Thursday, June 4, 2009

On Death

We didn't think about death very much in those days.
When a death occurred, we usually did not know what to do or say.
Our very first year, a fellow student at CBS who attended the House regularly was killed while riding his bicycle. It was not an easy experience. We knew he was with Jesus but we were not sure if we needed to cry or laugh for joy. During the next couple of years we had some parents die. Kent and I even did a funeral for a family who lived a few blocks away. It was a large family, most of the kids attended the House, and the parents loved the place. When the father died, his wife asked us to lead the ceremony. Kent sang Lord of the Dance and a few other songs and I delivered the eulogy.

In preparation for the Reunion, I looked through lots of old files, one of which contained photos from my surprise 30th birthday party. (No one was supposed to turn 30 at the Jesus House!) Two of the photos include Alice Wiggins Danzl, a dear friend who came to Jesus in her early 20's. How exciting it was to see Alice leave an old life, embrace the new life provided by Jesus eventually marrying Andy Danzl, giving birth to one son, before losing her life to cancer. She was a beautiful, remarkable woman who experienced a radical change in life direction after becoming a Christian.

Lately I've been thinking about death primarily because of two recent memorial services I've conducted. One was for my Uncle Bob, my father's last surviving sibling. I posted his eulogy on my Facebook page yesterday. If you are interested in reading it you are welcome to view it there. Uncle Bob was a great man who loved his family, his community and his church. Even with those positive guides his eulogy was still difficult to write because of the family connection. Many of us are now at the age where parents, siblings and other family members will be dying. Death is never completely easy.

A death that affected many of us was the untimely death of Rich Mullins. We loved Rich for his talent, his love of Jesus, and because many times he was just plain strange. He left an impact on the Christian music industry but for those of us who heard him beginning when he was 18 years old at the Jesus House those were personal songs that continue to be remembered. I have one recording of Rich from the last 30 minutes of an evening at the House that includes songs like Lake Between the Hills. It's fun to hear him play on that really bad piano and remember his early years of performing.

You were the first to go
But not the last to leave
Maybe I'll join you soon
But if I delay
Save me a spot
And when I arrive
Let's have a beer
With Jack
And all who went before

The relationships we established all those years ago have continued in ways none of us would have predicted. Even the relationship with people like Rich continues because of the bonds of love that were forged through many hours of prayer, conversation, music, meals shared and all the other elements of a life shared together. One of the verses I read at Uncle Bob's funeral is Philemon 7," Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you have refreshed the hearts of the saints." That verse applied not only to Philemon and my Uncle Bob but also to Alice, Rich and all who have allowed the Holy Spirit to flow through you to encourage and refresh others.

This Week in History: Artists Who Performed at the Jesus House the First Week of June

1972 - John Gould
1973 - Another blank month on the old Jesus House Concert Performers Calendar!
1974 - Not sure who sang, but 80 people attended!
1975 - Randy Moody
1976 - John Gould (The weekend of Dave & Deb Cain's Wedding!)
1977 - Madison Getman Jr and his Band of Angels.
1978 - Rich Mullins
1979 - Caroline Randall
1980 - Godshadows
1981 - Larry Bubb
1982 - Rod Ellis & Reaching Out
1983 - Risen Son

1 comment:

Peg Danzl said...
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