Juli Wilson, widow of the late Harvest Christian Church Associate Pastor Jarrid Wilson, who took his life just over two weeks ago, urged the church to “get serious about mental health” at his memorial service on Tuesday.
At the service, Wilson vowed to continue advocating for suicide prevention through the Anthem of Hope organization they launched together in 2016.
“It’s time for the church to get serious about mental health,” Wilson said to the crowd of family, friends and well-wishers who gathered at the Greg Laurie-led megachurch in Riverside, California, to celebrate her late husband’s life.
“In honor of Jarrid, I’m going to ask all of you guys to join me in making our church home, our lives, everywhere we go, a little bit safer for people. Let them know it’s OK for them to tell you what they’re going through. Tell them what you’re going through first. It’s the gift of going second. Tell them your mess and let them pour theirs on you after. And I’m telling you, we will see a change not only in our church [but] in the city, in our state, and beyond. And I can’t wait to see how God’s gonna shake the Earth with this,” she said.
Wilson, who shared a quirky behind the scenes look into the life she had with her “beautiful husband,” said they got married three months after meeting in person and that Jarrid had shared his mental health struggles with her on their first date.
“When Jarrid and I met it was about seven years ago, and I had sworn off all dating of any kind because I decided I was gonna pursue everything God had for me and there was no stopping it. It was just me against the world and I got a little DM in my Facebook inbox. And I was just thinking, ‘who is this pastor guy and why does he think that he can talk to me?’ And so I cut it off really quickly and said, thanks but no thanks; we’re not gonna talk today,” she said.
But Jarrid never gave up and eventually convinced her to meet in Memphis where he had a speaking engagement and convinced her to pick him up at the airport even though they had never previously met in person.
“Our first time meeting ever was at the airport and he comes up in true Jarrid fashion overly excited and gives me a huge hug and says, ‘Gosh, I’m so glad to see you today. I’ve been missing you. Miss talking to you,' which was very minimal talking at that point, so I don’t know how that came about,” she said.
Wilson then explained how they quickly bonded over their mutual love for Coke and enjoyed the drink together at a local Chick-fil-A.
“He was so excited to meet and the first thing he said, this is when he finally got me, he got me right in this moment, he said, ‘Before we do anything else, can we please go get a Coke before we adventure around town?’ That was words to my heart. I needed a diet coke so bad. So he came up and we went to a Chick-fil-A and we just sat and we talked and I quickly realized that this was someone I wanted to have in my life for the long run,” she said.
“And we made things happen really fast. About a month later he moved from California to Memphis and we were married about two months after that, to the surprise of all of his beautiful family and friends who had no clue who I was. And so I actually showed up to our wedding with three of my friends and that’s it.”
She then talked about her fascination with her late husband’s genuine love for people.
“Just like everyone else, when you meet Jarrid you know it’s someone you want to be around for a long time. I was instantly hooked on his fascination for people and how he loved getting to know people that everyone else would pass by.
"I can’t tell you how many times we’d go to a store and I’m just trying clothes on. I’m usually one to avoid the lady who’s asking ‘what you need?’ I’ve got it. I’ll find it. Jarrid would usually be the one with 15 different outfit choices for me. He would know her family’s name, what she’s going through, and she’d be at church sitting with me on Sunday morning right after that. And so I knew instantly this guy had something about him that I need more of. I want to be more like that, and we just came together and decided that was gonna be our life’s mission for the whole rest of our lives,” Wilson noted.
Wilson said her late husband loved trying new things and starting new businesses. She also joked that perhaps in death the businesses would start generating some income. Then she talked about how transparent he was with his mental struggles.
“As amazing and outgoing as he was. As loving and friendly, as open as much as he would give you the shirt off his back, he wanted everyone to know, even so much on the first date we ever went on, that he struggled very badly with depression and anxiety and he wanted to kind of remove the stigma around that,” Wilson said.
“He wanted people to know that when they go to Google painless ways to commit suicide that the church is gonna be the first thing that pops up. He wanted people to find hope that outlasts this life, and he wanted them to find eternal joy in Christ even when their mind was telling them their lives didn’t matter. And he fought until the very last day to do that,” she continued.
Wilson also revealed that her husband was so invested in suicide prevention that on the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day, when he took his own life on Sept. 9, Jarrid wanted to give others hope.
“I watched him. Even the last conversation we had. He said ‘Babe, can you imagine tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day. How many people are gonna see these graphics and maybe think they can keep going? That was his last heartbeat ... that was what he cared about. That’s what he lived for, and we’re gonna continue that anthem because it’s an anthem that Jarrid did not create. It’s what God’s called each and every one of us to. He tells us to look out for the orphans and the widows,” she said to applause.
“He tells us to help those who are poor and needy, those who are down. Those who are distraught, that are having a real hard time. Those are the people we are called to. Jarrid did not create this Anthem of Hope. This Anthem of Hope was planted in his heart through a relationship with Jesus Christ. And I watched it day after day.
"The battle between his mind and his heart. God won that battle. It might seem like death has won, it has not. This anthem is not defeated. It is not over. We will continue to carry this legacy and continue to share the Good News of Jesus,” she said to more applause.