Jeremy Miller is a lively, 18-year-old priest in La Habra, California, but because of a car accident when he was three, he is also a quadriplegic—paralyzed from the neck down.
Constant care is required for Jeremy. He must have a nurse, a family member, or knowledgeable friend with him at all times. He is usually attached to a small respirator and can move only by maneuvering his wheelchair with a device he activates with his chin. But Jeremy is far from helpless.
As a matter of fact, Jeremy is constantly involved in helping others. And his efforts are not confined to the southern California community where he lives—they’ve even reached overseas. “It’s a blast doing things for other people,” he says in his deep, enthusiastic voice. “It’s just so great!”
Jeremy’s latest endeavor will help thousands see. For his recently completed Eagle service project, Jeremy was responsible for collecting over 2,000 pairs of used glasses to send to an optometry school, which would then catalog them and send them to Central and South America.
Many are surprised that Jeremy is involved in Scouting at all, but it’s a family tradition he refuses to break. His three older brothers earned the rank of Eagle Scout. It hasn’t been easy for Jeremy to work on all his merit badges, and it’s required quite a bit of help from those around him. But everyone involved agrees it’s worthwhile.
“I love Scouting,” says Jeremy. “Besides, it saved my life.” When the car struck Jeremy, his older brother Russell used the life saving techniques he’d learned in Scouting to keep Jeremy breathing until he got professional care.
But just as Jeremy helped many people with his Eagle project, many helped Jeremy complete it. Jeremy created over 3,000 flyers, which the Scouts in his troop helped deliver. Soon both local and national papers picked up the story, and Jeremy was receiving glasses from all over the country. The Los Angeles Temple sent a box of glasses left by patrons over the years, and a car rental company sent a crateful of glasses that had been left in their cars. Encouraging letters accompanied many of the offerings.
“It was so great hearing from all those people,” Jeremy says. “I can’t believe so many would respond. Every time the doorbell rang, Dad would look at me and say, ‘More glasses!’”
“It just shows you that you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” Jeremy says, and then thinks a minute. “Well, maybe not anything. I’d really like to go scuba diving someday, but of course that’s impossible. Still, there are a lot of things I haven’t done yet that I plan on doing.”
Jeremy recently graduated from high school with a 4.0 grade point. His classmates there were always eager to lend a hand, and the school even tried to accommodate his special needs by acquiring a voice-activated computer. “My friends are really supportive,” Jeremy says. “It’s awesome.”
And Jeremy, in his own way, has given something back. At an awards banquet, where the top 100 students were honored, Jeremy received a special award and as it was presented, it was pointed out that Jeremy had provided a great experience for the student body. Not only had he given them an opportunity to extend themselves in service, but he’d provided an incredible example of tenacity, courage, and high spirits.
Ward members have been extremely supportive of Jeremy as well, and in return he serves as the first assistant in the priests quorum. He makes innumerable phone calls, takes his turn conducting Bishop’s Youth Committee meetings, and carries out most of the responsibilities his position requires, but there’s one thing he is still working on. “My goal is to bless the sacrament,” Jeremy says. “Now it’s set up so I can’t get up the stairs to where they bless it. The wheelchair is a problem, but we’ll get around that somehow.”
When Jeremy is not doing schoolwork, church work, or socializing with his friends, you might catch him involved in another rather surprising activity. Jeremy is a painter. His mother, an accomplished artist herself, has been a tremendous help and inspiration to him in this area and many others. With his canvas propped up in front of him, he holds the brush with his teeth and produces some impressive artwork. His favorite subjects are birds, but he created a Christmas scene that the Make-A-Wish Foundation used on their annual Christmas card. Make-A-Wish had previously helped Jeremy by making his lifelong dream of visiting Hawaii come true. By letting them use his painting, he was able to help them in return.
Jeremy is now trying to prepare himself so he won’t be completely dependent on his parents in the future and will have the power to give a little back to them as well. He’s involved in a two-year program that will teach him more about computers and enable him to take an active part in the computer industry. He already works part-time using a mouth stick to type tests into computers.
The Book of Mormon has also done a lot for Jeremy’s life. “It teaches me things I don’t know. One of the neatest things I’ve learned from it is how to get along with family and friends.” Jeremy would like to share the Book of Mormon on a full-time mission, but for health reasons, he probably won’t be able to serve in the traditional way. He’s always eager to tell about the goodness of the gospel, though, and many have heard his testimony.
That testimony includes a major helping of gratitude—for his life, which is a miracle in itself, and for the helpfulness of those around him. People feel good around Jeremy. They like to help him. In return, Jeremy does his best to see that what comes around goes around.
As the New Era went to press, we received word that Jeremy passed away. He did achieve his goal of blessing the sacrament before he died.