On the Corner

by Robert Docter – 

A friend of mine died a week or so ago. He was a friend to many. Somehow he could get into people’s lives in a way that always seemed to make them feel better about themselves. A lot of people came to his funeral. Everybody called him ‘Chris’ – even the three commissioners taking turns at the pulpit. Everybody liked him because they were certain he liked them. He never gave up on or spoke disparagingly about anyone. Nobody had any concerns or doubts whatsoever where he would spend eternity.

He wasn’t much for telling people what to do. He was very good at showing people what to do. He was the kind of guy who was never afraid of hard work, always willing to get his hands dirty, never reluctant to speak to someone he didn’t know, never able to communicate any semblance of superiority even though he held an exalted rank in this Army.

Chris rarely did anything s-l-o-w-l-y. He always moved quickly. But he never imposed his pace on anyone else around him. In fact, he never really imposed anything on anyone. I really admired that about him. He let his life reveal his values and left it to others to make their own choices. Interestingly enough, it’s a much more powerful approach than telling people what they should do or what they must do.

Don’t get the idea that Chris was a wimp. Not so. He was very strong, because his faith was so strong. He genuinely believed God was in the act, that prayer really worked–and that sometimes, we humans simply needed to get out of his way.

At the funeral, his kids shared remembrances. They called him ‘Dad,’ and one could easily tell that the kind of choices they have made in their lives would please their parents.

His son, Chad, spoke. You could feel the intensity of love he feels for his father as it burned its way through the room. It’s a present tense kind of love. We ought to get Chad to write a book on ‘parenting,’ because he sure must have had the best. I remember Chad as he moved through what I perceived as a difficult adolescent passage. If one had judged Chad on externals alone, like hair style, uniform wearing or level of participation in the Adventure Corps, one might worry. Ol’ Chris never seemed concerned. You see, he knew what was on the inside. Chad said: ‘He never told me what to do, he showed me what to be. He never gave me commands, he just laid out the choices.’

Stacie chose to reveal her love through a music video depicting the warmth and humor and humanity of her father. It revealed him perfectly and poignantly. At the end she promised never ending love. She’s a great person, the kind of Salvationist Bill Booth would have wanted to enlist.

A lot of what Chris was he collected from a strong, creative and competent woman, his wife, Jan. She shared these thoughts with me as I tried to deal with my own pain: “Early last fall when Chris collapsed in his office and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, our children came quickly to our side. Major surgery, with the diagnosis of incurable cancer, seemed much like a sudden and terrible storm. The four of us, Chris, Chad, Stacie and I, took comfort in God’s Word: This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil. (Hebrews 6:19.)

“This metaphor of the sure and fast anchor reminds us of the storms we must ride out in being faithful disciples –no matter what. Like Paul on the Adriatic Sea on the way to Rome: Then, fearing lest we should run aground–they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. Our family of four prayed in a tight circle of love. We dropped our faith anchors directly into the heart of God and waited for daybreak.

“Today, we know the storm has passed and Chris’ ship has sailed on into the presence of God. Our ships will sail on, too, our faith strong and sure, having weathered the storm. We thank all who have been faithful in prayer for our family during these difficult days. We have been blessed and encouraged by such a profound sharing of love.”

Much of the behavior we choose in life, it seems, is patterned after others who have impacted us in significant ways. We need to be very careful about what we model to those around us. We’ll see it again.

So long, Chris. You even taught us how to die with courage.

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