My friend Alan died a few days ago. We saw it coming, as he had had a recent respiratory illness and then contracted Covid. The obituary is here.
A remarkable and entertaining fellow. He was one of the first to welcome me to my church in the 1980s, and I was in Men's Bible Study on Saturday mornings with him - the study for those who were still working. The older guys had their own study on Tuesday mornings, but they are gone now. That is how the world is. I went on retreat with him twice out at Pilgrim Pines in those days, and both times I came back with an Alan quote I have kept to this day. We were discussing the role of husbands and wives and Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord, and he said "I've been shopping around to see if I can find that as wallpaper to put up in our house. I've never put up wallpaper, but I figure this would be a good place to start. Has anyone seen this around?"
He was Special Forces, embedded alone in a Vietnamese village in 1961, which was likely a bit hairy, but he would laugh about it. "Only the Army would try to disguise a 6'2" Swede in a sarong as Vietnamese," or "They told us we were there to protect the rubber plantations, but I never saw one while I was there."
When he went on mission trips to Croatia after the fall of the Iron Curtain he made special effort to talk to the soldiers damaged by the years of war, and listening to them pour out their hatred because of the language of even the printed Serbo-Croatian version of the Bibles that they had. He admitted he didn't have much to tell them, only that hatred would hurt them in the end. "I don't really have any idea what they've been through." He was politically deeply opinionated, pigheaded and unmovable even by my standards - that is not a good standard - but was also jovial about it and without hatred.
In later years he was supportive and even rescuing of many in the Sudanese refugee community here in the Manchester area. Again, his heart went out to those who had seen great violence and suffering, shaking his head that he "could not imagine" what it was like.