One of the best friends I ever had - or expect to have - died early last Sunday morning. He had not been sick for a long time - but long enough that his death was no surprise. And still a shock.
One of the penalties of getting older (and there are several - though offset, I hope, by other benefits) is that people that you have known for a long time will pass away. When my uncle died this past August, I realized that part of what I was losing with his death - apart from a loving uncle that would do ANYTHING for me - was one of the few people remaining on the planet who knew me before I knew myself.
With Len's death this week, I've lost another person in my life that I could count on - whatever the circumstance. I've lost a man old enough to be my father - who treated me like a brother. I will miss his wit, his eloquence, his precision, his warmth - his voice.
I will miss helping him get into the church on Sunday morning. I will miss checking on him when a worship service ends. His death is not real to me yet. I don't know when that moment will come. Maybe it won't come all at once. Maybe it will take a long time. But - as Len often said to me - "These things have a way of resolving themselves." Whenever I hear those words in my mind, it will be Len's voice that I hear.
I take comfort in memories of my friend. Len was a man who knew that it took more effort and preparation to speak with brevity - and when he said "I will be brief," it was a promise you could count on. I remember singing beside him for so many years - and with Gene Thompson and the late Phil Haddrill. I learned how to sing beside these great men. And I remember how Len would let his mischievous side show - making a comment in a stage whisper during rehearsal - perhaps one of the other sections stumbled or sang off-key - and when asked to repeat the comment, Len would cough and say "I was just clearing my throat".
Beyond my memories, the Lord has comforted me with these thoughts: Knowing that Len and Maggie have been reunited after so long apart; That the pain and fear which Len experienced during his time in the hospital are over; That my good friend has now been able to hear his Lord speak to him those words that I still hope to hear someday - "Well done, my good and faithful servant".
I only hope that I can live out the remainder of my days in a way that would make Len proud. And I hope that everyone who knew Len will find comfort in memories of him - having faith that the same God who allowed Len to be a part of their lives has not abandoned them in this time of sorrow. Let us live as people who have hope of reunion with our father, brother and friend.