Good afternoon Church.
No more that burly gait
No more that joyous face
No more that radiant smile
No more that resonant voice
No more on this earth, my brother, Duranie “Heavy” Daniel
Yet, in my heart, he is here.
In my bones and in my marrow,
Heavy lives on.
In my memory,
In my every conscious moment,
He stands beside me as he always did.
My brother, and my friend;
My true friend!
The chain of love he forged
Has not been broken by his untimely death.
Nor has it been in the least bit weakened.
If anything, the chain has grown stronger.
Reaching beyond this mortal life
To that better place where Heavy must be
Laughing and happy in the company of the Almighty.
I do not pretend that I do not feel anger at his loss.
I do not pretend that my heart is not
Bursting with the grief of his passing.
I do not pretend that I do no question why.
I do all these things
And, I cry inside, as I weep outside.
For Heavy did not deserve to die so young and so sudden.
We have come today to mourn the passing and to celebrate the life of Duranie “Heavy” Daniel, my Comrade and friend.
Everyone feels a deep sense of loss when a loved-one is cut-down in his prime, while enjoying the fullness of life. Duranie, at age 48, was still filled with so much hope, so much love, so much more to give, so much more to share, and so many more dreams to fulfill.
Duranie was still a man in his prime; for, with the miracles of today’s health care systems, 48 years is a very young age at which to die. None of us expected him to be called to the Great Beyond so suddenly, without warning, and this makes us doubly sad.
We have lived long enough to know that life is not fair, and none of us is guaranteed this precious gift of life to a ripe old age. We live everyday by the mercy of God, and to him we must give constant and incessant praise, accepting his mercies and using every day to do good, to be kind, to love, to share, and to grow.
Duranie was a very kind man who expressed that characteristic by his willingness to share, his propensity to give. His joy from knowing that he had improved someone’s well-being by his charity seemed to cause him to glow from the inside. I like generous people, and I liked Duranie’s spirit. He loved to give.
In that regard, he reminds me of his late grandmother, Gertrude, who made all of Parham and me the best rice pudding money could buy. She would not accept my money but supplied me with the tastiest pudding regularly. Duranie learned that skill of preparing rice pudding from his grandmother Gertrude; that generosity of spirit was also learned from her, I believe.
Duranie’s mother, my dear friend, Cameletta Smithen, has been a tower of strength, and continues to hold the family together. Duranie has a big family and that may be the source of his generosity. Large families can have disagreements within; but, large families can also have angels within. Duranie was a very kind man. His siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews could constitute a village. Yet, the largeness in numbers of his family permits more grief and sadness, more unhappiness and sorrow by the loss of a member. And, Parham has lost a son whose presence will be missed.
I feel for his four children who will not have a father to help to guide and sustain them. They have been robbed of the rod and staff that fathers rely upon, in order to give guidance and show love. Death and love are the two wings that bear a man to heaven. If heaven is the place where the good man goes after death, then my Comrade and friend, Duranie Heavy Daniel has soared to that wonderful place on high.
Death also leaves a heartache that only time can heal; love leaves a memory that no-one can steal. In one of the hymns which Christians sing frequently, the songwriter writes the following:
Time like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away,
They fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
We will do all that we can to preserve the memory of Duranie Heavy Daniel. We will resist the human condition that results in forgetting those who have passed. In the West African theology that preceded Christianity, the dead are divided into two groups. The “living dead” are those who are remembered by people who are still alive. “The ancestors” are those who have gone before anyone alive was born. Duranie is therefore of the “living dead” and we shall not forget him.
“Man is lonely by birth;
Man is only a Pilgrim on earth.
Born to be a king,
Time is a temporary thing.
Only alone while on earth…”
We will miss Duranie “Heavy” Daniel
We will miss his unstinting selflessness.
We will miss his remarkable openhandedness.
We will mis his easy style.
But, most of all, we will miss his ready style.
If he was here
I have no fear
He would declare:
“Cry for me a little.
Think of me sometimes, but not too much.
Think of me now and again as I was in life.
Friends I want to assure you that I feel your pain. I lost an uncle, my mother’s brother a few years ago. Today, I still feel the emptiness, the pain, the disappointment which naturally accompanies death.
Khalil Gibran, one of my favourite poets, wrote the following about death:
Talk not of my departure with sighs in your heart;
Close your eyes and you will see me with you forevermore…
Go back to the joy of your dwellings and you will find there
That which death cannot remove from you and me.
It is near-impossible not to have sighs in your heart on the passing of Duranie “Heavy Daniel, your son, brother and neighbor. You may close your eyes in order to imagine Heavy during happy times; but the tears may escape through your eyelids. You will return to your dwelling places but will find that knowledge of Duranie’s passing will remain with you, and cause of the joys of your homes to be diminished.
The poet knew that these human reactions would occur; yet, he wanted us to resist those human traits at a time when death connects us brazenly to our humanity and reminds us callously of our mortality.
Our religion also seeks to comfort us in death.
Those of us who are Christians believe that faith in the Almighty will cause us, on Judgement Day, to see faces of our loved-ones who have gone.
We believe that to love God, to do good works, and to live a life of charity will cause God to look favourably upon us after death, and that as a reward for goodness, we will see God’s face.
If this is indeed the formula for everlasting salvation, then I am compelled to believe that Duranie “Heavy” Daniel has already been welcomed into the arms of his Jesus. He has seen God’s face.
I close by quoting from one of my favourite poets,:
“DEATH MUST NOT FIND US THINKING THAT WE DIE
BECAUSE ALL OF MAN IS HEART, IS HOPE
ALL OF MAN CAN FLY LIKE A BIRD.
RISE UP AND SOAR IN FULFILLING FULFILLMENT.
Soar my Comrade and Friend. Soar on high. God loves you.
I thank you.