One of my high school buddies passed away a week ago today. I was invited to speak some words of remembrance at his funeral, and counted it a privilege to be given this opportunity. Marilyn (his widow) told me that she wanted me to do this because there would be people there who don’t know Jesus, and she wanted them to hear the gospel. Even in her grief she was thinking of others. What a blessing.
What follows is the message I shared at my friend’s leave-taking yesterday. Even the best words are inadequate at a time like this. Nonetheless, I pray that these heartfelt thoughts will encourage you in your own walk with the Lord. That’s what Dan would have wanted.
I first met Dan when he and I sang in the high school choir together. That was 45 years ago, when I was in grade 12. I guess that makes me an old friend.
Dan and I spent a lot of time together during our college years. I was involved in Dan’s wedding and he was involved in mine.
I lost touch with Dan when he moved out West. Then he showed up again a little over twenty years ago. He had moved back to Ottawa and had met a woman that he wanted to marry. I had also moved back to Ottawa, and was leading a small church that I had planted. Dan wanted to know if I could conduct the marriage ceremony for him and Marilyn.
In the course of preparing for the marriage, Dan told me that he and Marilyn had both had an encounter with Jesus through the witness of Marilyn’s son Brian. I had also had an encounter with Jesus, and had surrendered my life to Him. So I was thrilled to learn that Dan was now my brother in the Lord. It was as if I had a brand new friend. We could pray together and talk about the deepest issues of life. This was truly wonderful to me.
Dan had always been a gentle, quiet and thoughtful man. But now that Jesus was in control of Dan’s life, I saw a peace in him that hadn’t been there before.
Since then I have prayed with Dan on many occasions, especially after his health began to decline a few years ago. Dan had a very simple, childlike faith. He was very receptive to the moving of the Holy Spirit. This made it easy to pray with him for healing. Dan knew that God had been good to him far beyond what he deserved, and he was always full of hope and gratitude to Jesus. He took great delight in the beauty of God’s creation. He loved music, fall colours, the flowers in his garden, his dog, his motorcycle, camping trips, his friends, his wife Marilyn, and their children and grandchildren. Most of all he loved the Lord.
I remember when Marion and I visited Dan and Marilyn a little over a year ago. It was a beautiful warm September day. Dan told me that the doctors had given him three months to live. He said that he wasn’t afraid to die, but he didn’t think it was his time yet.
Dan’s words proved to be true. The Lord gave him another year, and it was a good year. He and Marilyn were allowed to walk together through another cycle of the seasons of this life – winter, spring, summer and fall. Dan posted many photos of garden flowers, and he and Marilyn enjoyed a camping trip on Thanksgiving weekend. What a blessing.
Dan’s symptoms began to recur around the middle of November, and by the end of the month he had died. We are sad that Dan is gone because we will miss him. But we must not be sad for him, or say that his life was too short. He is now with the Lord, and his life has only just begun. Dan had placed his hope in Jesus, who died and rose again and now lives forever. “I am the resurrection and the life”, says the Lord. “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
That was Dan’s hope and that is the confident expectation of everyone who has put their hope in Jesus Christ. It can be your hope too.
Thanks be to God.