My friend’s funeral was this week. Timmy Woelk died last Saturday while hiking in the Whiteshell. I had known Tim for 23 years. There’s something comforting about knowing someone and having someone know you. The world feels different now that he is gone. Have you ever lost someone close to you? Do you ever get those knee jerk reactions when you are about to email or call or text them and realize – they aren’t there anymore.
We referred to him as Timo, Tim, and Timmy. In our entire friendship I never actually called him by his real name of Timothy. Timmy and I became friends in the old days. The really old days like the 90s. Back when the Bombers actually had a winning team. Timmy and I and a bunch of other friends would hang out and have hilarious times cheering on the big blue. Friends like Mona, Rich Froese, Peter Ewert and Rob Schartner. They were all at the funeral, too. And as genuine as always.
The funeral was hard on all of us. My friend Vic preached. He ended off with the words by Timmy: “I’m too blessed to be stressed.” Tim’s outlook on life challenges me to ask a serious question: What am I allowing to define my life? What happens under the sun, or what happens in the Son?
After the funeral we went to Glen Eden. I stayed at the graveside with Peter, Teresa, Alex, Zoe and Benny until the very end. It’s hard to explain why. We each have our own ways of attempting to cope with grief. For those of us who are a little quieter we could have really used Timmy to talk to during this time.
It’s hard to realize that he was buried next to his father. I was at his father’s funeral some 10 years ago. The order of the funeral on that day was that Tim’s dad was buried first and then they had the service afterwards. I remember coming to the burial and standing by Timmy. It was an incredibly cold day. I somehow find that ironic given that Tim’s funeral happened on a stellar hot and beautiful day. After his father was buried and as we walked back to the car I asked Tim how everyone was doing. “As good as can be expected under the circumstances,” he said.
I now know what he meant.
A friend of mine in Kenya has rescued about 10,000 street children. He was once abused and abandoned. He became ultra rich and then sold it all. He understood life. His name is Charles Mulli. Timmy and the rest of our band played at least 8 benefit concerts for Mulli. The donations from Tim’s funeral will go to MCF to help rescue children. Mulli once told me: “Success is fleeting, and image is nothing. Years from now, no one will ever even know that we were here. So my question to you is: what are you living for?”
Tim understood this. The real purpose of life. He understood so much about life.
I, and many others, remember Timmy. We will remember him the rest of our lives.
But what then?
Like me he was single. No kids. His nieces and nephews will remember him for their lives. After that, it’s hard to say. It makes me think of all those Pharaohs hoping to be remembered with their pyramids. No doubt Timmy would be able to tell me something about the pyramids. He knew something about everything. Any topic. He was like a walking Jeopardy game.
I think about that thief on the cross. “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.”
And Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
There’s a picture. One man perfect. The other man a convicted criminal. And both going to the same place.
Timmy understood life, too. He was larger than life for those of us who knew him. He was smart in that he didn’t go off chasing things that would not matter. He loved Jesus. He loved other people. He read his Bible. He prayed. He served.
What more does a person really need to have said about their life than that?
Ecclesiastes is a help to me during this time. There is no remembrance of men of old, for even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow. That seems a little harsh at first. But it paints the right picture. We actually will be remembered, if we are remembered by Christ. By his grace alone. To take us to Heaven. So that we can reunite one day.
Jesus remembered Timmy last Saturday. And now Timmy is with him forever.
I mention this because Timmy didn’t waste his life pursuing things that didn’t matter. He read his Bible. That mattered. He prayed. That mattered. He was there for anyone anytime. That mattered.
He was a man at peace because he was at peace with Christ.
The last thing Timmy and I discussed before he died was about the upcoming Tom Petty concert. I supposed it would be more inspirational now if we had discussed something more serious. But you can’t always pick what your last words are going to be. And somehow just knowing you were at peace with someone for so many years is comfort enough in times like this.
I loved the impromptu prayer meetings. Wherever we were. Whatever we were doing. We’d just stop and pray about something.
Our band played at the funeral. We had his bass out in front. At least once, he had to be out in the front. He liked the background. Quietly, loyally supporting. One of my favourite pictures of all time is one where he and I are on stage at Victoria Beach playing away. Somebody once said “if you have to ask what jazz is you ain’t never gonna know.” I suppose it is the same way with friendships. You just know when you have it.
His friendship was so unconditional. Just to know that you both mutually accept one another without either person ever having to feel for even one second that they ever have to prove it or earn it.
Friendship with Timmy was a gift. I think this is the underlying reason why so many people liked him. He was funny. Hilarious, really. He was kind. Considerate. Thoughtful. He sometimes knew more about your life than you did. He was all those things. And yet, what drew people to him, what drew me to him, was this unconditional acceptance.
The first song we played at his funeral was King’s Highway by Tom Petty. We had played that often at our concerts. Every concert used themes from popular songs to convey the gospel in a short talk between songs. The first line is: when the time gets right I’m gonna pick you up and take far away from trouble my love.
Christ has done that for Timmy.
The last song we sang at his funeral was People Get Ready. Timmy asked the band to play it at the concert last year. Ironically, it turns out he picked his own funeral song. The song makes the point that we need to be ready to meet Jesus. At a moment’s notice. Are we ready to meet Christ? Are we like the thief on the cross recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, the only one who can save us from hell and delivery us to heaven? Are we asking Jesus to remember us?
We don’t know when our last breath will be. We need to be ready. We need to be remembered.
Not for what we did or did not do.
We need to be remembered by Christ.
Timmy is remembered by Christ.
How about you?
I can’t wait to see him again. There is something more tangible about Heaven when your friend is already there. I’m looking forward to being on stage with him again. I’m looking forward to him grinning at me as he plays his bass again. And, for the first time in his existence, I will be able to hear Timmy actually sing. His mom will be able to hear him sing, too. I wonder what his voice will sound like.
In any event, you’re all invited to our first concert up there.
Provided, of course, that Christ remembers you. This world has so many distractions. But in the end, we are either the criminal on the one side of Jesus who rejected Jesus, or we are the criminal on the other side who asked Jesus to remember him.
The strange thing is, we’re all on our crosses. And none of us knows how much time is left.
The question is, are we, like Timmy, going to ask Christ to remember us?
I can still hear his laugh in my mind. I can still hear his genuine congratulations. I can still see him at his cottage. I can still see him praying. Reading his Bible. What a gift he was to me.
What a gift.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you that I had the chance to know Timmy.