Last night I was cleaning out my nightstand and saw an email from an old friend which had his current address on it and a sarcastic note telling me that it was the second time he was sending me his snail-mail address and that I ought to put it somewhere safe. It made me laugh–and then want to connect with him again. So, I did what most of us might do, I googled him and found, sadly, that he had died 1 year ago!
You might be able to tell we weren’t that close of late. In fact, we were close only for a short time. I met him in college and we became instant friends. He had an intensity and sarcastic humor that I loved and dreaded. Time with him was never dull. He taught me about great food and about the downtrodden. I think when I met him he was fighting for the imprisoned pastors in Russia.
Actually, I had met him in the sandbox as a kid in Nova Scotia (those of you reading this blog for a while may remember the previous banner pic of an oceanview, practically taken from the sandbox). So, we hit it off well as college students–until I offended him 2 years later. I think he didn’t speak to me for at least a year (I kicked him out of my room at 2 am when he wanted to tell me all about a breakup). A year later we were both in Israel for school and so we tried, mildly successfully to rekindle our friendship. Another year later we were both in Philadelphia and had a few good times. He introduced me to my lovely wife.
But then our relationship soured as he became increasingly angry. He left the area, even the country and we had little contact. He was involved in underground work to elevate the plight of Palestinians to the American people. He came out of the closet. When he found out I married Kim without inviting him, he never really forgave me. I should have but I assumed we were on the outs and he wasn’t even in the country.
We tried to find a way to relate despite his complete rejection of Christianity and even antagonistic attack of everything he once stood for. I think we did alright at first but then it faded away.
This man was the brightest, most eloquent, critical thinker I’ve ever known. His bitterness had an impact during the time I knew him but I’m hoping he overcame that. But, I’m saddened at the loss of his fight for the downtrodden and his persistent belief that true Christianity was to be rejected as always and only fake. I think he was able to separate bad examples of Christianity from Christianity itself but I”m not sure.
I wish I could have just one more conversation and to enjoy a good laugh with him.
2 responses to “The death of an old but lost friend”
Movies like “Oh, God!” (John Denver and George Burns), or “Bruce Almighty” ( Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman), try to give us a feel for what it would be like to actually be God, to carry the burdens of the universe upon our shoulders for the brief duration of the movie. Inevitably, the main character acquiesces to the reality that humans are not built to shoulder the responsibility God takes for day-to-day operation of life as we experience it. I think there’s another encumbrance of eternal proportions that God accepts as a perpetual reality, that we as finite, created beings don’t fathom, and that’s the burden of enduring eternal loss, without benefit of any sort of anesthesia! Someone pointed out to me many years ago that scientists have no idea why atoms hold together, why every every spec of matter in existence doesn’t fly apart and scatter into the universe. All matter that does exist is held together at the atomic level by what scientists term “atomic glue”, a force not quantifiable or identifiable, but clearly understood to be in effect, since matter does, in fact hold together. Biblically, we look to Colossians 1:17 to find that it is Jesus who is the eternal “atomic glue”, that everything in existence remains so only because He continuously (as an act of His will) wills it to be, and that if any moment He were to stop consciously willing anything to exist, it simply would silently, quietly stop existing. It occurred to me several years ago that while I’m counting on Him to continue willing me to exist, and His willing the new heaven and new earth to continue to exist for eternity while I and all others who’ve been saved are enjoying blissful, care-free life in perfection for eternity……..Jesus must continue to carry the burden of willing hell to exist, willing the continued existence of the Beast, the False Prophet, and everyone who shares Satan’s eternal fate, and willing the existence of a massive lake of fire to burn forever without end. Eternal life and eternal death both continue for eternity…only because of God’s eternal, conscious, moment-by-moment willing of them to exist. God will continue for the rest of eternity with the burden of loss on His mind…I will not. He will retain a vibrant, clear memory of every unsaved person, every condemned angelic being, and an accurate, explicit foreknowledge of what might have been if poor choices had not been made…I will not. Any sense of loss that I might experience in this life will be “whited out” by the tear-free, care-free bliss of eternity with Him, a luxury afforded only to created beings. The only opportunity I have to learn to know Him through my suffering and pain occurs NOW, while I still have the luxury and privilege of suffering. Phil, these thoughts sort of gelled for me awhile back when I was reminiscing about a past friendship I had with a guy in college. He was my ministry partner in Campus Crusade for Christ at my undergrad college, but he was also the most intimate male friend I’ve ever had. Many of the characteristics you described in your friend I can attribute to mine…it’s almost scary! He was a powerful force for Christ on our campus, and a powerful tool of the Holy Spirit in my life and thinking about spiritual things. Mysteriously, he turned from faith sometime after graduation, and “came out of the closet”. Our friendship was jettisoned along with his faith. My sense of loss was, and still is, profound and deep. My quandary is that my friend is still alive, occasionally socializes with others who ran in our college circles, and feels totally unrepentant about trashing our friendship, and stepping on my heart for him in the process. We both feel loss for our friends, and they help us know another facet of God’s personality as we endure and process our loss. I think God more than merely identifies with our respective losses…He was there to bask in our enjoyment of the friendships with us, He reveled in the moment with us as we enjoyed our friends…our loss in friendship is His loss as well. Your loss of opportunity to enjoy your friend once again is His loss as well…He grieves with you for that. As your reader and blog patron, in some more limited sense, I grieve with you as well. As a fellow man who can empathize with many of the details of your situation, I grieve with you, too.
i’m really sorry to hear about the death of a former friend, phil. seems like the two of you had a rocky relationship, it’s sad that it ended the way it did. and it seems that the ‘just one more conversation’ is a normal course to take… i know several people i could say that of…
where did he live? maybe you could send a belated note to his wife?