Denny Jarman, a quadriplegic since 1988, died recently from complications from his injuries sustained nearly a quarter century ago when his Datsun 280ZX struck a 2,500 pound Black Angus cow in the road near his Lake Jackson home near Jefferson, Georgia. Doctors said that only about 1 in 3000 people with the injuries Denny sustained survive.
He was airlifted to the hospital and revived twice on the way. He spent many months at the Shepherd Center learning to live as a quadriplegic, but not as a handicapped person. Denny Jarman never considered himself handicapped. To Denny, handicapped meant limitations. He never allowed his condition to dictate what he wanted to do in life. If there was something he wanted to do, he thought of the possibilities until he found a way to do it.
Denny was an avid hunter before his accident, so after the accident he devised a rifle that he could guide into position with his chin, and fire using a “sip and puff” system with his mouth.
His invention was later duplicated and has been used to help many people in the Georgia Handicapped Sportsman’s Association and beyond enjoy the outdoors again.
Denny bagged many sporting trophies himself. One of them was a buffalo, which he had mounted onto the front of his wheelchair the year he attended Super Bowl XXVII when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills. I wonder how many people had their picture made with Denny.
Once when Denny was at the beach with his family, he talked a man into taking him parasailing. Denny was strapped into a harness along with his 800-pound wheelchair and lifted into the air as one member of the family member asked, “Has he lost his mind?” No, Denny had lost the use of arms and legs, but he never lost his sense of adventure, his love of life, or his desire to feel the rush of excitement from experiencing God’s world around him.
Denny loved restoring Camaros. Now most would think that his days of restoring Camaros were over. Not Denny. He discovered that his nephew Spenser shared his passion for old cars. He began to mentor Spenser and pour into him his knowledge of restoring old cars. Denny had a shop set up and had a large mirror positioned on the ceiling so he could see down into the engine block. This enabled him to instruct Spenser on the full restoration of the Camaro, from the engine to the paint job. In essence, Spenser became Denny’s hands.
This is a great example of what God does with us.Â God mentors us.Â He finds those things that we are passionate about and works through those passions to help us make this world look more like God originally wanted it to look. In essence, we become God’s hands to do the works of service and ministry in this world. It’s not that God is incapable of getting this work done in any other way. This is the way God has chosen to get it done. God gets great joy from working through us!
Denny had a love for boating. After his accident, he enjoyed going out on the pontoon boat with his family. While that was relaxing, it didn’t do much for his sense of adventure. He talked a buddy of his into taking him down to Florida and launching his pontoon boat into the Everglades.
His friend Wes, a nurse by profession, knew nothing about boating or navigating through the Everglades. But he knew how to care for Denny and Denny knew all Wes needed to know about boating and navigating through the Everglades. They spent two weeks together on a splendid adventure. What a wonderful example of trust and interdependence!
Don’t we all need each other every day? While we might pretend that we are strong and can handle things quite fine by ourselves, the truth is that every one of us is just an accident away from needing someone with skills we don’t have. Some of us are just a paycheck away from having to borrow money. We are a crisis away from needing a trusted friend to share our burdens. We are all just a heartbeat away from needing a Savior to give us a gift of eternal life, which we cannot give to ourselves.
Actually, we need that Savior long before that last heartbeat comes. We need that Savior in the joyous times to thank and give praise. We need that Savior for guidance and direction. We need a Savior for forgiveness and redemption.
But in the end, that Savior guides us into eternity. Denny believed that he was suspended between earth and eternity on the day of that accident in 1988. He told his son-in-law that he could see himself in the ambulance and he could feel himself being drawn toward the Light.
He said that he remembered not wanting to die and asked God that he be given more time, even though at that moment he knew that “coming back” was going to involve great struggle.
Perhaps Denny endured his struggle so well through the years because he chose it. He asked God to live despite the challenges. His peace came because he knew that one day he would be released again to the Light, which the scripture calls Jesus, the Light of the World.
It is the same Light that the Wise Men were drawn to from the East as they followed a star that led them to Jerusalem, where they stopped to inquire about the place where a king was to be born. When they were told that it was prophesied that this King was to be born in Bethlehem, a town just down the road, they continued on their journey until they found Him, along with His parents, Mary and Joseph.
Jesus was later to call himself the Light of the World. He once said “to let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” Matthew 5:16 (NIV).
Denny Jarman lost his mobility in 1988, but his light never dimmed. If anything, it shined brighter, showing people how to remain positive when they had plenty of reasons not to be.
Although he has passed from this world now, his family and friends live with the hope that he has again been drawn to the eternal Light which he saw years ago, the Light that lived within him, which he let shine before others, the Light we know as Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate this Christmas.