When Mariah and I were planning Tyler's memorial service, I asked her who she wanted to speak to represent the different sides of his life. Tyler's sister, two of his friends, and his Gunnery Sergeant gave wonderful tributes, and Dennis was chosen to speak from the perspective of a mentor.
When I shared Mariah's request, he was surprised - and honored. Dennis loved Tyler. And Mariah knew it.
I finally sat down to piece together what Dennis shared at the service - because it mattered. He spoke truth. Not just about who Tyler was, but about what a man should be. And he was not ashamed of his tears. I want my boys to remember what he said, and I am confident the Lord will use D's words to encourage the hearts and minds of others who need to be reminded that we can do more. Not for our own glory - but for the Lord's.
Thank you, Mariah, for giving Dennis the opportunity to share his love, respect, and affection for a young man who deeply touched his heart and brought him much joy.
It has been both my privilege and my pleasure to train students, athletes, and teachers for the past twenty years. Among all those I have trained, it is not a stretch to say Tyler was among the best of them. He really was exceptional. He was humble and teachable and desired to be intentional rather than accidental about his pursuits.
In 2013 Tyler and his friend Keegan were preparing to attend ALERT. Both of them showed up at my door to ask if I would train them. I said, "It depends. Do you want to be the BEST guys there? Or do you just want to be there?" They said they wanted to be the best, to which I replied, "Good! But I am not going to train you - I'm going to kill you!" They smiled.
During the next month, I abused them. Before you begin feeling sorry for them, however, know that my abuse was not in vain. I like to say, "I beat them in the name of Jesus." They did 400-yard bear crawls, 400-yard buddy carry's, car pushes, and endless pushups, to name a few. Throughout the workouts, I would call out Bible verses to encourage them. Powerful and meaningful verses like: "How long shall I suffer with you?" or "Like a door turns on its hinges a sluggard turns on his bed. Give me 25 more pushups!" And my personal favorite, when they were suffering the most, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"
Throughout the training, I also sought to be intentional by giving them life lessons. "Do you desire to be great? You must become servant of all." Matthew 20:23 Tyler understood that having a strong body meant he was strong to SERVE. Boys ask, "Are we done yet?" Men ask, "What's next?" Tyler embraced the "What's next?" He served. All the time.
The lesson I used most was the story of a Navy Admiral's words to a group of SEALs prior to Hell Week. He said, "Win the moment. You don't have to win the day, the afternoon, or morning, or hour. Just win this moment, and then focus on the next."
Like I said earlier, Tyler was intentional, not accidental, in everything he did. Including relationships. We have a huge couch in our family room that I have labeled "the crying couch" because my bride has spent countless hours sitting on that couch counseling women in crisis, women who are broken, and women who are hurting. We have also had the privilege of meeting with many couples on that same couch.
While preparing for marriage, Tyler sought to be intentional about his role as a husband, protector, and provider. He was humble and teachable and took in every word of encouragement and admonishment about loving, caring for, and showing concern for his bride, Mariah. He treated her like a queen because that is what she was to him - his queen. And I marveled at this. How could someone so young already get this? He inspired me.
Last Monday I had the opportunity to visit Tyler in the hospital. The room was full of people, so I crouched down so I could speak quietly in his ear and share some words of encouragement before asking if I could pray for him. He said, "That would be good." Following my prayer, I stood up and noticed the room was now empty - it was just Tyler and me - so I stood silently by his bedside for a few minutes. He opened his eyes and asked me if he could pray, and I said, "Absolutely!" I moved closer to touch him, and he prayed: Lord, thank You for Your grace for Mariah and me. I don't deserve it. You are so good to us. Help me to glorify You. Please allow me to find a comfortable position in bed so I can sleep. Please allow me to be able to eat a couple of bites of food ... that would be good. Help me to watch my tongue when I am uncomfortable and not feeling well so I don't bring You shame. In Jesus name, Amen
At this point, I was sobbing and marveling because of the simplicity of his request and the desire to guard his mouth in the moments when he was in greatest pain.
A few days later, Tyler won the moment when Jesus showed him the "what's next?" and ushered him into the presence of God.