It’s difficult to live well a life you’d never choose.
The Spencer family is trying.
When Jason Spencer died Nov. 5, 2017, in a robbery gone wrong, he and his wife Andrea had been married nine days. They had just returned home from their honeymoon.
After being approached by a group of four teenagers looking to rob someone in Cherokee Triangle, Jason’s life ended in eight minutes.
The family gathered for his wedding one week, his funeral the next.
It is a shock his wife, his parents, Tim and Karen, and sister, Lindsay, still can’t comprehend. It’s so surreal that some days Karen still thinks she must tell him something. Lindsay texted Jason often with suggestions for his popular Louisville Humor Twitter account. When something happens in Louisville, she still thinks, “I must tell Jason.”
The Spencers are known and loved at Southeast Christian Church where Karen works in Human Resources. Both Jason and Lindsay previously served on the church staff. Jason was the photographer for the Global Missions Health Conference.
Their loss is close. So is making sense of what happened.
Southeast Executive Pastor Tim Hester headed to the Spencers’ home as soon as he heard the news. They had been standing outside yellow tape at the crime scene, a few feet from Jason’s body but unable to cross barriers.
“You don’t hear much at the time, but I remember Tim Hester saying that God has a plan,” Karen said. “If we believe that God is sovereign, then we know He could have stopped it. For some reason, He didn’t. If we believe the Bible, He will make good of even this.”
The Spencers believe that night could have been different.
If given a chance, Jason would have talked to the teens. He talked to everybody. When he met homeless guys on the street, he bought them something to eat and took them to church. His friends included people from all walks of life, those who believe in Jesus and those who don’t, executives, the unemployed, tattoo artists and police officers, restaurant owners and servers.
If the teens had asked for money, he would have emptied his wallet. It was still in his back pocket when he died.
“That boy never could handle money,” Karen said. “I always wondered what happened to it. I found out at the visitation; the line was two-and-a-half hours long. Person after person told us how Jason gave them money or gifts when they were down and out. Now I know.”
Jason was a deacon at Sojourn Community Church, where he was on the security team. He had a concealed carry permit because he often was called to the campus in Shelby Park if the alarm went off at night.
His boss at Humana, Jeff Ross, said he was the heartbeat of the social media team. His picture is still on desks. Coworkers named a conference room after him. Ross said they often ask themselves, “What would Jason do?”
At the memorial service, Ross talked about heaven.
“As believers, we know where he is and we’ll see him again,” he said. “He’ll be easy to find with that booming voice and distinctive laugh.”
Jason ran Louisville Humor, a Twitter account with more than 15,000 followers. He was a foodie who knew the best restaurants and many of the staff and owners.
His best friend Adam Manias said Jason was the guy who was the first to celebrate good news, the first to listen on a bad day, the first to crack up at a good joke.
Luke Skeen, associate pastor at Sojourn Church, officiated the wedding and funeral. He also attends court hearings.
“I don’t think we’ll ever figure out the why,” he said. “The real question becomes, ‘What now?’ What might God have in store, and when will we be able to see a little bit about His handprints in our lives as a result of knowing Jason? The pain will be with us for the rest of our lives. Life is always tricky, but I think God in His grace will give us moments of clarity and healing through being able to see how God uses this.”
Skeen said Jason was one of the most gifted relational people he ever met.
“He was the type of person I want to be and want people in our church to be,” he said. “He cared about people. It didn’t matter what type of person. He made people feel significant. He was kind to everyone—even the guy who came to a service after having too much to drink. Jason offered to get him to a place where he could find help and even offered to drive him there.”
These days, the Spencers attend court hearings where they sit close to the teenagers accused of killing their son. Their victim impact statements include hope that these teenagers will seek Christ and His forgiveness and turn their lives around. They don’t want this to happen to another family.
In the last 15 months, Lindsay said she has often thought that life isn’t supposed to be this way. A brother who loved everyone who crossed his path isn’t supposed to die in a senseless, random murder.
“But what if, in our limited view, it is supposed to be this way?” she said. “What if we just don’t know yet how God will use this?”