Guest post by
Nathan Groenewold, Associate Pastor and Director of Cohort Detroit

I woke up with these ancient words running through my head, and I felt some comfort. Perhaps these words had grown stale for me, but they came alive this morning, sticking in my mind and refusing to leave. “I believe in the resurrection of the body. I believe in the life everlasting.”

Eugene’s smile is a gift I will never forget. It seemed almost childlike, a smile that was part mischievous and part radiant. He would sway back and chuckle, suppressing laughter at a joke about Mark’s cooking, leaning on the countertop microwave in the grease-splattered kitchen. I recall that the tension I carried in my neck always relaxed a bit when he was around.

On Thursdays like those, Eugene brightened the whole house. He was a regular attendee at Hesed Community Church’s weekday Bible study, even more regular around Christmastime, when gifts would be handed out. I loved that. Many of the Hesed Community members did not receive gifts from a parent growing up. I once asked a friend at Hesed if they had a ‘fun’ Christmas, only to realize that the holiday is more often a reminder of loss and brokenness than a day of laughter and joy. Eugene’s eagerness for Christmas, for presents, was a testament of resilience, of hope and of life.


Sometime between April 30 and May 4, Eugene passed away when the house he was staying in was burned down. These house fires are a regular occurrence Detroit, in Brightmoor especially. This particular fire, and this particular life, did not even make the news. Had the fire occurred 10 miles north, across city lines, it would have been on the front page.

So I woke up this morning, thinking about Eugene’s smile. I wish all of metro Detroit, our whole country, could wake up and remember Eugene’s smile.

I do not know his entire story. I do not know where his family lives, how they have responded to the news, or what water-stained scripture passage he was reading the night before he died. I do know he was made in the image of God. That he was a kind friend and a caring brother.

I look ahead to the hope we share in Christ—the hope that Eugene carried in his pocket—to the day when his life, his story, and his death, will matter to all of us. When his life, and all lives filling news cycles and convening vigils, will matter equally.

Until then, please, remember Eugene.