whispered love
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November 15th 2006: Two gentle men

After a week of pain and discomfort, I woke this morning and for the first time the pain had eased. I only had to change my bed things twice last night (which was an improvement on five times the night before) and, although I still have fever, I feel the 3-tier medication is finally kicking in and so normal life is beckoning again. These are temporary illnesses that beset us all. And yet...

In the space of two hours this morning I learnt of two deaths.

My godfather fell down the stairs and died of a fractured skull. It was so sad speaking to his widow. You could sense her inexpressible ache of loss.

My godfather was a classic British gentleman, tall, courteous, witty... and very, very gentle. He always wore a moustache, which frothed about his upper lip as he joked and laughed. My father and he were cousins, had gone to school together, adventured in the hills together, and they were both incredibly romantic and almost otherworldly. They had both enlisted in the London Scottish after school and were Captains together in Austria in 1944 and 1945. A less warlike and bellicose pair you could not imagine. They were both self-deprecating and this comes through in their letters and notebooks. They didn't see themselves as anything but inept warriors, yet they did what they needed to. They were like innocents in Europe, a kind of antithesis of Hitler and his insanity.

I shall always be grateful for my godfather in my life. He was a true 'gentleman' but also a gentle man. I lift him up to God. His widow also.

The second sad news was Brian, so long a committed christian at our church. As good and kindly a person as you could meet. He had no fancy airs and graces, but for years he always seemed to be there to help out quietly... practical, decent, exuding gentle kindliness. He also looked beyond our community in his unadvertised goodness and thought of others: travelling many times to help construct buildings for children in Romania. He had a servant heart like that. I never thought theology or dogma were the big issues in his life. Just love and kindness. He seemed to exude warmth, so whenever you met him, you just naturally felt safe and re-assured.

Six weeks ago, he was just living a normal life. In the midst of life. Unknown, below the surface, cancer was stealing across his body, unrecognised until too late. Today Brian is dead.

How easily we take these people for granted. Of all the christians I've known, I'd rank Brian in the top three or four for Christ-likeness. He will be a role-model always. Whenever I need to aspire to be a better person, he will be someone I reflect upon and draw inspiration from.

I give thanks for his health and new life forever in eternity. For his immediate family, this sudden snatching away is such grievous loss. I do believe that God will comfort and protect, but this cannot be an overnight thing, but a journey.

Brian was not posh, or self-important, or holding status, or anything like that.

He was a gentle man who trusted God. He was kind, without thinking about it.

But God thought about it.


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