The Death of an Old Friend

Published on 04/05/22

The Death of an Old Friend

In January, John, one of seven children of an old and close friend, called on the phone. He began our conversation by asking me if I would be available to do an online funeral for his grandmother. I replied, “Sure, but why am I not talking to your dad?” John informed me that his father was also in the hospital and in critical condition. It soon became clear that I would very likely be doing two funerals, for mother AND son, over the course of a few days—and that’s exactly what happened.

It was an amazing experience, in which Deb and I were honored to participate.

We have not been in close communication with this family for 20 plus years, yet the memories we shared are warm and vivid. Often the children would be dressed in military fatigues, which could be purchased cheaply at the army surplus—their play resembled their attire. I recall seeing well-camouflaged youngsters swaying in backyard trees, paintball battles interrupted by concerned police, and many other amazing, daring, and dangerous exploits performed by this clan. One of these boys has William as a middle name, given with yours truly in mind.

More importantly than their activities, however, are their testimonies of Godliness. Their mother is a quiet but firm prayer warrior around which the family has always revolved. It was her faithfulness that brought her husband to faith in Christ. It was her trust in our God that preserved her as her adult sons became warriors, some of whom came home badly injured. In fact, her warrior sons are so accomplished that I am not allowed to share names or branches of service. Her only daughter was not a wilting flower. She explained to me that her boy friends were more afraid of her than the protective brothers—some family! Oh, and there is one brother who did not enlist, but who came to the funeral with two concealed firearms along with one very sharp knife. It doesn’t end there. One daughter-in-law is a Jiujitsu world champion. I have wondered what would have happened if someone dared to interrupt the funeral service—I have never felt safer.

The Godliness of the father, my old friend whose funeral we are remembering, is perhaps best understood by considering the family he produced. When asked what they would like said at the funeral, the family made it clear that the gospel must be proclaimed, because that was what was important to “Dad.” I watched my friend through the years and have been informed, inspired, and edified by his deep, blue-collar spirituality.

As the funeral approached, and the warrior sons prepared their uniforms, I reminded them that this was a day to honor God and the memory of their dad. The funeral message included the following: a gospel invitation, a reminder to use this time to draw near to God and to each other, an admonition to care for Mom, and a charge to carry on their father’s legacy of faithfulness to God.

Thank you, Father, for allowing us to be part of this,

Bill and Deb