Today would have been my father’s 65th birthday. Instead, he had a heart attack seven weeks ago while on his bike and was gone before he knew what happened. His was a poetic death—exactly what he would have wanted albeit the part about it coming at least a quarter-century too soon.
The Saturday we gathered at church to celebrate his life was majestic. We stood in the receiving line for five nonstop hours before it had to be cut off for the service to begin. The overflow crowds sat in folding chairs, and the live feed had over 3,000 viewers from around the globe—including Bishop Ntambo and Bishop Mande who were unable to get last minute flights. The tributes we received that day and the days afterward were overwhelming in a wonderful way. If only my father had fully understood that he was loved by so many and so much.
For me, “Biking Bob” (self-dubbed: The Mad Man on a Bike) was more than my father; he was my mentor, my coach, my co-conspirator, my teammate. He was the only person who could tell me I was wrong about something and I’d accept the correction without question. He was brilliant, and if people thought he didn’t make any sense, it was simply because they weren’t keeping up.
In addition to being a pastor, missiologist, and retired Marine Corps helicopter pilot, my father was a die-hard Whovian and raised me to be one too.
Death looks different through a Whovian’s eyes. We are acutely aware of the universe and time itself, and we put our sorrows in the context of the bigger picture, yet we also affirm that there are no un-important people--what we do matters. Whovians are used to thinking in terms of everyone being simultaneously dead and alive, depending on when one happens to be at a given moment. We see death as a constant companion, and we find comfort in the idea of regeneration* and a non-linear view of time. We move forward, knowing that pain and loss define us as much as happiness and love. We know that pain is a gift. We know that we are all stories in the end. My father's was a great one.
*My mother is currently in the process of regeneration. It is an excruciating transformation; she doesn't want the old her (Bob's wife and beloved traveling companion) to go, but she clings to the faith that the new Teri is about to arise. She is uncertain that she will be fine, but I assure her that she will be amazing.