Yesterday I found out that my childhood friend, Jiah Quayle, died this week. I hadn’t been scrolling Facebook so I didn’t hear right away, and my mom gave me a call to let me know.

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Jiah at a Cross Country trip, fall 1997.

The emotions quickly moved from shock to grief, as I thought about my friend’s amazing life. I moved to Waldport in elementary school, but I think middle school is when my friendship with Jiah really began. Every memory of him, he is smiling, confident, and friendly. In high school we ran Cross Country together, and worked at the same restaurant. Being in a small school in a small town, we shared many friends and experiences. We didn’t really stay in touch after high school, but I have been watching a bit on Facebook as he battled with cancer, lost his leg, seemed to be doing well, but ultimately ended the fight this week. I am so sad for his wife, Jamie, and their 5 kids that he leaves behind. I am praying for them, and the community of Waldport, who was so supportive of this man who was such an integral part of the community as a home builder, volunteer fire fighter, and coach. He lived a great life, and though I am very sad to see him go, I am proud of the way he lived.

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At our high school class graduation trip, river rafting. Jiah is the guy on the left, smiling as usual. (And surrounded by girls, also usual. He was just so nice and so cute!)

I looked through some of my high school memories this morning, looking for pictures of Jiah, and found some articles I wrote for our school newspaper, and other articles I saved from our time in Cross Country together. I did one article for our school paper to explain the sport to non-runners. He had some great quotes: He said while racing, “I just zone. I don’t think. If I do, then I mess up.” Afterwards he said he’d feel “Like I’m going to puke. But I always feel better than beforehand when the race is over.” He joked that runners are “A whole bunch of freaks. Psycho runners” but that he ran “for the satisfaction of knowing I can do something that a lot of other people can’t, and the fun of being with the team.” He liked cross-country, having practice running all over town and on trails. Track work was his least favorite. “I hate running in circles” he said.

Though he didn’t start out fast, confessing that at the start of freshman year it took him about 33 minutes to run a 5k course. But by our senior year of high school he was the fastest runner on the team. He took 11th place at the district competition, and both the men’s and women’s teams from Waldport made it to the State competition. At the State meet he ran a personal best for the season, at 18:38, almost twice as fast as he could run when he started! In his final high school race, he also beat out his rival, Brendan May of Newport, who was generally considered to be the better runner. Jiah finished 12 runners ahead of him at State. He was our school MVP for the men’s Cross Country team that year.

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Maybe this doesn’t mean much to many people, but I thought, someday it will mean something to Jiah’s kids, as they are struggling through high school, and I will tell the story he won’t be there to tell. Jiah lived life as if embracing an adventure. Maybe he lived in the same small town most of his life, maybe he isn’t well known outside of his community, but he is known to have lived well, and that counts for a lot. Jiah knew the value of perseverance, hard work, and doing something with so much of your guts, it feels like they’ll spill. He knew how great it felt afterward. He was proud to do what many people can’t do. As I watched from a distance, as he battled with cancer, it seems like he carried this attitude throughout his life. Persevering, working hard, giving his all, and taking time to love people. He always loved people. He was always friendly. Everyone liked Jiah. I’m so sad to know he’s no longer in this world.

I think the apostle Paul may have been a runner… he definitely talks about racing a lot. To borrow some of Paul’s words, Jiah has run his race, and received his prize. And he did not run in vain. He got the prize – a family and community that loved him, as he loved them. What greater prize can this life offer than that? See ya on the other side, my friend.

(1 Corinthians 9:24, Galatians 2:2, 2 Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 12:1)

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