So I am at the funeral for the son of an old mentor of mine and my closet truth friends.
(I talked about R in a previous post, he was the most formative person in my life in the truth, and those of my family and friends.)
I was pulled aside by R's wife; she tells me that R wants to talk to me.
(I recall the last convention I went to, maybe 2006, where R attended; he found his way to me and my family and said it was worth coming to the convention, having run into me and my extended family.
This is not like R, to be emotional and show it; when he was younger, he was the definition of the stern figure, the disciplinarian in the kingdom hall.
Not the raving rule monger some are, but just hard-line in that quiet way.
As the congregation servant and the one to make the decision, he would not allow a good friend of mine, married in the 60's, to have a train on her dress; too like the world, too showy, apparently.)
So I wondered what he might say to me at this emotional time, the funeral of his son, a cancer victim in his early 50's.
The funeral talk was the usual bait and switch witness funeral talk; tiny bits of personal touches, in the midst of heavy handed references 'this is what his hope was', 'this is what he believed'.
They always leave me yearning for more of the person, and less of the party line.
So we make our way over to the community center where the after funeral lunch was held, and after a time, I wander over to talk to R.
When he sees me, I get from him the old look, so familiar, where he tips his head back slightly and just off to the side, and nods slightly, giving me a bemused look; what does this look say, I am trying to figure out?
I extend my hand, and say, Hello R, sorry for your loss.
Again I am surprised; the very formal R ignores the extended hand and draws me into a fierce bear hug.
I am so taken aback I hardly notice that R is wearing a thin back brace; the idea of this tough as nails brother wearing a back brace gives me pause.
He draws back, but not far; he is still uncomfortably close to me, still hanging onto my arms.
He asks me that question we all have heard and maybe continue to hear when we see our witness friends:
“ Are you OK? Are you really OK?
I heard you have not been attending meetings. Are you OK?”
This is accompanied by the heartfelt look, with just a tinge of sympathy, you know the look.
ME: “I am fine, R.”
R: “Has someone offended you? I keep hearing things.”
Me: “No, R; I am fine, really, you don't need to worry about me.”
R: “Because if someone has said something to you or offended you, I know how that is. People have said things to me, too.”
I so want to know what he is trying to say, but can't bring myself to ask. This is a rare show of, what, weakness, humanity, from someone I know as the rock.
He presses the issue:
R: “I think of you as like a son to me (this is very hard to hear, I have a hard time hiding tears, as he has just lost his son); we have been through a lot together and you can tell me anything. I think of the times I have spent with you and your family, you can tell me anything.”
I am just not ready for this insistent push, and I tell him I will come by sometime and tell him what is on my mind.
R: “And I will listen, and then maybe I can tell you, and you can listen to me.”
We stay at the funeral for a time, with a few friends and family members (active witnesses) so curious about what R said to me, having seen the embrace and exchange. Some ask me what he said; I tell them most of it but not about him wanting to tell me something.
Maybe they wonder if he has asked me the hard questions they have not been able to ask.
It takes me a while after I leave the funeral to realize that R might have been reaching out to me; it seems like he needed an ear to hear what he was going through.
After a few days, I realize I probably can't help this old friend and mentor, that I am no longer living in the same world he is in.
I can't tell him that all will be well, that soon the new world will be here and he will see his son again, though it crosses my mind that maybe I should.
I have very mixed feelings about R.
When I consider the worldview I took on as a result of him mentoring me and being around my family, I realize how hard line and unrelenting his view (and mine) of the truth was, but my memories of the man are not unpleasant, and I feel a real loss at not being able to drive over to his home, where he now has lots of time on his hands to think about things, and just listen to him.
At times I wonder how I would have looked at the truth if me and my friends had been mentored by K instead, a really great brother who just looked at things so much more openly.
(K also jumped on the '75 bandwagon, quitting his very good job at the state in the early 70's and eventually needing the financial support of children and grandchildren.
K passed away a few years ago, and his wife just recently.)
I don't want to be there at the hall any longer, but as these old oak trees of my youth weaken and fall, it hurts just the same, and more than I expected.