My friend Carl died last week. His wife, Mary, left the news on my voice mail. Terrible way to get the information but then when is it ever a good time to hear of a friend’s death? Carl and I have known each other for probably 7-8 years. He was a member of my congregation I first served from 2000-2005. After I left there he stayed in touch with me and came over (40 minutes one way roughly) to my current town to worship at our services or to meet me for lunch.
We’d talk about his health, which was failing him rather quickly. Carl was hugely overweight and had trouble with his knees and back. But we’d go over that, issues in our personal lives or I’d share about some problem within the congregation. He’d encourage me forward like a good friend should. The food would arrive and he would say “Do your thing” and I”d pray.
Carl was a fallen away Catholic and was pretty angry with the church. He was angry, generally. Estranged relations with his son, a marriage that was just hanging in there, and a part time job at a local helping agency.
During this last couple of months he spent about 2 weeks here in the hospital I serve. I visited with him as often as I could. Several times I went to his room and he was sound asleep. I knew he didn’t sleep well so I left him alone and when we did visit he would have a few caustic words about the lack of care he was getting and how he never seemed to know what was going on.
So his services will be this week and I’ll make it a point to be at the visitation so I can see him one last time. I’ll greet some friends we have in common, a pastor friend of mine will do the service. Then, I’ll get in my car and drive wherever. And as I do I’ll do what I’ve been doing alot since he died.
I’m thinking about friendships. I am thinking about how I was thinking about visiting Carl at his rehab facility where he’d been sent to get physically better. I’ll wonder why I didn’t go see him that week when I wanted to. I’ll wonder why, before he came to the hospital, the lunch we were supposed to have got put off.
Then I’ll look to my other friendships and renew my pledge to reach out. I’ll now initiate connection more often and renew those relationships that have gone stale. I’ll set up lunches and invite people over to my home. Join me in not putting off those friends who, when they die, we will miss.
And, ultimately, for Carl, me and for you we can point to the One friend we all have, forever and ever. We can point to the One friend who already died. But, for Carl and all of us, death was not the end of the story. Jesus defeated death and rose again. Wow, that will lift my spirits this week. That Gospel will be the center point of the funeral sermon. And along with other thoughts as I drive away, I’ll give thanks for what a friend we have in Jesus!
God Bless You