Allow me to share with you a slice of raw life, that I encounted when I attended the funeral of Danny. A moment when the frills and thrills of life are stripped away to a moment in time when raw life is seen in the corridors of death.
Danny was merely an acquaintance. I had met him very briefly a few years ago. But he had shown a kindness to my son, had gone way out of his way to give him a lift back home – and for that reason I had decided to attend his funeral
Apart from being kind, Danny was also a very unlikely saint, but a saint nevertheless.
I knew very little about him, except that he had had a very hard life.
So it was with intense interest that I listened to the eulogies of some of the people who had been influenced by his life.
The Pastor spoke of how he had known Danny for a short while. Had spent much time, in the last days of his life with him, and learned that Danny’s whole life was nothing but rejection. He had known rejection so well. He had grown up as a child being a beggar on the streets, and found his food in dustbins. He became a drug addict, and ended up in a Rehabilitation Centre.
When he joined “normal life’ he took Kelven under his wing, gave him a home, a safe haven, and an education.
Danny had a Prison ministry, but when he was approached by the Correctional officer to temper the gospel message, Danny gave it up, as he was not prepared to dilute the Gospel of Jesus .
The lady from the Compassionate Hands Shelter, spoke softly but gently about Danny. How she had been an addict and on the streets, wanted to take her own life, then met Danny – an unlikely helper, who walked the walk with her through her pregnancies. Today she is free from drugs, is raising two children, and helping to run the Shelter – all because Danny took the time to love her unconditionally through the hard times.
Kelven, Danny’s ‘adopted son’ spoke briefly. But those of us listening to these testimonies of his life, were all choked up, because of the emotions that ran so deep in Kelven. Kelven spoke of how he had been in prison, and when he came out, it was Danny who took him in, and gave him a home. Five times he had tried to commit suicide, but it was Danny’s strong and unconditional love that pulled him through those moments. Danny’s strict and sometimes harsh ways never faltered at loving him.
“He never judged me, he just loved me unconditionally” were Kelven’s final words on Danny. I think if some of us could sob out loud we would have done so, but being polite restrained the 100 tears that wanted to flow at such a love, and to comfort Kelven.
The lady from the Bible study group said that Danny may have been a rough diamond, but that they understood that some of his crustiness was just a protection from all the pain inside him. He was a student of God’s Word, and loved to share his knowledge with all who would listen. And he made time to listen to those who needed to speak, he made time to be available to those who needed to talk.
It was a simple, but beautiful service. Full of respect and dignity for one of their own, who knew the hard life of the streets, at rehab and shelter centres – the places where life in the raw occurs.
There were many people at the funeral, for one who was so humble and almost ‘insignificant’, but so great in the work of the kingdom of God. God’s ways are not our ways, that’s for sure.
There were people from different walks of life, but particularly from the many broken lives, who knew and loved Danny.
Jesus was one of the esteemed dignitaries present at that funeral. This was so evident when hands were raised in praise, as we sang and cried through that beautiful song – Great is thy Faithfulness, – words that broken lives attest to so well.
It was a humbling experience, tasting life in the raw. Being in the company of those who had to face God through their own personal hell. Being in the invisible presence of God, where everyone and everything is diminished to its own insignificant smallness. Where love permeates the room.
It made me think how easily we tend to overlook those who are destitute and battling life at the raw edge.
We are so consumed with materialism, pumped up with pictures of the ‘good life’ wanting the niceties from life, that we become oblivious of any other kind of life, little realising that ‘there by the grace of God go I’
A timely reminder from a life lived strong with unconditional love, a life lived through God’s love. May his tribe increase.
Rest in peace Danny.