Hey Joe

Joe BeckA little over three weeks ago, I had to do another funeral for a friend. As a preacher, weddings and funerals are part of the gig. Weddings are mostly fun, at least in the beginning. Funerals, however, are bitter sweet. This one, of Joe Beck, was sweet because he’s with the Lord, but bitter because I won’t see him again.

Some funerals are hard for me. I’ve done my dad’s, my brother-in-law Tom’s, Bonnie’s mom Nadine, and friend’s parents. I rarely get my own time to grieve. So let me use this as a final chance to grieve. This funeral was hard.

Joe was a character, to say the least. He had a hard time hearing, a hard time saying “no” when people were in need, and just an all around good guy. We say that at funerals, don’t we? “He was a good guy”. “She was a great gal”. But Joe truly was a great guy.

I performed his and Cindy’s wedding. I went to see Bob Dylan with Joe and our friends, Rich and Roberta. Joe and my wife Bonnie aren’t big Dylan fans, go figure, so Joe was my date. We shared many bonfires, Christmas parties, and work days at the church. We talked often how that for some reason God saved us from ourselves as we should be dead. But for some reason, we were alive.

We ran with some of the same people in the past, and it was amazing that we didn’t run into each other, unless of course, we did when we were drunk. We both became Christians, and continually thanked God for not letting us turn our craziness and debauchery into death, and that He saved us for a reason.

We always had a routine we did in church. Whoever would see the other one first, one of us would say, “Hey Joe,” and the other would respond ” where you going with that gun in your hand”. (For you young folks, this is a line from a classic Jimi Hendrix song, “Hey Joe”).  As we would leave church we always hugged and gave each other a kiss on the cheek. (2 Cor. 13:12- “Greet each other with a holy kiss”.)  None of this was ever premeditated, but it just happened. And neither one minded.

He sat on the right side of the church, first row. Those of you who know me sometimes are aware that I ad lib a bit. I do that in my sermons, and when I did, it usually included a friendly jab at Joe, teasing him. He would turn red, but always smiled, the congregation would laugh, and Joe would say, “Well if you’re picking on me, you’re leaving other people alone.”  I always told him, “I only pick on the ones I love.

He always talked about “Going home”. He knew he had an eternal home waiting for him and was ready to go. I know he didn’t want to leave Cindy or his kids and grand kids, but he certainly wanted to go home. We both talked about wanting to “go home”.

The Sunday before he died, we gave each other a kiss on the cheek and he started to walk away. He turned around and said, “Hey keep me in prayer. The doctor says that I only have 20% of my heart working. They’re putting me on a transplant list, but I’m almost 70, they’re not going to give me a heart.” “Of course”, I said. Four days later he was dead.

So he died, 4 days before his 70th birthday. He shared his birthday with Bonnie, and they were birthday buddies.  It’s hard not seeing him in the front row. It’s hard seeing how his wife Cindy and sister Sue still mourn. Death is the great equalizer. An old Italian proverb says, “At the end of the game, the pawn and the King go into the same box.” That’s how death works.

He went home. I miss him.

Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?

 

 

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