Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Strangely, I do remember Toby Scott being there. Toby is now Director of Communications for the Methodist Church of Great Britain and writes occasionally for the Guardian. And Richard Bowker too, former head of National Express, now building railways in the UAE. And author Mike Hampson. He was there.

But Rob Graham? I've never recalled him. Yet he says I was responsible for his coming to faith that weekend our school Christian Union spent in Grassington Congregationalist Church.

How typical. Rob wasn't about flash and surface and being noticed. He was a worker - someone who made things happen, who got things done. I'd see him do the things I did sometimes and want to plead with him not to: why would he want to trade in all the qualities of life he had and add to them the flighty things that I had?

After QEGS, I went to Merton college Oxford. He followed three years later. After Merton, I became lay-assistant at St Aldate's. Rob followed that too. After St Aldate's, I went to Wycliffe Hall to train for ordination. Rob stayed a while at St Aldate's, being an administrator for the student work, though he really wanted to be a worship leader. A pastor. A preacher. And sure enough - he then went to Wycliffe Hall to train for ordination.

George (Rob's dad, who I think I met first when I cycled over to Rob's house in Garstang one summer, when we were both still at school & George and Elaine were running the Methodist church there) said to me this weekend "I don't think you realise how much he thought of you".

But it was I who was the silent one in this friendship. I, the eternally taciturn and unemotional, who would have left no clue of my feelings for such a good and broken and imperfect and wonderful friend.

He came to me when his marriage was in trouble - and sought my help. I fully understood. I fully grasped everything he said. And yes, eventually, having promised him no judgement, I fully judged him in the end by losing patience with him. When someone you trust highly lets you down it's never easy; I let him down. And he cut the communication. I don't blame him. And when he tried to re-open it, I was slow to respond. Pride, you see.

Eventually we slowly thawed, with bits of internet chat. I was looking forwards to seeing him in due course. We had all the time in the world.

Till a Mercedes outside Chesterfield on a rainy, windy night ploughed into Rob's car, and then there was no time for any of us any more. His final act was to keep his children safe, but not himself.

It's not the guilt for having been imperfect in a friendship. It's the pure sadness at not being able to say how much I value him to his face. It's the shock of discovering the truth of this only when it's too late. Stupid, stupid.

Memories of of singing in York Minster & of recording together with Indra's choir, of school, of St Aldate's, of his licensing in Nailsea, of praying with Rob and Catharine Morris and having lunch together, of Ruth and Rob's wedding - where I played trumpet in Merton Chapel (and yet we remained friends - how much punishment can a person take!) and of all those terrible sweaters he wore.

But now my friend you have gone before me and it is my turn to be the one who follows in your footsteps. The roles are reversed. You see face to face the One I see only by faith, dimly; but though I tarry, I shall be there one day. Our paths have been linked too long, so accept my sadness at our recent silence, and know how much I think of you.

Dear Lord Jesus, grant to Rob a peaceful rest and a glorious rising. And to all of us who have been robbed of our Rob, your Spirit's comfort, please.

1 comment:

the_exile said...

Well said. Thanks.