The other night, while putting my 16 month old daughter to bed, I was captivated by the cute little sleep noises she was making. Pachelbel’s Canon in D was tinkling in the background and the snow was lightly falling outside. The juxtaposition of the young life in my arms and the passing of a friend recently set my mind to thinking about the past.
My friend Erich was 11 months older than me.
I don’t think I have had to say goodbye to any in my circle of friends. Whether they were childhood pals or later work related friends, everyone I’ve known is still around (as far as I know). Maybe that’s part of the reason I feel compelled to put my thoughts down; my friend is gone and I will miss him.
Erich was a good man, and back in the day he made work tolerable; some days it was just plain fun. We met through a mutual friend, and at the right time I was able to leave one machine shop and go to the one where Erich worked; the man who was merely a bar acquaintance, a friend of a friend, was now my supervisor.
He liked classic cars and classic rock. I probably won’t be able to hear a Lynyrd Skynyrd tune or see a full size Monte Carlo without thinking of him, and that’s O.K. In this culture, there is something to be said about a man who had simple tastes. His taste in firearms was pretty good too. Back in the mid-90s I bought a gun from him and ironically (or so it seems now), I used that same weapon this past November to get my CCDW here in Kentucky. I suppose one can find mementos of a person in their heart, mind, and even their underwear drawer if they look hard enough.
I don’t know about Erich’s spiritual life, but I was informed that he talked a lot about God. As a minster of the Gospel, it’s important to communicate that it isn’t the spiritual talk that opens Heaven’s gates, but the faith one puts in Jesus. From beginning to end, the Bible declares that God is separated from His creation (people) and Jesus is the Redeemer/Savior needed to set things right. That’s the good news. I know my friend heard that message at least once because, the last time I saw him was when he came to hear me preach at my home church in Cleveland. I hope he believed and made the Truth his truth.
Erich loved to make people laugh, and I’m smiling now just thinking about some of the ways he used to do it. With that in mind, I found this blog post called Final Request and thought, no irreverence intended, that this would be something like his final request:
Dear future funeral director,
When I die please do not place
my hands one over the other
across my chest in sweet by and
by hymnic repose. Surely my kin
will buck this final request but be
of a firm persuasion and press on.
I want you to shove my hands in
my pants pockets so that even on
the hushed pillows of the polished
casket there is the quickening look
of a grown man subtly scratching
his jewels or jing jangling a bunch
of nickels and dimes to death (ha).
Death can be so cold and proper.
I want to leave a memory searing
symbol for those who remain of me
looking the reaper straight in his
impotent eyes and saying out silent:
Aw hell, you know this ain’t over.
And it’s not over. That’s the great news about the Gospel. The Bible says that when believers die, they go immediately to be with God; they are absent from the body and present with the Lord. Separation from this world puts one in the presence of Christ (2 Cor 5:6-8; Phil 1:23). And one day, when the time comes for other believing family members to pass on, there will be a wonderful family reunion (1 Thess 4:13-18). Therefore, comfort/encourage one another with these words.
That’s why I am saying auf wiedersehen (well, it’s German, but there is more to it than that). the meaning of the word, in part, is until we meet again; good-bye for the present. That’s great! That’s the hope with which we are to encourage/comfort one another; this isn’t the end and I’ll see you again soon.
Erich leaves behind three daughters; Lindsey, Heather, and Alicia. He had friends and acquaintances too numerous to count and a life that was a picture of redemption; beauty being made out of ashes.
I will miss you my friend.
Grace and Peace,