Thursday, January 22, 2009
A NEW LEARNING
I remember him today because I must. He came to my mind and I cannot release him until I write about him. Chalk it up to a retiree’s adjustment and time to reflect.
In a 40 year pastoral career and in a couple of large churches, I have officiated many funerals. The most demanding memorial service I have ever led was for Drew Mann.
Drew was the 21 year old son of one of our faithful church women. Her husband predeceased his son. Drew’s mother also had two daughters.
At the conclusion of a Sunday evening church service, I was at the rear of the church when two policemen came to me to say that Drew had been killed in a vehicle accident. At a nearby intersection, in a car with four youth he was one of two youth who died while the other two were seriously injured. Some things you do instinctively so I gained the attention of parishioners happily engaged in casual conversation and I solemnly announced to them the news that would break their hearts. Beside me one of his young male friends dropped in a dead faint.
Drew was on the same summer church ball team as my son Jeff and me. On this Sunday night Jeff was enrolled at Trinity Western University several provinces away. My daughter was at university in Winnipeg. Drew had magnetism, good looks and athletic prowess. He was studying physical education at York University, had so much potential and wanted to be a high school Phys Ed teacher and coach. He had friends at church, at school and in the sports community. His faith had been hot and cold. Two weeks prior to dying he had uncharacteristically written a letter to Cari our daughter to tell her that he had renewed his commitment to Christ.
His mom asked me the night of Drew’s death to come to the hospital to identify him. He lay on a gurney, a big sneaker on one of his feet, and one off, his muscular body reposed in his denims and lettered jacket and his peaceful handsome face seeming to be grabbing a few ZZZ’s, but he wasn’t going to wake. I helped his mom to select a casket. On the day of the funeral I entered early into the church auditorium and was unprepared and shaken to see his baseball glove, his football helmet, a football perched atop his casket beside a picture of his lively face. Four hundred seats were occupied with double doors open to the gym where more seats were filled. His youthful school friends, most at the first funeral they ever attended, wept as they entered and as they listened. I talked about Drew’s hope and home. Weeks later his mom called me to give me Drew’s blue blazer for my son whom I would soon see at TWU. We received a phone call from Jeff some time after that western visit to tell us that the first time he wore the blazer he reached inside the breast pocket and found a small sample bottle of Drew’s favourite and familiar cologne.
I contacted his mom recently and she sent me some photos that brought this precious young man back into my heart with vivid memories. The last line of the tribute printed in the March 7, 1990 memorial program was “We find comfort in the knowledge that he is now with his heavenly Father and his earthly father.”