A gathering of real friends
This event should be a model for...
|Tom Kovach (rhymes with "watch") lives near Nashville, is a former USAF Blue Beret, and has written for several online publications. He has written two books: Slingshot in 2006, and Tribulation: 2008 just recently. Tom is an inventor, a horse wrangler, a certified paralegal, and former network talk-show host. He has also run for Congress. To learn more, click: www.TomKovach.US.|
Two days ago, I went to a public gathering.
It was unlike any other, and should serve as a model for such events.
Among other things, I have not laughed so much in a one-hour period in a long time. On a couple of occasions, I had trouble catching my breath ... and so did the people around me.
Who would've thought that people could have so much fun at a funeral?
Last week, long-time Nashville TV-news anchor Dan Miller died suddenly, at age 67, of a massive heart attack. He had been in broadcasting all of his adult life. Dan was not only a local institution, but had made his mark in certain national venues. Most every evening, I'd watch Dan and his long-time colleague, Demetria Kalodimos, deliver the news on WSMV TV-4 in Nashville. Although my public activism has put me in contact with the news media for years, I had never met Dan Miller. (In fact, he was one of the few local reporters with whom I've not had an e-mail exchange.)
So... why did I go to his funeral?
It was because of what his friends said about him.
And, within 24 hours of the news of Dan's death, there were more than 95 pages of comments from his TV fans.
Between the things that his co-workers and friends had said about him, and what little I knew by watching him on the TV news, plus all the kind words from so many viewers, I felt compelled to go to his memorial service (to which the public had been invited) to get to know this man better. Besides, I had dealt with several of his co-workers via my community activism, and wanted to stand with them in this time of grief.
But, there wasn't much grief at Dan Miller's funeral. In fact, the biggest grief was finding a parking spot. An ocean of cars covered the neighborhood surrounding the church.
Now, we arrive at the meat of the story.
Among the friends that spoke at Dan Miller's funeral was his former boss: Father Mike Kettenring. How is it that a TV-news anchor has a priest for a former boss? After he retired from the news business, Mike's wife died. He then became a priest. His TV-news background gave Father Mike a cut-to-the-bone talent in his presentation of the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Father Mike had the crowd roaring with laughter at the vignettes of Dan Miller's foibles, yet this savvy priest never lost touch with the seriousness of the eternal consequences of life. I cannot give many details from his speech, because it was a seamless tapestry of humor and homily. If I left anything out, it would be like a crown missing a jewel.
Two of Dan's long-time friends (40 years each) had also worked with him at TV-4 in Nashville. One of them, sportscaster Rudy Kalis, had stayed there. The other, Wheel of Fortune game-show host Pat Sajak, had moved on from his beginnings as Nashville's local weather presenter. Both gave insightful, skilled, touching tributes to their friend.
It spoke volumes that some other people -- singer Vince Gill (who sang "Give Me Jesus" during the memorial service), and singer Tim McGraw (who gave a TV interview of his fond recollections of Dan) -- volunteered their time to honor this man that had touched their lives in so many ways.
Pat Sajak mentioned "the phone call you don't want to get". He also described how he and Dan had been e-mailing back and forth about mutual friends that had died in the past few years. One of Dan's e-mail mentioned "thinning the herd" and that "we're the only ones left". Sajak wove his own recollections in with quotes from Dan's e-mails. For several years, Dan had moved out to Los Angeles and had helped Pat with a late-night talk show. To me, it spoke volumes that Pat thought so much of Dan as to invite him to move across the country to help with such a venture, when there were already so many talented people in Los Angeles. And, it spoke volumes that Dan was willing to make the move. Sajak's speech was a fascinating insight into a man that became more fascinating to me with every story that his friends told. (Of course, Sajak's story also had me hoping that some of my e-mails do not go public until after I'm gone....)
Rudy Kalis was with Dan Miller at the moment of his death. And, as the story unfolded, Rudy called that moment a "privilege". I can think of worse ways to go than in the arms of a 40-year friend. And, I could only hope to receive a eulogy as sincere as that from Rudy Kalis. One of the many things that impressed me was Kalis' smooth command of the Holy Bible. It was not merely that he could recall stories and references, but that he had such a solid grasp on the application of Scripture. Whenever he's done talking about sports, there might be a collar in Rudy Kalis' future, too.
And, that leads to the best part of all. From the stories of every single speaker at Dan Miller's funeral, and from the stories told on the news each night leading up to it, and from the stories I heard in the parking lot afterward, and from the looks of love on the faces of so many people, it was obvious that these people were friends of Jesus in addition to being friends of each other. There was an awful lot of love, and laughter, at that funeral. If my body and soul do not leave Earth at the same time (via an event called "The Rapture"), then I would like to have a send-off as superbly sincere as the one that Dan Miller received.
That is a gathering of real friends.
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