Remembering and Grieving a Friend

The Bombers had their first home game of the year yesterday. A preason game. It reminded me of the games a group of friends, including Timmy and I, would go to and watch at the “old stadium.”

Have you ever seen the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles?” John Candy and Steve Martin are driving down this highway at night and accidentally cross over to the other side without either of them knowing it. A couple on the other side of the road see them going the wrong way down the highway, and they shout out at them: “You’re going the wrong way!”

It became an ongoing joke when the Bombers started running back instead of forward after a kickoff or handoff, Timmy, the gang and I would should out, “You’re going the wrong way! Turn around. Turn around!!!” It was so funny. Oh we had good times. Timmy was a stellar example of being positive and enjoying life even when things weren’t going so well. Like some of the Bomber seasons, for example.

And thinking about Timmy, it seems, in his own quiet way, he was showing us something similar.

Timmy was a man at peace. Calm. Content.  “If we have food and clothing with these we will be content.” But are we? Is there a subtle message in our culture – Christian, Western, or both, that says, yes we should be content but only after we have achieved this and that? We need that next thing and then we will be content?

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Our band played a Johnny Cash tune one time: “I’ve got Jesus and that’s enough.”

That was (is) Timmy.

I stopped by Peter and Teresa and Alex and Zoe’s place on Sunday evening. As I came in the door Peter and Teresa greeted me with their classic smiles – the smiles seemed different though, the way smiles do when there is still joy, but it is seen through refracted sorrow. Teresa gave me a CD of Timmy’s funeral. She also gave me two books. At first I couldn’t understand why. They were the two biographies I had written about Charles Mulli.  Then I realized they were the signed copies I had given to Timmy.

Everything became quiet. I stood there. Crying.  I opened the pages to where I had inscribed for Timmy – thanking him for being my friend for all these years and for his constant support. I felt the worn pages of the book. He came to all book signings. He told me he liked the books. Somehow holding them in my hands and seeing the turned pages did something to me. I can’t explain what it was. Books aren’t meant to be given back. Not to the author anyways.

Maybe it’s because the books were a tangible representation of a moment in time when I handed Timmy a book and in that instant we were together. Smiling. Laughing. Encouraging each other. Maybe the books serve as a visual reminder of what I have lost. What we have all lost. Of what we had with a guy who was beyond words in so many ways.

I live in a little farm-house. Blink, and you’ve missed it. I know this, because friends who have been coming over for years still miss it. There is a little turnabout on the gravel driveway. In the evenings after Timmy and I had hung out he would get back in his car, I would wave, and he would make the turnabout and head down the driveway home – like the day he did three weeks ago to the day. As he drove off I would often say to God that Timmy was passed me in many ways.

And I think I am beginning to understand why.

As best as I can tell, I could not find other gods in Timmy’s life. He worked hard. He was good at his job. When things did not work out in something for him, he never let it get him down. Not ever.

Why?

Because he refused to play the impossible game of letting his life be defined by what he did or did not have. And not by what he did or did not achieve. And not by what he did or did not experience.

Timmy was passed that.

Timmy was way, way, way passed all of that.

You know the verse: “for me to live is Christ?” (Philippians 1:21) That’s Timmy.

Ever played the Mad card game where there is a joker like character that says: What me worry? That was Timmy, too.

How did he manage to get there? How did he do that exactly? I think it was because if ever those thoughts came to his mind, he knew he had Jesus. He knew he had Christ’s stamp of approval. And that was enough for him.

Is it enough for us?

We need to follow God’s call. And when we accidentally drift away from God’s call onto the other side of the highway, we make our own idea of a successful life an idol. And Timmy’s life was a gentle yet powerful reminder: You’re going the wrong way.

Which way are you going?

Timmy’s life was not easy. He had some tough challenges to go through. Yet I never once heard him utter a bitter word about anyone.

Thinking about it now, there were a lot of ‘not one single times’ with Timmy.  Here’s another one: I can’t recall even on time – not one single time – when he ever swore.  I hung out with him a lot over those 23 years. And not one time. Seriously. Even with all those Bomber games… some amazing ones… and some really bad ones…

Timmy showed me that it is possible to rest in Jesus moment by moment.

My guess is it never occurred to Timmy the incredible impact he had on us, he had on me.

You can’t control grief. It  comes in waves. Maybe there is a self defence mechanism in the body that allows you to experience it little by little. Maybe all at once would be too much. I can’t say.

At the old church at NKMB (There it is again: The “old” church) I remembered the other day that Timmy and I taught Sunday School in rooms right beside each other. We would plan parties for the kids. Marathon parties. No joke. These parties were like 5 hours long. And they still felt so short.

I think of us sitting on those little chairs in the main room singing with the kids. And then we would break off into our lesson times. He would go into his classroom and me into mine.

He loved the LORD. What an amazing friend. Pretty cool that we got to serve the LORD together. It goes back a long time. But, like holding those books in my hands, it feels like yesterday.

 

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2 thoughts on “Remembering and Grieving a Friend

  1. Paul…you, like I love your friends like family. I’m saddened to hear of your friend’s passing. I did not know him. But it makes me think how God is so amazing the way he brings people into our life that feel and seem like blood relations. As you were lucky to have that bond with him…he was lucky to have that with you too. You are that light and encouragement to all who know you. I find that important to say to you as we have just seen that we never know what a day brings. And knowing you, I’m sure you let Tim know all the time what he meant to you.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and memories. Was touching and beautiful to read.

  2. Paul, your words have touched my heart. In fact, I could hear your voice speaking these words as I read them. Your heart will forever miss Tim, until Heaven that is. Until Heaven.
    You have given such a heart warming tribute once again, but one that also challenges us to live simply but all out for the Lord. May God continue to give you wonderful memories, and peace and comfort. Losing a friend is hard. So. Hard. I know that personally. But you will see him again!!
    blessings my friend, Joy

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