Eulogy by Aaron DeGraaf

Written and delivered by Aaron DeGraaf at Derek and Dylan’s memorial service.

Hi everyone –

My name is Aaron DeGraaf. I’m up here today to talk to you about my amazing friendship with Derek.  So, I thought I’d begin by telling you how it all started. Derek and I both grew up in this church, but we didn’t know each other yet. Our story began back when I moved into a new school district – a freshman at Forest Hills Northern – and I literally only knew just a couple of people. It was terrifying.

But I began to recognize a few familiar faces, mostly others from this church, and Derek was quickly one of those faces that I was very relieved to see. It didn’t begin that way though – I had known him to be a very talented multi-sport athlete, larger than life personality with a charismatic smile, passionate, outgoing, loud, and oh so cocky…. Basic social structures such as “waiting in line” and following the rules of road – never really applied to Derek.

It was a friendship that from my point of view, on paper should’ve never happened. You see, personality wise, I was the total opposite of Derek. I was the reserved, quiet, calculating type that thought long and hard before I spoke. As most of you knew, Derek had NO FILTER whatsoever. He immediately gravitated towards me, and I – almost out of necessity b/c I really needed a new friend, completely overlooked Derek’s dominating personality and other traits that I perceived as faults – and just clung on to him. I think he needed a friend, too. And that was it…

From there – I’d go to his house after school almost every single day (thank you Doug and Linda for taking me in), then vacations, family vacations, weekend trips, church, cabin trips, tee times, movies, watching his tennis matches/basketball games, more tee times, graduated high school, now Taylor University visits, tough phone calls, crying our eyes out together (girl stuff).

Then, Charity came along – cured Derek’s crying. Mine kept going though…

Anyway, more Taylor visits, our college graduation parties, their engagement party, Derek asking me to be his Best Man. Chicago visits, more tee times, Cubbies games, March Madness, back to GR working for his dad, Masters tournaments, finally kids…

These stories could go on an on – but I don’t think that’s what Derek would want me to be talking about to you all. I think what he would want me to share with you, is the past 3 or so years we shared together.

You see, Derek was a champion to me, too. Just more than 3 years ago, I was looking for a new church. Derek kept subtly hinting at me to come to Crossroads, come to Crossroads, Rod is great. So I did. Then, about 8 months later, Derek told me how he wanted to start a college ministry there, and that I was to be a part of it. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I reluctantly said “OK” – b/c you can’t really say no to Derek – he’d stay on your case until you gave in anyway – so, I guess I never really had a choice to begin with. A few months after that, Crossroads was about to embark on a 24/7, 6 month-long prayer initiative. And a week before it was to begin, I thought I was free and clear of getting involved with something like that, but Derek insisted we do it together, along with our friend Tim Van Dyke, and I reluctantly agreed to do it. So, we met for the next 6 months, every Friday morning at 6 AM for an hour.

This was the start of something entirely new between Derek and I – I can’t even begin to describe it to you, I simply don’t have the words. We began praying together, opening up to each other in completely new, more personal ways. Then the college ministry began, and I was there with him every week. Nearly everything we spoke about from then on out, was on Jesus – how He’s changing my heart, what’s He’s doing in my life, and Derek’s life. I think Derek loved, cherished, having his best friend with him sharing in this ministry – seeing my heart being changed before his eyes, getting excited about reading the Word, wrestling with it together, reviewing his sermons with him – asking for my opinion on things. We had really grown to love these discussions.  Just a few short weeks ago, we finished the most recent 24/7 prayer time. It was awesome.

“Everybody look up here for a moment” – Sorry, Derek used to say this a lot when he really wanted your attention, so I thought I’d give it a try too.

As you all knew, Derek was all passion, direct, with no filter. I LOVED that about Derek. You never had to guess what was on his mind. Derek had to dig, and dig, and work so hard to get it out of me. Charity pointed this out about Derek a few days ago when she said that now she understands why he was like this – he was only given 34 years to get it all out. We were all witnesses to that – cherish those memories with me!

In my humble opinion, the reason he was so direct about speaking the Truth, was not only most importantly his love for Christ and the Gospel, not only his love for the Crossroads family and “this next generation of young people” – Derek was simply being faithful to what he knew he was called to do – to teach the Word, the only way he knew how to. He ran the race well, and he finished strong.

To quote our friend Jeremy Miller – “He ran the race so well, that God let him take his son with him.”

Ultimately, I think this Truth that Derek so vigorously spoke of can be summed up best by Paul – “the man” – as we referred to him:

 Romans 10:9, 10

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (“Set you free!!!” – as Derek would say)

 Finally, I wanted to wrap up by reading one more verse from the book of James. This is very deliberate on my part – James was Derek’s favorite book.

 James 1:27

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is to visit widows in their affliction.”

 Charity – I love you. I’m in this with you for the long haul. Who’s with me?






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