WESTFIELD - For a teenager who raced dirt bikes and loved the outdoors, it was a coincidence the ground was muddy for his final send-off. Family, friends, loved ones and the community gathered Saturday morning to say their final goodbye to Damon Janes, a local football player who passed away Monday from an injury sustained last week.
The funeral service was held at Lakeshore Assembly of God where Rev. Scott Lashbrook officiated. Lashbrook serves as assistant coach for the Westfield-Brocton football team. Lashbrook said he had the pleasure of getting to know Janes better through his family while he was at the hospital and heard many stories about Janes, including his practical jokes. Lashbrook brought a sign with him to the service that said "Damon."
"At practice the first couple of times, I called (Damon) by a different name. He'd then call me cupcake," said Lashbrook. "Last night I was trying to get my few hours of sleep and I kept on hearing that wrong name in my head. I said I'm going to write a big note so I don't mess up the name."
Lashbrook remembered Damon as a loving, caring individual. He said those who didn't even know Damon had good things to say about him, saying any father would be proud to have Damon as a son.
"The handsome young man we remember today was not a follower, but a leader. He lived more in 16 years than a lot of us much older have done in our lifetime," he said.
Lashbrook gave a challenge to everyone in attendance, especially the members of the football team and Damon's classmates. Lashbrook said in order to live out Damon's legacy, one would have to follow four G's: goals, guts, giving and God.
"You set goals and you accomplish them, set higher goals. When you accomplish those, set more goals," Lashbrook said.
Damon had goals every time he put on football pads or raced motocross. Lashbrook said Damon always had goals to keep pushing forward. Lashbrook said Damon had guts, which is also an essential trait. He told stories of Damon when he was young and would shoot various people with his airsoft gun, including his mother. He recalled sitting with Damon in the hospital that final day and how Damon reminded him of King David who fought Goliath.
"I said 'When you get up there, make sure the first person you look up is King David. I think you'll get along great," he said.
A third characteristic is to always be a giving person. Damon would bring home other kids from school who needed comfort or a hug.
"No matter what the problem was, he would hug it out," said Lashbrook. "Young people, I should never hear another story ... of someone being bullied in Westfield or Brocton schools. When you see it, you should step up with guts and that giving heart and giving strength to be the ones that say no."
The final thing that you need to carry on Damon's legacy is God. Lashbrook said Damon and his family were believers of God. He spoke of the Apollo 13 mission and how the crew followed God's creation to get home.
"For days they could not understand why this instrument befell, and this instrument befell ... and how we're going to get them home because there's no way to guide them. ... What they looked to at the end was God's creation," Lashbrook said.
He said that it does not matter where you come from or how someone was baptized, they can still follow and love God. He also said it's not how long the race is, but how you run the race and the key is to not look back. Lashbrook finally reminded, as Damon would say, "giving up is simply not an option."
Memories and reflections were given by family friend Amy Witmer. She described Janes as having an "electric" personality. Witmer encouraged those in attendance to live like Damon by always not holding back on anything, to take lots of pictures and to make memories, and to give meaningful hugs and kisses. She said that time will wait on no man and to make the most of everything.
"He lived life to the fullest every minute, every day. I know he left this world with no regrets," she said.
She recalled Friday evening before the game where Damon was injured. All of the players were being dropped off at the game and most were giving hugs and kisses to their parents. Witmer recalled Damon's mother Penny retelling the evening's events.
"She told me later, 'I could've killed him. I looked like a mess but I got out and gave him a kiss and a hug,'" said Witmer.
She concluded her remarks with a quote, saying it described Damon "to a T."
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving with an active and well-preserved body," she said. "... But rather to slide in sideways ... body thoroughly used up, totally worn down and scream 'BRRAAAP.'"
Amy's husband, Mark Witmer, who is the assistant football coach read a letter written by Damon's aunt and uncle.
"He put his all into everything. That was important to him, 110 percent to be exact. One thing that none of us knew was his pure power to bring everyone together," Mark said in reference to Damon's story going viral over the past week.
"In the past few days he has touched the hearts and minds of not only the people that knew him, but across the country and across the world. He brought to light for many the message to live life to the fullest and love what you have while you have it," he concluded.
Damon got many to pray this past week, according to Mark. He said there is no answer to the question of why this happened except it was God's plan. He also reiterated to live life to the fullest and love those around you, citing Damon is a guardian angel now.
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