And while I live my tongue shall always speak of my debt to you, and of my gratitude Inferno XV: 86-87
God’s sovereignty is absolute (we must hope) but if Dave Winter hasn’t heard “Well done,” who can reasonably expect to hear those words? Is he surrounded by angels and clouds and harps? That’s too easy to dismiss as a moment of overly pious credulity. As part of the heavenly generosity, in which our rightly ordered earthly desires are fulfilled, Dave is more likely sitting at an endless plate of pork ribs slathered in drippy sauce while working with Peter on the ‘Pearly Gates Board of Trustees,’ offering stubbornly prudential thoughts on roles and responsibilities of board members.
The truth is, I don’t have any idea what heaven might be. But if time-bound hints and rumors hold any truth, there must lightness and light and song. Maybe wine. (Who knows?) Laughter too. Our long hope and promise from Isaiah is that “a bruised reed He will not break.” In heaven, the bruised reed – the blind eyes, the cancer-consumed body, the muscles weak with atrophy, the muddled mind – will be made whole again. It will be brought back to its original good-created intent before it was crushed by the darkness of this sometimes unforgiving world. Dave knew darkness of course, and yet:
Hear him, ye deaf,
his praise, ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ,
ye blind behold your Saviour come,
and leap ye lame for joy
How wonderful the ‘and yet’ at the time of death. Dave sees now. Dave always saw further than most of us anyway, even without physical sight.
But even as we hope, we don’t know. And Dave’s death leaves a gap in our lives that cannot be filled. No one I know can match his wisdom, prudence, experience, forbearance and just plain decency. “Steady on,” is what he taught me in word and deed. “Steady now. Stay the course” is how he lived and served. So we rightly mourn and carry on the best we can. But we know with absolute certainty, without a flicker of hesitation, that Dave would have us put our hand to the plow and work, work very hard, to do good things with the time we have, things that speak the wonderful story that God so loved the world, the whole world and every facet of it, and we should explore it and rejoice in it and make straight the path, with humility and good friends by our side. Dave would want that most of all. Steady on now.