Today I am writing this post to celebrate the life of an everyday superman, climber and good friend of ours called Josh Jansen.
Josh was one of the most heroic people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I know that there are many people who knew him for 10, 20 or 30 years longer than I did but today I would like to draw your attention to some of the courageous acts that I believe defined him in the short time that I knew him.
I think it’s easy to trivialize courage but Josh was never the kind of man to shy away from the discomfort of thinking differently. In many ways he actually rebelled against convention and the wide variety of his friends is testament to this.
Before we begin I would like to first remind you about Josh’s laugh, because despite my best attempts to portray him it’s actually easier to know the man by understanding that he loved deeply and laughed loudly.
He had that belly laugh that only his friends could describe as epic. He was cheerful, always ready for the next adventure.
No matter how much you had embarrassed yourself, Josh still accepted you for YOU. This is the kind of man that lived, laughed and loved with every fiber of his being.
Josh Jansen, I am going to miss you very much my brother.
Today I am going to tell you 3 stories from Josh’s life. That’s all it takes to understand the sacrifices he made to be true to himself and his vision. I will quote 3 verses from the Bible that he shared with me and, by the end of this piece I hope you will have the courage to know that you are not alone in your mourning.
I hope that this writing gives you the faith and courage you need to continue his great work.
Story 1: Love
Many of Josh’s friends will attest that his cheer was not just a way for him to express his happiness. It was a tool that he used to speak to strangers, colleagues and the disadvantaged.
He had a way of expressing the importance of dignity and respect without trying too hard. Josh was the reason that many people (including myself) learned the importance of being present and learning to talk to people from all walks of life.
This is not something to be underestimated because Josh didn’t just use that as a way to strike up a conversation. If Josh found you in need, or he thought you would benefit from his kindness he would go to the ends of the earth to help you.
I can’t tell you how many times a person in need would ask Josh for money and if he had it, it was theirs. It’s not that he always gave money, clothes or his time, he gave them freely and with love.
This was the beginning rather than the end of his kindness.
When I met Josh I was not in the best space myself. My initial entrepreneurial exploits left me fearful but that didn’t stop a young wolf from deciding to help me. He was that thoughtful.
Josh took me up on an offer to train and while I had some formal experience as a coach I had no idea that he would hold me to the fancy schedule that he had paid me for. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening we would train and talk about everything that bothered us. It was clear that he wanted change in his life and he was standing at the precipice looking for a way down.
My father’s death had left me with such a deep sense of anger, loneliness and deep depression but the more I chatted to J I realized that I was not alone. Where previous losses had left me broken, Josh made me realize that it is by the grace of God that we can use the painful experiences to effect change in the world.
Josh’s aspirations to leave his full-time employment motivated us both.
He wanted to work with institutions that had an interest in community development; he wanted to work with people who actually cared less about income and more about the people around them.
As time went by this young man helped me rebuild my confidence. Each day I would enter the cold dark basement where I would cut and weld the steel we used to build the initial modified strongman classes.
Josh would catch the bus from work straight to come and train and if something was not cut straight or sprayed properly I was not subject to the scrutiny of criticism, it either worked or it didn’t.
This was a completely new idea to me. Could I grow, become successful or perhaps even travel by doing what I loved? I had failed so many times before and the wind of anxiety was ever present.
Josh changed that, in fact he encouraged testing limits. Did it break? Did you break? Did it matter how heavy the weights were? No, what mattered was being present in the appreciation of opportunities. The miracle of being alive and sharing that experience with the people you love.
Josh brought me books that would change my perspective on almost every topic I thought I knew something about. I began to measure up a man who carried himself with so much humility that once you knew what you were dealing with it seemed impossible to emulate.
Just the amount of energy he put into his friends projects was something to behold. He used his own hard earned money to help build the lives and careers of others and asked nothing in return.
I remember watching the first music video for Stan1 and you just knew you were walking in the footsteps of not just a strong body, but a strong mind. Something he was a proponent of for the rest of his life. You can’t just have a fit body, you need to learn how to train your mind by thinking differently.
Soon I introduced him to climbing and he took to this childhood activity of mine with a gusto that was so warmly received. He truly appreciated the mountains.
Every Saturday Zelda’s car would be pulled up outside of my flat and we would drive out to Silvermine or Lakeside buttress and experience what only climbers can comprehend. Clean air, absolute freedom of thought and movement. The sun would set on so many warm evenings with a beer.
Laughter was constant, fear was accepted and even embraced. We were a team and what better way to celebrate that than with his new job at Harambee. Josh had not allowed the fear of change to overcome him, he took one look at the precipice and he jumped.
I once confronted Josh about why on earth he had helped me so much, his response? ‘you did the same for me at my sisters funeral, you came over and told me you had lost a brother, that if I ever needed to talk you had my back’.
He explained the pain that he had experienced at the loss of his sister, he simply believed that one good turn deserved another. How absolutely incredible is that kind of faith and generosity?
Josh loved Corinthians 13 but had these specific words tattooed on his arm, ‘love never fails’. A fitting metaphor for the way that he lived every day of his life.
Story 2: Hope
His work at Harambee left him with challenges that he embraced. I think he was filled with a deep sense of purpose and direction when he realized that he was going to be challenged. He thrived and worked 3 years there before his hard work reaped him a reward.
In this sense he was absolutely unstoppable, he worked long hours and solved problems that initially seemed insurmountable. It was not just his desire to overcome a problem but rather his dedication to breaking any large problem down into edible chunks. He would climb like that too, he became so adept that he was climbing at a higher level than I was. It was a pleasure to see.
Josh’s hope to see the changes he worked so hard for were in part a product of a secret weapon; they were introduced to me as Zelda and Alan Jansen. You see it might appear that the J-Money had just been given a sense of direction and selflessness but actually it was these two wonderful people that shaped him into the man that we have come to know and love.
Josh had a fondness and affection for his family that was unbreakable. His life had not only shown me the importance of taking care of those we love but his unshakeable pursuit of the good in every person was in fact something he had learned from these two amazing people.
Zelda and Alan, today I pay tribute to not only your son but the foundation that he drew upon. The well of Strength that helped me and literally thousands of people has also come from you. The Live Laugh Love Foundation for Ari has shown me that people can be saved, it’s just a product of love and effort.
Today I ask each and every single person reading this to understand that it’s not security that we are seeking, it’s not necessarily savings or a comfortable retirement. Josh would say that we are looking for a sense of identity that can only be secured with integrity.
The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Again, the courage to attempt the new with no fear of failure or rejection is impossible. What we can do is learn to hope by thinking differently.
The will to look a little deeper at people who we may have made assumptions about, to give others a second chance. To love others unconditionally. To take a risk to reap the reward.
Hope springs eternal when we embrace the power of change. Thoreau said it best;
“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living- that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.”
Josh also loved this quote from the book of James, ‘A man of too many minds is uncertain in all his ways’.
Story 3: Faith
Josh lived by the mantra, ‘do what you love and do it often’ and as I began to fulfill my dream of travelling he would send me pictures of Table Mountain from the park across from his apartment.
He loved Cape Town but Table Mountain was a view that he appreciated every day before work.
It was a part of his daily ritual, to sit in the park and appreciate the richness of life. It was always fun to laugh with him about the fact that we didn’t just hike it, we climbed it!
A friend of ours named Hagen Lieberger, a member of the Cape Town Mountain Rescue took us both on a climb and hike that would change our perspectives on risk forever. We had climbed occasionally on Lions Head but this was the cherry on the top.
The routes are shear and long, one struggled to appreciate the view when most of the ledges on the final push were barely large enough to sit on.
I was scared out of my mind, Josh however looked like a pig in poo.
He was in his element and he knew it. Please, don’t take my word for it, take a look at this picture of him. Not even a hint of anxiety or worry, the man knew he was in God’s hands and he took full advantage of this fact.
Josh always wanted us to remember that there is nothing as powerful as faith, hope and love.
Josh’s love for those around us was not born of comfort. It was born of discomfort, he CHOSE to love unconditionally. He CHOSE to be fearless in the face of doubt and anxiety. He CHOSE to honor the legacy of his sister and family.
He was truly a man’s man, always thinking of those around him, even as he grew sick.
Please give us the Strength to carry Josh’s memory into the future.
Let us not fear death, change or any other unknown factor. Let us stand together in our hope and fears and know they are not opposites but parts of a whole.
Please guide Josh into your arms and let his love and faith be a compass in our grief. He was the best of us and so you have chosen to send us this trial so that these lessons may multiply and touch the lives of others.
Lord, please allow your spirit to surround the family and friends of this young man. Let us gather our faith and not our doubts. Let our hearts be filled with your love so that we may surrender to your grace.
I now end with Corinthians 13;
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Thank you for giving us this very, very, special person. He will be missed terribly.
Ari’s Cancer Foundation, established in 2012, is run by 12 voluntary committee members and inspired by the life of a vibrant young lady, Ariana, who lost her battle to cancer at the age of 24.
The foundation is affiliated with the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, St Luke’s Hospice and Groote Schuur Hospital, and raises funds for Youth Booths (more on this below) and to provide support for families that are fighting cancer or living with cancer. Many of these families have no financial support, medical aid or medical insurance schemes to cover the high expense of cancer treatment.
In September 2014 Ari’s Cancer Foundation pledged to help the Adolescent and Young Adults (AYA) with cancer in South Africa. AYAs are defined as those who are aged between 15 and 39 years old.
The Youth Booth is a comfortable workspace and recreational area for young adults to relax and be entertained in while they are undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the hospital. This eliminates all the negative energy and helps them be a normal teenager once again.
Our first Youth Booth was installed at The Red Cross Children’s Hospital in August 2015, with the second edition installed at Groote Schuur Hospital in June 2016. We are currently in the process of raising funds for the third edition that will be homed at Tygerberg Hospital.
For more information about Ari’s Cancer Foundation visit http://www.ariscancerfoundation.org/