Thoughts Thoughts

He Left With Dignity & Grace

I went to a memorial service today for a friend of mine that passed away last week of cancer. He was a lovely man. Although I only knew him for a couple of years, I always loved being in his company. He was soft-spoken and always remembered your name. One of those people you couldn’t wait to hear speak, as he always seemed to have something wise, meaningful or insightful to say. He was a deep man.

His family did an amazing job planning the service, as it, unlike many funerals I have been to, seemed to be so personal. You could tell, that he was a part of the planning as the service was deeply personal. The first hymn we sang was “Amazing Grace”. Now this may sound rote for many funeral services, but when singing it at his service, the words seemed written just for him.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

He described himself as a wretch all the time! At least he claimed that he used to be one. He certainly wasn’t anymore; not the man I came to know.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

A decorated vietnam green beret veteran who (we were told by everyone who spoke at the service) had a very difficult and challenging life that included alcoholic parents. He got sober probably around the time that I did, and I’m sure, like I have, he had changed for the better because of it. His son said as much; how proud he was of his father for breaking the cycle of alcoholism.

He was diagnosed this summer and was told he didn’t have long. He made it six months. He died at home surrounded by his wife, daughter and son.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

Both his daughter and son spoke at the service. Their thoughts, while quite different in style, were equally touching and very moving.

The second hymn was “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”. Part of the hymn included these words:

They lived not only in ages past;

there are hundreds of thousands still.

The world is bright with the joyous saints

who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,

in church, by the sea, in the house next door;

they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,

and I mean to be one too.

I saw him just before I went away for the summer and he came and sat next to me on the curb where I was sitting. We sat and chatted for some time. I wonder now if he already knew, because it wasn’t long after that he announced to his illness to his friends. I saw him several times this fall, each time looking more ill and frail.

The service ended with all singing” Joyful, joyful we adore thee”. I know I adored him.

There were probably 200 people or more at his service. but for many in attendance I think the hymns and words had a deeper meaning that just words in a hymnal.

I never would have met him if we didn’t share the same disease. I have all sorts of wonderful people in my own life that I never would know under any other circumstances than for the disease we share. Thankfully, that disease is not the one he died from. He never complained. Never seemed to feel sorry for himself. He was thankful for the what God had given him and the life he had.

I’ve always liked to think of Heaven as it was written in the book by Alice Sebold called The Lovely Bones; someplace where my friend could look down from and see all of his family and friends gathered there today to pay tribute to him. He would have been touched at how many new friends he has made in the past few years. How loved he was. How he changed us by allowing us into his life.

He died with dignity and grace.


  1. Lovely tribute for a truly honorable man.

  2. that was truly beautiful. My condolences for the loss of your friend.

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