A few hours before Dad died, I got home from the hospice and decided to watch one of our ‘family memories’ DVDs which have been so precious to us, particularly watching them since Dads diagnosis. And so there we all were, all 7 of us back in New Zealand in the year 2000, all of us much smaller and much cuter… except mum and dad. But as I sat there watching, I couldn’t hold it back, I was absolutely weeping. Not because I was remembering that my Dad was lying there in a hospice about to die nor because I was preparing to loose him but simply because there we were, my family, as a unit, all together and all so innocent.
There was me and Lydia dancing as we slapped the keys on our little keyboard, Tom riding his tricycle repeatedly into the hedge for no apparent reason, Simeon making threats of war whilst dressed up as a roman soldier named Claudius, Benjy was just there which I found to be so special and finally behind all of it was Dad, the man with the camera. Even through the way he filmed you could see glimpses of his personality, his massive love for his family, and so I sat there weeping knowing we could never be how we used to be. There was no discussions or debates or arguments round the table about philosophy, theology or politics. No real reason for any of us to be upset and none of us by this point had known any real pain. We were comfortable and we were happy.
But I’m glad I don’t have the option to go back because I would always take the choice of comfort and ignorance, but as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11
‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways’
See, I actually quite like the arguments we have around the table but I’d certainly rather go back to how were, but instead here I am, standing in the same place I stood 21 months ago when I spoke at my oldest brother’s funeral, and here I am now speaking at my Dads. But this is the path God has called us to be on, and I knew no one who had a greater sense of that then Dad. Philippians 1v21 is a beautiful verse:
‘For me to live is Christ, to die is gain’
and whilst I love this verse, I feel like it somewhat overshadows what is said straight afterwards which is so key to understanding Dad.
‘If I am to live in the flesh that means fruitful labour for me, yet which I shall choose I can not tell.’
Dad lived this out. This verse totally changes the meaning of ‘To live is Christ, to die is gain’ because it no longer seems to be ‘yeah life is alright but heaven sounds a bit better’ no! Christian life is not comfortable it is not meant to be easy, it requires labour, fruitful labour! And Dad knew this and lived it out.
In a letter Dad wrote to me back in 2012 when I couldn’t care less about my faith he said this
‘My greatest wish in all the world with you as my children is not that you’d be rich nor successful nor popular, but that you’d be committed followers of Jesus Christ. That you would somehow have your eyes opened to see what I saw when I was 19.’
My whole life I have seen such a good example of Christ-like leadership not only in Church but also in the home, but most importantly it felt so organic. Many Christians, myself included, recognising we are called to be humble, gentle, spirit filled, self-sacrificial people try and apply it, but once our feathers are ruffled or something major happens we get knocked back a few steps, but the interesting thing about brain tumours is that they strip all your filters and all your inhibitions back and what we found with Dad is a man who was still very much a gentleman, a man who asked us to pray for him because he couldn’t keep track of his words, a man who was weeping, not out of fear of death but purely because he knew we’d struggle without him, and a man who kept asking if we can sing songs together to glorify his precious Jesus. But, most special to me is that most fundamental thing about Dad that never changed which was his hatred of the idea that there would be people in hell asking ‘Why did Jeremy not tell us about Jesus?’ 4 days before he died I walked in to his room slowly as I wasn’t sure the nurses were finished with him yet, so I stood behind the curtain and I could hear him speaking; there he was, on his death bed, telling a nurse the good news of Jesus, explaining to her where he’d be going in a few days and how she can have that peace that surpasses all understanding too because of what Jesus did 2000 years ago. I stood there and I cried my eyes out because I had got this weird thought in my head that this wasn’t really my dad as I knew him lying on the bed, but this was clear proof that this was very much the Jeremy Clark I’ve loved so dearly. Dad has left all of us in the family a book each which he had been writing between when he was diagnosed up until this September just gone, and two quotes that consistently appear in the book he wrote to me was one that was very special to us from Jim Elliott
‘He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose’
and now we see that clearly, he has not kept any clothes, any books or anything from this life but he has received something eternal that he cannot lose now as he stands in the presence of his creator and the lover of his soul. The other one was one he would always use to gently remind me whenever I had something negative to say about someone from school or church or any acquaintance of mine.
‘God loves them and Christ died for them’
Does this not show his heart in only a few words? This man loved, and was loved by so many and I’m sure we’ll struggle immensely both as a family but also as friends without him but now we have those words of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 which are ever appropriate:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.