Zachariah and Ana at their brother Kris' grave site
James Kristopher "Kris" Jernigan was born May 20, 1986 at Maria Parham Hospital in Henderson, North Carolina. Kris was six to eight week premature and his lungs collapsed shortly after birth. After nine days in the hospital he was able to come home.
He was such a beautiful baby. He was always complemented on just "how pretty" he was! Some older folks would even whisper to us, "Don't tell anyone I said this, but he is even prettier than my grandbaby!" He had dark hair when he was born but it quickly changed to blonde. He had beautiful blue eyes. He weighed six pounds, six ounces and was 19 inches long.
As a toddler Kris loved "big trucks." He would get very excited when seeing one and would be very disappointed when it drove out of sight. He would solemnly say, "Big truck gone bye-bye." He also liked bulldozers, dump trucks and cranes.
When he was twenty-two months old he became a big brother. Once Philip came along the two were never far from each other. He was a good brother and, aside from normal sibling rivalry, he helped his younger brother alot. Philip misses his big brother an awful lot.
Kris used to always be the "conservative" one of the two boys. He was always the shy one and never liked to be in the spotlight. Philip was and is quite the opposite! When we'd go to the State Fair we'd wait in long lines for them to ride the rides and just when it was their turn Kris would back out and Philip would have to ride alone. As a youngster Kris was always afraid of thunderstorms and always commented, "I hate rain."
As a teen he outgrew a lot of his childhood fears. When he was 15 he went with the church youth group to Kings Dominion and rode ALL of the rollercoasters, some of them multiple times. I also remember vividly the day he came to me and reported, "Remember when I used to be scared of storms? Well, I ain't no more. I like them now."
Kris is probably best remembered for his "funny" laugh. He was always laughing and making others laugh. He would even laugh when he shouldn't have been. I remember one time having to threaten him with a spanking if he didn't quit laughing. NOTHING WAS FUNNY at the moment. Of course he couldn't quit, and well, you can imagine what happened! Thank God I can still hear that beautiful laugh in my mind. I pray I never forget what it sounds like.
Kris was also very proud of his half-sister, Ana and half-brother, Zachariah. Ana had just turned twelve two weeks before his accident and Zachariah was six. He always proudly showed their pictures to everyone and liked to brag about them. Kris and his girlfriend, Andrea, had bought his sister a teddy bear for her birthday but between work and school did not have a chance to get it to her. Someone delivered it to her a week or two after he died.
Kris and Philip lived with their Dad after our separation and divorce. They would come to my house, in the same town, every Wednesday night and every other weekend until they were teenagers. Still, except when Kris had to work or either of them had too much homework, I would either pick them up on Wednesday nights or they would meet me at church. My new husband and I started attending church in the fall/winter of 1994. Kris and Philip loved it. They always looked forward to attending Royal Rangers, our church's Wednesday night classes for boys. My husband and I got saved in January 1995 and church became a regular part of life. I am so thankful God became involved in our lives.
On July 18, 1998 I had my most wonderful privilege. The boys were with me, their step-father and half-sister and brother for the weekend. Kris had just returned about nine days earlier from a week at youth camp at our denominations' headquarters in Browns Summit, NC. Each night before going to bed my husband would encourage everyone to read for at least 15 minutes from the Bible. Kris called me back to his room and asked me to read with him. We got into a discussion over the passage he had selected and I asked him if he would like to receive Jesus as his savior. I knew that he was ready and at this time he was so painfully shy that I was afraid he might put it off at church. He asked me some questions and then said yes, he wanted to be saved. I was able to pray the prayer of salvation with my precious son.
Recently I was reflecting back to 1996 when I became very ill, almost to the point of death. I had survived nine days with a misdiagnosed ruptured appendix. I ended up spending two weeks in the hospital and had to take antibiotics for two months before the infection subsided enough to operate and remove the appendix. I always wondered why I lived through that, what was God saving my life for. I came to realize that had I died in 1996 I would not have been alive to lead my son to the Lord in 1998. Only God knows if he would have made that decision otherwise. I thank God for sparing my life, but so much more for saving Kris' soul.
During the summer of 2002, just a few months before Kris left us, he felt the need to rededicate his life to the Lord. I did not learn of this until a couple of days after his death. Our youth pastor's wife, also named Cathy, was his Wednesday night youth group teacher. She later told me that Kris stayed after class on this particular night and said to her, "I'm not sure that everything is right between me and Lord." She told him that he could go home KNOWING that everything was right and asked him if he wanted her to pray with him. He told her yes and they prayed together. That night he rededicated his life Jesus. The Bible tells us that no one can be saved unless the Holy Spirit draws him. When I think back to God literally drawing my son to be saved it makes me want to fall on my face in reverance and thanksgiving. Thank you God for knowing my son and loving him enough to want to spend eternity with him! God knew in his infinate wisdom the last day that my son would be on earth, and not once but two times, dealt with him intimately assuring his salvation. Thank you God, thank you God!
Kris' life on earth ended on November 17, 2002 approximately 11:10 p.m. His sweet, beautiful girlfriend, Andrea was at his house and her mother called for her to come home. She lived less than five minutes away and Kris wanted to take her home. From where he pulled onto the highway he traveled 4/10ths of a mile before fatally crashing into a tree. My beautiful son died instantly.
Over 400 friends and loved ones came to pay their respects to Kris at the funeral home. I will always think that Kris would have been amazed to see how many people loved and cared for him. Our church holds 500 people and it was nearly full at the funeral. Several classmates came to the funeral with t-shirts on that they had especially made with his picture. Two weeks ago, eight months after his death I saw someone uptown with one of those t-shirts on. His class (he was a junior at Southern Vance High School) also autographed a t-shirt that was lovingly folded and placed in his casket.
My life is not the same, nor will it ever be again. That isn't all bad because I now see things differently. When I look at youth, especially teenagers, I feel a love like I never knew existed. Is it the love of God? I hope so. I just want to hug each and everyone of them and tell them how special they are. I want them to know Kris' Jesus and, like Kris, live forever in Heaven. Things that used to worry me, scare me or irritate me for the most part have vanished away. Things that used to appear to be very important, I found out are not. Only things that deal with God, like love, truth, mercy, grace, forgiveness and faith are truly important. Once you put Jesus into the proper perspective, once you see Him clearly, then everything else falls into place.
No, I am not saying that I do not weep. Nor am I saying that I no longer miss my child. Quite the contrary. I miss him so terribly. I just have the peace (the Bible calls it the peace that surpasses understanding) that Kris is not dead. He is more alive now than he ever was on earth. I can see more clearly now the loving kindness of the God that created this universe. For the God that created this universe, the God that controls the sun, the moon, the stars, the God that sets up kingdoms and puts leaders into place, is the same God that called my son's name and lovingly, ever so lovingly, saved his soul.
saw me coming down the path
He filled me with such love
Felt the warmth within my Heart
In welcome from above
Jesus I'm so glad You're here
To meet at Heaven's Gate
Holding me with all Your Love
My heart is now lightweight
He held me closely to His Heart
My eyes were wet with tears
He said My Child I welcome you
New life for you premieres
Angels brought me to your door
Gentle wings to pass
Beckoned me with softest face
I'm Home with You at last
Father as I kneel to pray
I thank You for this Light
Heaven's glow within my soul
With passing gentle flight
Reached for You and there You
You finally touched my face
Journey made with special grace
God's Heaven I embrace.
You are listening to "Go Rest High On That Mountain", by Vince Gill