(We recently lost the beautiful human Daniel Fry. This is the Tribute I shared (among other Tributes, prayers, poems and songs) at the Service of Love and Thanksgiving, in Fitzroy on March 29, 2022)
It was almost like the weather went unseasonal as a Tribute to Daniel Fry. I think of Daniel as the sunniest of summer days - joyous, bright, beautiful, warm, drawing people out of whatever they hide behind.
I have known Daniel since he was born. His first big outing was to my 40th birthday party. Then we traveled to Canada together when he was car seated. I have a lovely blurred moment where he and I are licking the cups of our Dairy Queens!
Through two decades I have followed his humour and imagination, his organisational precision and his servant heart. His brilliant mind.
From Quiz Master Brilliant at a Church weekend when he was about 10 to being (with Jonah) waiter and dishwasher at Jacob Stockdale's (Six Nations Rugby Player of the Year at the time) Birthday Party to helping my daughter in our Church Creche.
I was at the mercy of his insistent finishing when I was late with my contribution to his dad’s big bottle of messages for his 50th year. An imaginative idea, administered thoroughly.
I have followed his academic successes and now in Cambridge his love for words was going public in his film reviews. Of Belfast he wrote “The monochromatic cinematography that pervades the feature symbolises the struggle between nostalgia and reality.” Google it. Mighty fine work
BUT you know the minister asks himself very regularly if he is wasting his time. Is anyone listening even when you preach a good one? What difference does it make? Today I am assured that at least one young man, that I baptised here, got it.
Truth is it’s hard to preach a different idea every week for one year never mind the near 13 I have been here. I only have a few ideas. They are a couple of big ideas and I attempt to share them through a wide variety of disguises and rock music lyrics.
I think my two main things are to live LIVE IN ALL ITS FULNESS as Jesus invited us live and to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF as Jesus inspired us to be kind in a world that is not very often kind.
I am kinda chuffed that Daniel seemed to get this and lived it. Even in Cambridge away from his family and his minister and Church Daniel who could have done what he liked or hid in his room and the library committed himself to these two ideas.
For a young man whose University life was limited by Covid what a high, wide and deep impression Daniel made. What a DASH (poem read earlier in Service. Life in all its fulness.
Getting involved in the Church nearby, in volunteering for the Cambridge homelessness charity Streetbite… kindness… to making friends across Homerton College… kindness… Daniel’s reading the Bible and Walter Brueggeman every morning fired a servant life of kindness.
Life in all its fulness. Loving his neighbour.
Not only that but he lived it in his particular way as of course Daniel did everything
I have never read the Parable of The Good Samaritan at a Thanksgiving. Yet, when we scanned the Bible for a passage to read today, it had to be.
Let me ask you his friends if you are not nodding to the fact that those who others would pass by for whatever reason were the ones that Daniel looked out for, would stop with, would have a word or act of kindness for.
Seeing other people’s need is one thing BUT then having the courage to walk across a room and make conversation was another. The Good Samaritan looked past the prejudice. The Good Samaritan took the risk. The Good Samaritan had the courage for kindness.
Daniel Fry had a Jesus like empathy and deep compassion for those who were like a sheep without a shepherd. That kindness. He also had peripheral vision. I always saw his uncle Mike when I looked at Daniel. Mike is a good hockey player. Mike would appreciate a hockey player with peripheral vision. Someone able to almost panorama a pitch and see the pass that no one else sees.
Daniel had peripheral vision in whatever room, community, college, church or city he happened to be walking in. He saw those the rest of us missed by choice, prejudice or laziness. He was attentive to the needy. I heard stories in our crèche that had in Daniel’s time a couple of children struggling socially. Those would be the ones Daniel Fry was sitting with, loving, caring for like that Good Samaritan, using his silly socks or any other Daniel-clever way to do it.
In these days too sad to comprehend we find ourselves on sacred ground. As we tell our stories can I ask that we lean in to the inspiration Daniel has left us. He would so love if we carried on doing this life in all its fulness… loving our neighbours as ourselves… grace, agape, kindness.
And we can begin by loving Chris, Susan and Jonah. I speak of the Holy Spirit as being a a companion, counsellor and comforter as Jesus suggested in John. As I pray that upon Chris, Susan, Jonah and the whole family I ask that you all become conduits of the Holy Spirit.
Protestants are bad at the long journey of grief. Our perseverance of love often ends when we leave today. Perhaps we feel that it will be uncomfortable for Chris, Susan and Jonah if we mention Daniel or we fear we might get caught into some prayer for the dead.
Whatever Padraig has prayed us into some good Catholic practices that help. There will be other times to celebrate Daniel. An I encourage Chris, Susan and Jonah to use them. Can I also suggest that there will never be a time not to celebrate Daniel and that this family will be blessed when you remember a story and share it with them.
It might be how we all see as the Good Samaritan saw. And how we courageously help like the Good Samaritan helped. It will be kindness.
And to Chris, Susan and Jonah. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, dearest friends, Fitzroy… Let me leave you with some John O'Donohue so important to Daniel’s parents
May the Angel of Wisdom
Enter this ruin of absence
And guide your minds
To receive this bitter chalice
So that you do not damage yourselves
By attending only at the hungry altar
Of regret and anger and guilt.
May you be given some inkling
That there could be something else at work
And that what to you now seems
Dark, destructive and forlorn,
Might be a destiny that looks different
From inside the eternal script.
May vision be granted to you
To see this with the eyes of providence.
May your loss become a sanctuary
Where new presence will dwell
To refine and enrich
The rest of your life
With courage and compassion.
And may your lost loved one
Enter into the beauty of eternal tranquillity,
In that place where there is no more sorrow
Or separation or mourning or tears.
Whatever was Daniel’s deep pain. It is gone. He is at peace. Into our deep pain I think Daniel might say, 'love each other'. Be kind.