Last week was...eventful, to say the least.
My husband and I arranged for meals for Gino and his family. There was such an out pouring from the church and the community we were able to feed Josh's aunt's family and his maternal grandmother as well. Three local restaurants; Dora's Place, Sumo-to-Go, and The 27th Grill, donated enough food to feed 200 folks Saturday night with enough left over that Mark, Allisa and myself could feed the family again after church on Sunday. We are so blessed to live in a community that cares.
Wednesday, the church helped Gino clear an acre and a half lot on their property which they transformed into a family cemetery. One of the advantages of living in Harris Co.; all you need is one to four acres, a certified survey and to file the request with the county and you can have a private burial ground right on your own property! It is so peaceful there. Josh loved to hunt that land. He would be pleased.
Thursday the youth pastor, Ben headed a service at the church for the middle and high school kids. The sanctuary was packed; there must have been 600 kids (and some adults as well) there. Ben led Worship and the Vision Band did some of Josh's favorite praise and worship songs, because Josh wanted this to be a celebration, not a sad time. Then Pastor Gino and Diedere spoke. At the end Gino gave an invitation, around 100 kids accepted Christ. Gino has always told us that his heart for youth is the reason he moved to Harris Co. 7 years ago. Diedere shared about a dream she had the night before; Joshua was riding his 4-wheeler, jumping the clouds. She said, speaking to Josh's friends and acquaintances (and this broke my heart) that 'whenever you see me, come give me a big ol' hug...and I'll know it's from Joshua.
Friday was regular visitation for the community. For over 3 hours the family stood and accepted condolences.
Saturday was Joshua's celebration of life & homegoing service. The church sanctuary was standing room only and the cafe area was set up as an overflow video room. The family said their private good-byes to Joshua. The service opened with one of Joshua's favorite songs "Friend of God." Then Haden, Brooke, and Pastor Ben spoke on their memories of Josh. His older brother Caleb spoke and shared some funny memories. Tehn Caleb said one of the most profound things I can ever recall coming from a 17 year old boy. He said I don't think I ever really told Josh I loved him. I know he knew it, but if I could go back I'd hug him so tight and tell him I loved him. His younger sister Victoria read a sweet poem she had written called "I Remember" that was all about her memories from the time she found out about his tumor until the day he passed, sprinkled with childhood recollections.
I don't know how he did it, but his daddy~ our pastor~ Gino gave a moving message about Joshua and God's Sovereignty that included a prayer of salvation. There was a slideshow that brought me to tears. The two hour service was followed by a brief graveside service on Gino & Diedere's land at sunset. Diedere released 15 white balloons, one for each year of Joshua's life. As those balloons drifted above the tops of the trees the sky gently thundered. And half the peopke there (myself included) burst into tears. It was like a sign from the Lord to reassure us that Joshua was now in His keeping.
I will never understand why our Joshua was taken from us. But I am thankful for having known Joshua and know that he has touched so many lives during his short time amongst us. He lived his last year in a way that was powerful, courageous, and inspirational. As Gino shared we have only begun to see the effect of Joshua's life, his legacy will continue.
On Saturday, May 31st, Cruising 4 A Cause, a fundraiser that we palnned months agao to help with medical expenses is being held. The sponsors have decided to make this an annual event naming it the Joshua Zalunardo Memorial Race. Each year in the future, it will benefit the building of a Youth Center for our Vision youth ministry at King's Pasture Community Church.