I know most of you never got to know Jason the same way that us "Migrators" knew & loved him...and that's really too bad. He was in Virginia, I'm in California. 4 years ago today I lost my best friend to a brain tumor. Jason called me every day to check on my until I started dealing better with the loss.
Among other things, he was the most selfless person I knew. I can only hope to be more like him in the future. Below is the Eulogy that Wildman said at his Service. I don't think he would mind me posting it here. I'm sure you all have members on here that you've known and cared for a long time. I know you all can relate. Jason was a Veteran in both Iraq and Bosnia.
Jason Banton’s Eulogy as written by Wildman
"Nicole told me that I couldn't sit and just read from the paper; that I had to make eye contact when speaking. So my actual speech wasn't verbatim of what is written here. However, this is what I went off of and what I used to get my thoughts in order. Eric has most of the speech on his phone, perhaps he can load it later on.
For the past 24 hours, I’ve been reciting a million thoughts and lines in my mind. I spent my entire shift, at work, thinking about every aspect of my friendship with Jason and the best way to explain what it has meant to me. To explain it in a way that truly embodies the kind of friend Jason was. The following is what I ultimately decided on.
I hope it succeeds in all the intended ways.
My friendship with Jason began over 8 year ago, with a shared interest and passion for motorcycles; leading both of us to an internet forum based around Sportbikes. That is the topic that brought us together, but it quickly expanded to many more things.
As you all know Jason had an infectious enthusiasm about him. He had an ability to consume a conversation in all the right ways, making others around him feel more passionate, more motivated, more intrigued. It didn’t matter if we were discussing movies, sports, technology, or philosophy of life… Jason seemed to always know how to make a conversation much more vivid. He also had a way of making you feel incompetent (in a fun way). I'm not sure where he got his facts from, but he always came back right away with links, verified data and test results proving his point and disproving yours.
This ultimately led to Jason making many friends, from many different places. Virginia to California, to even Amsterdam and Norway; everyone knew Jason and everyone loved to interact with him. I’m here today with 2 other members of that “group” and I can say with complete honesty that there are close to 50 more friends who have all said they wish they could be here. He was THAT kind of a guy.
Being that we were in close proximity our friendship moved away from simple forum discussions and over the years I began to see how great Jason truly was. He would do so many things, based solely on the notion that we were friends. Trailering his bike up from Farmville to Orange County for the day, just so that I wouldn’t have to ride by myself. Countless phone calls during which we would discuss life and all its’ challenges. New jobs, family life, etc. etc.
He was around to watch my son grow up and supported me with encouragement when I seemed to be losing grip with a lot of things in my life. But he never made me feel burdened. Never made it seem like it was an inconvenience to be my friend. He was just always there. With his big smile and excited personality.
I was able to watch his life grow as well. Watch him move up north, find a job he enjoyed, and more importantly find an amazing woman. I saw a genuinely happy person become giddy with excitement because he had found the perfect person to compliment him in life. It was refreshing and motivating.
Last summer, when a bad set of circumstances left my wife and I with only 1 day to move our entire house, I sent Jason a message and asked if he would by chance be able to help for a bit. Despite having to juggle personal plans of his own, he was the first person at our house Sunday morning, with his pickup truck and that signature smile. We moved a lot of things (and thanks to my mother-in-law, who lived in our basement, I’m not exaggerating when I say a lot of things) yet he never complained. At 11 o’clock that night he was the last one there. I think if I hadn’t insisted he go home, he would have stayed longer. He wasn’t concerned that he had to work in the morning. He wasn’t worried that the day undoubtedly made his back injury flare up. He was only interested in making sure we had the help we needed.
Nicole and I couldn’t express how grateful we were for all that he had done, and were excited at the notion of showing our support and happiness when we received the wedding invitation a few months later. Finally, a chance to make JASON happy.
Sadly. Nicole’s mom lost her battle with lung cancer 2 days before the wedding. Being that Nicole is from Minnesota and has no other family in the area, we spent that weekend… doing many of the things that you all have done this weekend.
I felt horrible that we missed the ceremony. Felt like I had let down the person who had continually been there for me. When I told Jason that I would make it up to him; that we would go do something exciting, and memorable, his response was simple. He said “Bro, you don’t owe me anything. Except maybe some face time.”
That’s all he wanted. Just to spend time with his friend.
And life being the cruel and unfair beast that it is, we would struggle and struggle to have that face time. Holidays, new jobs, family responsibilities, it seemed one of us always had something to do. I’d be working late. He’d have class he had to attend. We would talk and say “ok, next week we will try again”.
He texted me last week… and told me about the new position he had landed. The one I knew he had been trying and hoping for. He laughed and said he could see the Buffalo Wild Wings (where we usually met up) from his office.
I of course told him how happy I was for him, that he deserved the new gig and that although this week was chaotic because a government function at work, the week after should be much quieter and we would finally get to hang out. He said “cool”.
The regret of the missed opportunity has been clawing at me since the moment I found out. Making it all seem surreal. This can’t be the case. There’s still more we had to do. More jokes he had to tell. More ideas we had to excitedly think up. More Guinness to consume, more memories to make. How am I to move on? What do I do if he’s not here?
I’m not the only person who feels that way. As I stated before, Jason had friends all over the world. Some of which he had spent time with, some whom he would call regularly. Some who just felt that he was more than an acquaintance, and swore that he had made their life better even if they never got to hang out.
At the intersection where the accident took place, there is a small family owned convenience store. A small mom and pop place with a gravel parking lot behind it. For the past 3 years, that parking lot has been the location where my ex-wife and I meet every Sunday to exchange my now 6 year old son. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep going there. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. And then I remembered the kind of friend Jason was. How he was always there for me, even when he wasn’t.
I’ve spent the last 4 days wishing I had one more chance to talk to him. One more chance to tell him how much I valued his friendship. How lucky I was to have him in my life and more importantly how much he has improved it.
I’ll get that chance.
Every time I drop of Jackson, I will get to spend a few minutes alone. A few minutes where I can continue our talks about life; about jobs, kids, etc etc.
They say a good friend is there when you need them. And a best friend can be there for you, even when they aren’t there at all.
Jason was my best friend. IS, my best friend. And I miss him."
We all do Brother.