By Frank and Joyce Jamerson
Jill Louise Jamerson. . . . It had a wonderful ring to it. We had a girl’s name picked for three babies, but they turned out to be named Randy, Byron and Allen. Somehow, with this fourth one, the name we had picked before just did not click. It was to be Jill, if by some chance we should finally have a girl.
She arrived early Sunday morning on her mother’s birthday. We were soon to learn that she was in distress as a result of meconium aspiration which caused a hole in one lung and it collapsed. We prayed for her life and after the initial recovery, had a healthy little girl.
Being almost seven years younger, our boys thought she was a queen, and treated her as such, often teasing her about being one. They all doted on her, pestered her, adored her. They dressed her in funny clothes, invented puppet shows, and one Christmas season wrapped her with artificial pine boughs. We had to stop them when it came time to plug her in.
Being the center of attention started early. The older members of the Rose Hill congregation in Columbus, Georgia always praised her, commenting on each new thing she accomplished and on each new dress her grandmother made. Jill was five years old when we moved to Dothan, AL. There were several young children among the members at Honeysuckle Road, and the first Sunday no one commented on her new dress. On the way home she said, “Humph . . . not one person told me I was pretty.” We knew we had our work cut out!
Six-year-old Jill, who loved to sing, and could hum “Jesus loves me” even before she could speak words, prepared a song in anticipation of the talent show at Florida College camp. She was able to go early because we were both counselors. Before leaving, we were at a pot luck supper and she announced to Dot Moss, “I can sing a song,” and Jill proceeded to pump out “I Know a Heartache When I See One.” When she per-formed it at camp, it brought the house down, and of course, her brothers were first to their feet in applause!
Everywhere we went, people were drawn to this friendly, bubbling little ball of enthusiasm. She accompanied her Daddy on several meetings and made friends so quickly we called her our ambassador.
When she was very young, one night after Bible reading, she insisted that she needed to be baptized. Her mother was sitting on the bed with her and asked her why she thought she should be baptized. She gave the correct answer; but when asked to define repentance, she thought a while then said, “Well, I guess if I don’t know what it is, I don’t need to do it.” She did obey the Lord when she was twelve and within a few weeks another half dozen young people had followed her example.
She was a good student, and was chosen to participate in Dothan’s talent pool. Being a somewhat independent thinker, she would defend her conclusions with an unwavering persistence, being sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but not minding if there was opposition. In later years this was to her advantage; unless of course, she had drawn the wrong conclusion. In that case, you had better be ready to prove your position, for she did not accept “just because” as an answer. Once convinced, she would readily admit defeat and accept right.
She was crushed when the decision was made to move to Lakeland, Florida. She was fifteen years old, ready to begin her sophomore year in high school and closely bonded to friends she had been with since kindergarten. Her activities with the band and flag corps included high hopes of being Dothan’s next drum major, and we were ruining her life!
She became an only child overnight, when the move was made, because her brothers remained in Alabama. Jill had heard the reputation of the Lakeland High band, so we bought our house in that school zone. She started band camp the day after we moved here, and was voted friendliest in band each of the three years. In her junior year she advanced to the symphony band, and in her senior year was assistant drum major. The highlight of her senior year was the symphony band’s trip to Chicago to perform for the American Bandmasters Convention.
These years, as with most teens, were the toughest for avoiding evil. Somehow, she usually came to right conclusions and we were amazed at her ability to keep her head on straight. She would typically burst through the door after school or work with “Mom, guess what?,” and then tell what someone had said or done and how she had responded. On one such day, the topic of conversation at work had been how many of the six or eight girls who worked at the sandwich shop were still virgins. There were only two and about three weeks later, the other girl came in and announced that she no longer held that status. When she started to tell Jill about the details, Jill stopped her and said, “I’m not interested in hearing about your sex life.” As the girl turned her back and said, “Well, at least I have one,” Jill walked around in front of her, held up her left hand, and pointed to her ring finger and said, “No, I don’t have one. I don’t intend to have one until I get something right here!” End of discussion.
One of the major decisions we had to face our first year here was whether to allow her to go the junior-senior prom. Though she was a sophomore, a senior had asked her to go to the prom with him. After we investigated the local practices, we told her that we could not in good conscience allow her to go to the prom. As she and her mother sat on the bed discussing the decision, she finally saw that the principle in 1 Corinthians 8, influencing others to do wrong, would apply. It was hard for her to accept, but when she saw the tears in her mother’s eyes, she said, “Well, Mom, don’t let it get you bent all out of shape, it’s not worth it.” About a week later, she told her mother, “I’m glad you all said no, I don’t think I could have gone anyway.”
The next year a new boyfriend asked her to go to the prom. She told him that she could not go because she did not dance. He wanted to know what was wrong with that, so she proceeded to explain lasciviousness to him. He listened for a while, and then said, “Jill, would you go to the beach with me?” When she said “no,” he said, “All right, I was just checking your consistency.” Then he used the line, “We will go and not dance.” She told him that she could not do that because she knew that other girls were looking up to her and she could not disappoint them. During her senior year, she had dated the same boy for the whole school year, so he did not even ask! A group of her close friends went somewhere else on prom night. (Here is an interesting fact. The first boy was a Christian. He dropped her and got another date for the prom. The next two boys were members of denominations. The first said, “If my girlfriend cannot go, I wouldn’t feel right about going,” and the next one knew her well enough not to even ask.)
During her senior year, she was nominated by the Band to be on homecoming court. In connection with this, she had to be in a skit on Wednesday night at the school. She went to the principal, Mr. Dunn, and said, “I have a problem. I go to church on Wednesday nights and this skit is on Wednesday night.” He agreed to let her group go first; so, she changed clothes in the car at stop lights arriving in time for Bible study. Afterward, she repeated the process arriving back at school in time to take a curtain call with her group. While she was talking to Mr. Dunn, she also asked if she could be obligated to attend the homecoming dance if she won. He assured her that others had not attended and it would be no problem. We will always have a kind regard in our hearts for that principal because of the way he put her at ease and supported her convictions.
Florida College was on her mind, and she was eager to graduate and get on with life. Her GPA dropped in college, for this `party waiting to happen’ had so many friends and so little time! Life was wonderful and she had found the true meaning of being able to associate with Christians and not be in the minority. Her outgoing personality endeared her to many of the students. A class-mate wrote that she was “an example of delight in life, talent in band, strength in volleyball, humility to admit when you were wrong, pride in what was right, confident to reach out and light up someone’s day with a sincere compliment, sure enough to know who you were, what you did and how to enjoy doing it.” She loved God, loved her family and friends, and knew we loved her.
At the beginning of her sophomore year at Florida College, after a volleyball game one evening, she developed a severe headache and went to her room, where she fell into a coma. Two days later she was pronounced dead. The medical report revealed that she had a malignant brain tumor that had hemorrhaged.
In her death, as in her life, she influenced others to examine themselves. We know of eight young people in Lakeland who were baptized after her death. She was been the crowning jewel of our family, and now wears another crown.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 10, p. 16-17
May 19, 1994