A couple of weeks ago I felt another loss. This time it was the father of a good high school friend. But, that description doesn't seem to do him justice. Our families were close as far back as I can remember. In fact, his two boys stayed the night with us when their sister was born. He and my father served together as elders for decades. We camped together. I sang on the praise team with his wife. I went to college with his son, who I considered one of my few really good friends from high school on. I hung out at their house nearly every Saturday night for three or four years straight.
Although I didn't have a super-close relationship with this man, our lives were lived in close proximity. He was like a second father or an uncle. I was completely comfortable to be myself in his presence as if I were in my own family. Some people get uncomfortable around "The Elders", but I tended to see them as just my Dad and my old family friends. This particular man, who had the memorable name of Browning, was not just an Elder, but chairman of the Elders. He cared about people deeply. He had the gift of hopitality, teaching, administration, and service. He was active in church service at the time of his death. He is sorely missed by family, friends, the whole church he worked with, and untold number of people who were touched by his life.
Browning was not all that old by my reckoning (of course that changes as I age). He was about 67. He had a few chronic health issues, but you wouldn't know it by looking at him. His death was a surprise to everybody. Usually, we expect people to have obvious failing health, a retirement from active involvement in the business of life, and then death comes after some lingering illness. We don't expect it to come so suddenly.
I haven't been able to figure out if I'm feeling his loss more because I cared about him that much, or if I am hurting for my friend who has lost a father, or if I am realizing that this is another of my parent's generation to go and I begin to miss my own parents already. It is probably a little of all of the above. I've been to more memorial services in the past couple of years than I ever had in my previous ten (which included the deaths of my own grandparents). Maybe I'm just realizing the fragility of life a little more personally than I used to.
Whatever the reasons, I will miss seeing Browning's smile the next time I visit my home church. He was a good man, and I'm glad that he was a part of my life.