Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the Matt Miller column I said I wouldn't post

Editor's Note: This column was originally a good bit longer and an awful lot angrier — my publisher, fortunately, had the good sense to read it and tell me to cut it back before it ran. Multiple people have called or emailed to say that this column touched them. I don't think it's that good. But here it is, for better or worse. If you want a good eulogy for Matt, read what David, Donald and Robert read to the gathered masses last week at his funeral. Not a dry eye in the room.

Angry, hurt, confused

There aren’t words to say
Words aren’t remembered
But presence is
A good friend once told me
And he was there
He was there
But she wasn’t there
And it’s not fair
It’s not fair*

Not enough people knew about Matt. I barely feel like I knew him, certainly not well enough to write him a proper eulogy. I do know that at age 25, he always seemed older than he was – at age 18, he strode up to me and confidently declared he’d handle our intramural jerseys through his own t-shirt company. And he did.

Matt loved Alabama football. As much as anyone I know. After the SEC Championship Game win over Florida this past December, Matt posted a facebook status warning, “All my Auburn friends might want to block me for the next 72 hours or so.”

My friend Matt Miller loved Camp Sumatanga — he served there every summer for as long as anyone can remember, and everyone there remembers him as a guy who was quick to say whatever was on his mind, and quick with a hug.

“You never got cheated on a hug from Matt.” That was my wife’s memory of him.

And my friend Matt loved the Lord. He had dedicated his life to ministry, was less than one semester away from completing his seminary work and was already pastoring a small church in Millport, Ala.

“Matt was one of our most promising young ministers.” That was Bishop Will Willimon’s memory of him.

For reasons unbeknownst to all of us, God chose to call Matt home Saturday — an accident while he was hunting with his dad in Arkansas. He died only a few hours before his favorite football team celebrated a national championship in Tuscaloosa.

On Wednesday they’ll bury his earthly remains. And the rest of us will have to carry on without him.

If you think I’m angry and having a hard time knowing how to carry on, you’re right. Because it’s not fair.

I don’t weep for Matt. Matt’s just fine. He got the best seat in the house on Saturday, and I suspect he hasn’t stopped talking to everybody he can grab hold of since he left this earth.

No, I cry for all of us down here. I cry for the work he wasn’t able to finish while he was here. I cry for his family, his extended family, the one that stretches all across North Alabama, from Hoover to Millport to Tuscaloosa to Sumatanga and way beyond that.

We’re the ones who are lost today.

*The song is actually an old Derek Webb tune, which appeared on the first Caedmons Call CD. It's painful to listen to, because Webb's voice takes on the persona of a weeping funeral guest. Yeah.


W. David Miller said...

Thanks Will. That is great.

Anonymous said...

Very, very touching. He obviously impacted a lot of lives in his short 25 years on this earth, and no doubt he is with God now, rejoicing. This is a wonderful tribute, Will.

-D. said...

Well done, my friend. Thanks for sharing that.