only was Jake able to find hope, but he became a self-appointed hope ambassador. He sought out teens who were battling similar issues. It became a large part of his life…speaking hope and life. Two alternative options to self-harm that Jake used were basketball and making survivor bracelets. He spent hours and hours by himself shooting in the family barn….saying that this makeshift court was the place he felt closest to God and could think and pray. He made survivor bracelets and started selling them and giving them out to others who struggled, telling the recipients that if he could find light, they could too.
At this time, late 2015 and early 2016, Light Up The Dark had already begun to form as a result of the surfacing of my own traumatic memories. Jacob loved the metaphorical idea of lighting up the dark by spreading hope. He started making bracelets for Light Up The Dark and talked about hoping that after college Light Up The Dark would be big enough that he could work here full time.
Jacob was killed unexpectedly and tragically in a car accident on August 3rd, 2016. For weeks after Jacob’s death, I got personal messages on various social media sites from other teens across the nation saying things like:
“You don’t know me but Jacob….
…helped my through my depression.”
…talked me through my anxiety attacks.”
…helped me stop cutting.”
…talked to me when I wanted to commit suicide.”
…was always there when I needed someone.”
…always encouraged me and would yell to me, ‘You got this!’”
…brought me back to God.”
Had Jacob lived, he would have continued to share hope; that there is a light that can beat darkness, you do have a purpose, your passions are not an accident, and you can make a difference. Jacob’s story and my story have very similar themes. Even though he is gone, his message and story live on along with mine and many others who work and volunteer with us.
I had the honor of speaking at Jacob’s funeral, which we chose to call his celebration of life.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE MESSAGE “STILL GOOD” AT JACOB’S CELEBRATION OF LIFE, AUGUST 8, 2016
Pictures of Jacob’s home that he took on his phone. We got them in the mail just days after Jacob’s accident. He had ordered them the week before his death.