On Saturday I preached the funeral of a great man. Doug McArthur was the Treasurer of Trinity Church in Solebury, Pennsylvania, where I was privileged to minister for eleven years. As I reflected on why Doug had been such a powerful influence in my life, I realized that he was a grand father. He was actually my father’s age, 93, but he was a grand father—someone who has developed a great soul, a large heart. A man of wisdom.
We all told stories of course, that’s what funerals are for. And all our Doug stories were about how the man had been calm and confident, humble yet sure, when the rest of us were all in a kerfuffle about this or that. When our mission hopes exceeded our budget and the worriers started the nervous dance in the corners, Doug just smiled—that’s all! When our church burned down, he said very little but his presence said, We’ll be all right. There is a way through.
As I grieved his death, I realized that Doug was in his seventies when I first came to Trinity twenty years ago, and I needed a lot of grand energy! I was 35 and I had a demanding job; I was married to a woman who had an even more demanding career; we had two little kids. We were in that crazy phase where you hardly come up for air, hardly breathe. No wonder I loved Doug. His presence was a balm. He was a Mentor, a guide, an advisor, a friend. How I needed a grand father.
In my funeral homily I told this story. It’s the best memory I have of Doug.
A comet was making a rare appearance, and Doug had been telling me for a few days that I had to see this comet. And I said, “Oh, yes—I’ll be sure to do that.” But of course I was too busy. Watching comets was for old men. Then the night of the event, we were at a meeting together, and as we were leaving rather late at night, Doug said, “Don’t forget that comet—it’s tonight . . . won’t see it again for fifty years. I’ll be dead!” Now he sounded like a prophet. I felt an urgency.
So I went home, got Pam, got my kids out of bed. The kids thought it was a fire drill, and I told them it was—sort of. A fireball was hurtling through the night sky and a prophet had told me we must all see it. So they pulled on jackets and we went outside, into an open field. We looked up into the heavens and there it was, “with a [fiery] tail as big as a kite.”
Thank you, Doug, for that moment, for pointing me to that star, and for knowing that it would take more than one pointing, that I was too busy, too scattered, for knowing that I needed a grand father to point me to the heavens.
Rest in peace, good friend.