Revelations: Lighting the path in Aggie land
I made my first trip to College Station this week to interview Victoria-born Texas A&M student Caleb Jentsch.
I learned of the 22-year-old self-proclaimed disciple of Christ earlier this season when a family friend informed me of Jentsch's miraculous recovery from a traumatic brain injury.
More than a year ago, while skiing with friends in Colorado, Jentsch's life nearly ended on the slopes.
His skis crossed paths with his friends, and the energetic Christian hit a tree.
He was in a coma for weeks with part of his skull removed, and he spent last year relearning how to walk and talk and drive and eat by himself.
He also had to create new habits like speaking a bit more articulately and walking with a bit less swagger and gluing Post-it notes to the walls of his home to assist him when his short-term memory loss kicks in.
He admits it's frustrating at times, but he doesn't spend much time focussing on the negative.
Instead, he's spending his post-coma life dedicating his time and breath to praising God and leading others to become disciples of Christ - which is what he was doing before the accident.
Before the accident, Jentsch desired to be a missionary and serve the Lord. He was connected with his church and Christian family and wanted to do great things for God's kingdom.
Jentsch expressed to me that for a time following the accident, he didn't understand why God would attempt cut short the life of someone who was already on his side.
He was, after all, one of the good ones.
But at some point, he decided the accident and his year of recovery was a blessing.
It also makes a pretty good opening line when he wants to talk to people about God: "Hey, you want to hear about how I almost died?"
He's a pretty amazing guy, and I'm not sure many people would handle his situation as well as he is.
At the end of my visit with Jentsch, I decided to spend some time at the Aggie bonfire memorial honoring the 12 A&M students who were killed during the 1999 bonfire collapse.
I walked under each stoned archway and read the thoughts and kind words of the deceased's family and friends.
They each seemed to share a passion for people, education, music, outdoors, community service and God.
So many of the students, who today would be about my age, seemed to genuinely have strong faith. As I approached the last marker, I wondered why God would take the 12, and Jentsch would be given a second chance on Earth.
Why do some get to stay while others leave too early, I wondered?
I didn't walk away with an answer, but I did seem comforted by the idea that there is no discriminating factor when God determines who lives and who dies.
We may never know why accidents happen, or why good people may leave this world too early.
But I'm content knowing that we all have a purpose.
Perhaps the life purpose of the 12 who died is to remind every generation who walks under their marker that God was with them and lighted their paths.
And perhaps Jentsch's purpose is to remind those same people that God is with them now and will continue to light the path for years to come.
Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @jenniferpreyss on Twitter.