West Michigan lost the most encouraging runner in the running community: Dan Brainard. God called Dan home on Sept 30, 2021. Dan was truly one of a kind. He was also one of my closet friends.
I was asked to share a few words about Dan at his funeral. Or, as we believed, his celebration of life! What you’re about to read, is what I shared at the funeral.
Good morning. I’m Tommy, and I am very humbled to speak and share some thoughts of our friend, Dan. Melissa, Lauren, Gabby, and Dan’s family. My heart is broken for your pain and loss, and I, as well as many others, have been praying for you.
We all knew Dan for being encouraging, loud, full of life, loud, a rock and roll fan, louder, very caring, always willing to help, and being loud! And of course, Dan was a man who loved loudly!
Dan had a heart filled with compassion and kindness toward his family and friends. We all saw and heard his zeal for life. From movie quotes and rock music, to lending a hand whenever needed. Dan loved big! And it was during thousands of miles that I was able to spend with him running, that I got to know a side of Dan that helped me understand where his desire to love came from, and that was his faith in God.
Through many runs, we had lots of laughs, and lots of deep chats. We always asked about each other’s family, how we could pray for them, and encouraged each other to be better husbands and fathers. We also talked a lot about music. And this might surprise you, but one of Dan’s favorite songs is an appropriate one for today. It’s by Casting Crowns, called “Praise you in the storm”. I’d like to share the lyrics,
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth
After those long 10 plus mile runs, we’d all head for breakfast and copious cups of coffee. Dan would always joke and pick on the waitress, but before any of us took a bite to eat Dan always piped up to say, “Tommy, I think you were just about to pray…” and right there, in the middle of the restaurant, we would pray.
Dan might not have looked like a buttoned up, polished church goer, but that’s what I loved about him. You got Dan. A real true, genuine guy. There was never an act with Dan. It was real. And honestly, those are the people Jesus chose to change the world.
Jesus didn’t choose the “we’ve got it all together” people of the world. He chose “unschooled ordinary people”. People that might’ve been written off by society. And guess who people flocked too? Them!! And Jesus never gave up on them because they were genuine. Just like Dan. Those 12 disciples changed the world through the love of Jesus. And I know for a fact, that Dan’s love for Jesus is what shaped who he was.
Jesus didn’t look the part. He just loved. Dan didn’t look the part, he just loved. And Dan’s love was an overflow from his love for Jesus. Dan always took time to put their goals ahead of his. He always wanted to make us better runners, which made us better people.
Jesus said, “So this is my command: Love each other deeply, as much as I have loved you.[i] 13 For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life[j] for his friends.”
Dan loved Jesus. And because of that, I know that I will see him again. That’s a promise that we have, when we put our faith in Jesus, we have the promise of eternal life. That’s Heaven. The streets of Gold. Which is a lot smoother than running down the streets of Garfield and Butterworth.
If Dan were here, I know he would hate all this attention, but deep down, he would love the fact of being around his family and friends. Because it would be just another opportunity to love one another, as Jesus loved us.”
And in the words of the prophet Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while – you could miss it.”
Choose Jesus. Run hard. Always run by faith!