I went to a funeral yesterday. The man who died was a friend of my Mum and Dad. He and Dad had worked together for years when I was very young.
They were both ministers. As in Christian or church ministers. Not political ones. Dad was the senior minister - in those days they were called rectors. Boak was his assistant or curate. He had a beautiful wife and a large dog. And he never once called me by name. Boak, like my parents and siblings called me Snooks.
Years later and in a different city I went to the church where Boak was the rector. That was where I met Mr Neat. Boak married us nearly 17 years ago.
He was about 12 years younger than my Dad. And he died last week very suddenly.
Boak was what people describe as a character. He didn't fit into any easy categories. He was often not what people expected. Irreverent yet deeply devoted to the Lord. Ascerbic and at once caring.
He was an excellent preacher. One of the best I've heard. He had the ability to reach right down to his listeners' hearts and thoughts. He was forthright. "Stop sinning." And yet he was understanding and compassionate. His sermons on death were raw and real and dismissed any pious notions of death being an easy thing to bear. He had known grief and suffering and understood that pain and separation were more than just character-building experiences, they were a sign that something was very wrong with our world.
Death is unnatural. It tears and steals and reduces. It casts us on our knees as we grieve for those we love who have been stolen from us. And yet in the darkness of sorrow, when we are able to raise our heads from that wracking loss, we can yet discern a flicker of hope. As time passes the flicker becomes stronger as we see that this is not the end.
I thank God for Boak and his ministry to me.