It's not that I want them dead. It's just sometimes you have to lose someone to realise how precious they were to you.
I was at Mike Ovey's funeral yesterday. In the words of my my 17 year old son, "That was the best funeral I've been to." Being an irritating sort of dad I asked him, "Why?"
He replied, "Because people said a lot of nice stuff about Mike, but still managed to talk about Jesus." He was right.
There were five greater appreciations. I don't think it was planned like this, but they started with a great degree of sincerity and became less reverent as they went. Even this development wonderfully mirrored Mike's character. He was capable of deep thought, a passionate intellectual with a pastor's heart. But also the man who laughed uncontrollably with me watching "The Green Hornet" (This is a high brow, high culture film, analysing contemporary postmodern culture. In French.)
There was singing of great gospel hymns that raised the roof. There was Psalm 16 read in a way that meant that you felt it with King David. There were heart felt prayers for his wife, Heather, and the children and wider family.
And as with any funeral there were a lot of friends and family who hadn't seen each other for a long time, who loved the opportunity to catch up. To share memories of Mike. To laugh. To express mutual loss. To give and receive an abbreviated version of the last decade of our lives.
As I listened to those who talked of Mike's life at the funeral and then chatted personally to people afterwards there was a common theme. Not simply how much Mike meant to each of us; how God had blessed us through knowing him and being able to call him a friend. But that Mike's sudden death left many of us wishing that we'd made more of that friendship. That we'd been better supports to him as he fought to further the cause of excellent theological education. That we'd listened more to his wisdom and plundered more his intellect. That we'd watched more terrible films and eaten more chips together. That we'd told him more how much he meant to us. Not in an American type tell you your wonderful way, which Mike would have hated. But in that understated British male backhanded compliment way, that to the uninitiated can look like an insult.
It got me thinking this morning that perhaps it would be a good thing to encourage people more. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Hebrews 3:13:
"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness."
I love it's realism. It recognises that without help I will quickly start believing a life of sinful self-indulgence is better than following Jesus. I love it's humour, "as long as it is called 'Today'" just makes me smile.
So it's called "Today" today, therefore, I'm going to try to do some encouraging. I'm going to drop a card to a couple I can't remember seeing at church for a while. I'm going to tell my wife how thankful I am for her remarkably patient love for me. I'm going to speak to my son about trying to start reading the Bible together again.
I'm also going to try and find the film "Vampire's Suck". I pledged another friend of Mike's that I'd watch it, if he watched "The Green Hornet". Heather tells me that he got the better deal!