i am so deeply sad to acknowledge that long time friend of ys, lee eshleman (on the right in this photo), succumbed to a long on-and-off struggle with depression yesterday (thursday, may 18), and took his own life. lee was half of the amazing drama group, ted & lee.
ted & lee first performed at a ys convention in the mid-1990s, and have been part of our extended family ever since. i don’t use the word “family” lightly here: they’ve been part of who we are, and we part of who they are, for over ten years. we’ve laughed and cried together, shared questions and doubts and encouragement and spiritual journeys.
lee was a gem of a man, a lover of jesus, a gentle but passionate friend, a hilarious story-teller, an honest seeker, a talented artist, a committed father and husband, and many, many more wonderful things. he never looked over a shoulder in a conversation, but always gave 100% attention and care. he didn’t crave the limelight — was actually somewhat of an introvert — but loved being used by god to help people catch glimpses of the gospel, glimpses of the christ who pursues them, glimpses of the mystery that surrounds us.
lee is survived by his wife and three children, and, of course, by ted, his acting, ministry and business partner for over 15 years. please pray for those closest to lee (ted, and lee’s family, especially), as well as the many others impacted by this difficult news.
a few links:
ted & lee’s website, which has an initial tribute to lee, which will be added to in the coming days, including information on memorial service, donations, and such.
a beautiful tribute to lee, written by fellow actor (and regular ys performer), curt cloninger (download from the ys site).
a tribute page on the ys site, on which more content will added in the days to come.
22 thoughts on “lee eshleman”
I am so sorry to hear this. I saw Ted & Lee at the pastors’ conf the last two years and really enjoyed their creativity- and I don’t care for 99% of “Christian drama”.
I will surely pray. Suicide brings so much heartache and second-guessing.
Heartfelt condolences to you, Mark.
My prayers are with all close to Lee in grief, and in thanksgiving for his life and ministry.
Passing the word along to the YMX community as well.
Marco, what a wonderful tribute to a great guy. I wish that for one moment I could have the kind of talent Lee had. He was a great actor, great writer, great artist, great guy…he was the whole package! We will all miss that mysterious quiet guy who came alive on stage.
Ted and Lee performed at the one of the first YSes I ever attended, and I will always remember the impact their amazing ministry had on me. What shocking, sad news to receive. My prayers are with the family who lost such an amazing husband, father, and friend.
I’m shocked and saddened. I took my youth ministry to DCLA last year and they were all so captivated when T/L came on stage…so was I. I hope that his family knows that the impact of his ministry was far reaching. He will be missed.
So Sad. My heart goes out to the Lee’s family and Ted. I remember being a youth minister sitting out there watching Ted and Lee wanting to do what they did. Really inspired me. A great person. A gifted person. He will be missed.
I’ve had the privilege of watching Ted and Lee minister to thousands of kids at DCLA, and I’ve had had the opportunity to pray with them before they ministered at my church right here in Indiana this past winter. What an incredible ministry. What an incredible man. You made me laugh. You made me cry. You brought the Scriptures to life for me. You will be missed my friend…
How sad. Lee had wonderful way of making the Bible come alive. We’ll be praying for his wife and children in these difficult days.
Of course I never knew Lee other than saying hi to him at a NYWC, but I feel like I lost a friend. I have a bunch of Ted & Lee tapes and my youth absolutely loved their Fish Eyes curriculum. My prayers are with the family.
This is soo sad. I saw these guys at NYC and they were amazing and their energy was amazing. I pray for all of Lee’s family and friends. GOD bless you all and you’ll be in my prayers.
Words are painfully weak in times like these.
I can’t imagine the sorrow he must have lived with.
I saw Ted and Lee at my first YS youth conference in Atlanta, and they’re portrayal of the Gospel blew my mind, and softened my heart. I can’t even begin to explain how sad this makes me.
I think my heart stopped beating for a moment when I read that Lee had gone home. Convention will not be the same without him this year. My thought and deepest prayers go out to his family and friends. What a legacy he has left us! It also gives me pause as I consider others dealing with the disease of depression. We love you Lee…Tell Mike hello for us.
Thank God for Jesus! What would hope really mean without him? Lee will be GREATLY missed. Ted and Lee’s family are in our prayers.
Oh my gosh…
I am shocked to see this, and so sad. I love Ted and Lee! Saw them at my first convention in Dallas of 2001, and looked forward to seeing them at future conventions. They had a way of bringing the bible stories to life that I thoroughly enjoyed.
My prayers to Lee’s family and friends, and To Ted for losing his partner as well.
Prayers also to you and YS!
Lee will be missed.
tears well up in my eyes as I read the comments from others on the tremendous shock at the untimely death of Lee.
I certainly pray for his family, friends and business partner, Ted. I can’t help but think how God can use this lose to bring some needed light and understanding to those who deal with depression. As one who has dealt with depression, I know of the frustration at self and even God as you search deep within to muster up all you can to face another challenge.
Lee, thanks for making me laugh and focus on Jesus even in the mist of your constant pain. The tables are now turned. It’s our pain and your laughing and focusing on Jesus, your savior!
I was just looking at YouthSpecialties.com to find a youth pastor job and I read the notice regarding Mr. Eshleman’s death. Here in my adult years I’ve also struggled with depression and came so close to taking my own life. Unfortunately many Christians just don’t understand how another Christian can be so ‘depressed’ that they take their own life. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians and told them “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” (2 Cor 1:8 NIV) Life is hard and I suppose that makes God’s grace even more astounding. My prayers will be with Mr. Eshleman’s family.
I’ve been away and out of touch with things for a few days. . . . just got back. Then I read this news about Lee. Wow. I want to discourage the second-guessing and theologizing that many will engage in. Don’t go there. Life is hard. It gets harder. Those old Sunday School songs where we’d sing things about coming to Jesus and being happy all the time. . . . not true. If you don’t believe me, just read the Bible cover to cover and then live a little. Depression is real. Add to that the oppression that comes when you’re out there on the edge representing the Kingdom. Lee was there. Rather than pondering how in the world a guy like Lee could struggle with depression, perhaps we should be wondering why more of us don’t. . . or more likely, are afraid to admit it. To Lee’s family, to Ted, and to all those who so deeply miss Lee, I pray that you would be showered with God’s grace. Know that your father, husband, and friend has left a deep, deep mark for the Kingdom on many.
Mr. Mueller you are absolutely correct. The thing about depression is that it messes with your mind but not your heart. My final year at EMC (now EMU) in Harrisonburg, found myself struggling with a pain so bad that without thinking of those I would hurt, decided to walk away from school and everything not knowing if I would ever return. I don’t know why I never did myself harm, but later that same year as I continued to struggle Lee was there for me and gave me the courage to remember what my heart always knew: that Jesus loved me and I was worth his love. I’m sorry I never got to reciprocate that unselfish act of his, but I need not feel guilty. Mental illness is no one’s fault. We are all capable of succumbing to it’s grip, no matter how much our heart belongs to Jesus. I Corinthians 4 talks about the long awaited day when the light will reveal what is hidden in darkness and only God can judge the hearts of those who serve him. I know that Lee will receive the praise that is due him for all his faithful days on earth. For nothing can separate anyone, not even depression, from the love of God. Nothing.
My heart cries for the pain Lee must have felt. And the pain his family and friends feel now. I did not know him, however, I have been thinking
about him and his family since I heard the news of his homegoing and praying for them. I want to pass along what I once heard at a funeral under similar circimstances. “His last decision does not define who he was.”
Praying for Ted, Lee’s family and all those grieving the loss of Lee, he will be greatly missed by all of us!
First off anyone reading this that understands the word “trigger” often used on mental health blogs to describe a topic that might trigger un-comfortable feelings. Please don’t discount those feelings and if need be – go to your safe place resources, friends, pastor and share with them your feelings. You and I know what it means to live in denial when a trigger hits.
I just happened to stop by this site as I was taking a break to slow down a bit. Not always easy for someone with an overlapping diagnosis of ADHD/Bi-Polar. I am 45 years old and I’ve been at war with myself for most of my life. The illness that Lee, others that are writing into this journal concerning and myself is so miss-understood. Those that haven’t been there don’t understand how such a person seemingly so full of life could end their life. Those of you that understand, you’re not alone. When those feelings come try to remind yourself that it’s not the real you talking and it will pass. Reach out; find someone that understands, someone that will listen. We all know Christ will listen. Start there but don’t stop there. Reach out and reach out until someone listens.
If your able, reach out to others that suffer in the same way we do. We need each other. Reach out. Please reach out.