We are gathered here today in the sort of scene that I don’t think anyone wants to see. For those of us who knew the man whose life we honor and celebrate today, I think it is clear that he had a lot more to do and accomplish in life. He wasn’t responsible for his own death, he hadn’t lived his full life as most people do, and there was a lot that he was looking forward to doing in the future that he would never have the chance to do. But we are not among those who sorrow without hope. We know that the deceased was a decent and an honorable man. Those of us who knew him well knew his patterns of behavior and his restraint and his refusal to live as so many in his line of work live. We saw how he refused to take advantage of his fame and celebrity status and valued privacy and a quiet life that he was never able to find.
Unlike many people, our expectation of what is to come for the deceased is taken from the Bible. Whatever struggles and difficulties he faced, he is at peace and at rest now awaiting the resurrection to eternal life. Let us turn in our Bibles to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
We do not live without hope. We know that when we die, we sleep. The Bible speaks of this sleep as a favor for those who are alive. Hebrews 11:49-50 speaks of this waiting of the faithful dead as a favor that is given to those who are alive: “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” Likewise, Isaiah 57:1-2 tells us something about people like the deceased: “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” To be sure, he was a human being with flaws and struggles and difficulties like everyone else, but he was a righteous man and he was taken away from evil. Not only is he free of the evil of his situation as being a celebrity continually surrounded by opportunities to sin and to take advantage of others who are overawed by fame, but he is free from the evils of living in a society like our own with its corruption and its flagrant rebellion against godly ways of living. We should remember that he suffered personally from this rebellion and from the way that his own quiet and unobtrusive godliness drew hostility from those who want to lead our country further into evil.
But we know that the corruption of the present-day is not going to last forever, and neither will the corruption of death that he now faces. Let us turn to 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, which reads: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”” Although we all want to live and accomplish much more in our lives, we can take comfort in the fact that when he next opens his eyes, he will have put on immortality and will wake up in victory at the last trumpet, at the return of Jesus Christ. Until then, he sleeps in peace.
I must admit that I did not know him as well as some of the people here did who he grew up with. I don’t think anyone expected that he was the sort of person who would expect fame. But it is said in Ecclesiastes 9:11-12: “I returned and saw under the sun that—The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.” So it was with him. He managed to write his own epitaph, something that one would expect as he was a poetic soul. His epitaph was as follows:
Vivir es sufrir,
Morir es dormir.
Aqui no sufrirè nada más,
Así dèjame dormir en paz.
He had given the translation of this as follows:
To live is to suffer,
To die is to sleep.
Here I will suffer nothing more,
So let me sleep in peace.
I believe his wish will be granted, and I thank you all for coming here to celebrate his life.
When I was given this assignment, I thought it would be an easy thing to understand the life of the man we called #N/A. He was a person of simple patterns and habits. He liked to eat the same dishes at the same restaurants. He read widely, he was sociable but also deeply shy, someone who both longed for and feared intimacy, someone who was a loyal friend but also someone who was somewhat mysterious. And yet though I have read page after page of paperwork, listened to his music, watched the videos of people who knew him and his own statements to others, he remains as much a mystery to me now as he was before. And now that he is gone, neither I nor anyone else will ever have the chance to solve those mysterious and puzzles that he presented to us. We do not even know what sort of picture the puzzles are supposed to make. How would he have handled fame, and how would he have continued to create material even if little of it was popular? Would he have married and slowed down his intense writing routine? Would he have gracefully handled being known primarily for one song that was very different than most of his material? We will never know. He is gone and we are here and we screwed up our chance to get to know him better, to be closer to him, and to communicate well with him. Thanks to our envy and jealousy of what he had to offer, we had awkward silences where we should have been friends, and that time will never be recovered. We have lost that chance, perhaps forever.