Pillar of light

On Tuesday morning a dear Friend in our Meeting died.  I got a call early in the morning to tell me the news, and burst into tears.  I was surprised by the intensity of my reaction.  I had become quite friendly with Richard over the last two years.  His ministry I always enjoyed, and I loved the dry sense of humor he used when requesting helpers for the tea roster.  We’d had some interesting chats about things biblical of which his knowledge was vast.  He was in his early 80s though, and it was his time to go.  Why then was I so affected?  Over the last few days I’ve been trying to make sense of this.  Some of it is perhaps a similarity to Mum’s death.  Richard had a deep compassion for people, very similar to Judith.  He approached death with a pragmatism, with no outward signs of fear or the need for pity or sympathy.  He was lively and active until right near the end, then went quickly, just like Mum did.

From his hospital bed Richard volunteered to help redraft the guidelines for financial assistance, which had become a somewhat contentious issue in the Meeting.  He had just recently been told that he hadn’t long to live, yet he still was committed to the needs of others.  I think it was this that hit me the most, rather than any similarities with Mum.  Richard always sat across from where I normally sit at Meeting.  When he stood to give ministry I always felt a sense of anticipation, what he said almost always spoke to me in some way.  He was tall and lean, white a shock of white hair.  I see him now as such a pillar of the Meeting, a voice of reason and compassion.  I guess I expected him to always be there.  And now he is gone, and I am sad. 

I don’t know how we will fill the gap that Richard left.  I don’t know who will work quietly behind the scenes with compassion and love, keeping us all together.  I don’t know who will now speak about the bible with such a deep spirit, and I don’t know who will recite poetry by heart.  I don’t know who will gently and dryly jibe us about the tea roster.

When a big tree falls in the forest, it leaves way for more light for the saplings below.  I hope the light that Richard has shared with us, the love he has given us will help us fill this gap.

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One Response to “Pillar of light”

  1. Pete Says:

    I never knew Richard, but I am sure he would have wanted to “pass on the mantle” to those of us who follow. Interesting here that the “mantle” that referred to Elijah’s cloak which was passed down to Elisha is also the name for the part of a gas lantern where the most light comes from (although it would not have been linked like that in the original hebrew language.)
    I once read a science fiction book, where a genetic cure for ageing was developed, and people stopped dying of natural causes. When the bulk of the population of leaders were still going strong at 700 years old, the next generation had no mandate. There was no change, no growth. Grieving as we are, it is us who need to take the batten for the next lap, and build on the gains made by Richard and his peers. With them as our examples, we can aim to be twice as compassionate, twice as selfless, and perhaps like Elisha see twice as many miracles.

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