An old college friend died a couple of years ago. I only found out a week or so ago, when I did something that I never do — I logged into Friends Reunited. A menu highlighted that someone that I knew at college had a page, and it was him.
The page was written by him. It discussed his life, and gave his thoughts about it. And then someone had added a note at the bottom with news of his death.
The page made rather sad reading. His career evidently never went anywhere, and then he gave it up and took a series of short-term jobs, unsuited to a man of his abilities.
This man was an Oxford graduate. He was brighter than I am, and was in the year above me at college, doing the same subject. We were, in some ways, very similar people, and I got on well with him.
In imagination I can still see his window in the Rose Lane Annex. It was often lit late at night. I remember going up to see him, at some late hour, as students do, and finding him playing LP’s of Russian composers — he introduced me to Shostakovich — and drinking strange teas. The one I remember looked more like logwood chippings than tea! We would discuss politics, in which we were both active, although he was slightly more right-wing than myself.
He had grown up among Christians. He owned a number of Graham Kendrick LP’s, which I took care to copy. His parents were simple folk, delighted to have so intelligent a son.
But he had rejected Christ at some point before I knew him. I remember him complaining about the Christian Union at college — made up of the brightest that England could produce, remember — that it was not intellectual enough. He said that he had been along to a bible study, and that he and another would discuss the Greek of the passage, while everyone else looked blank.
But I also remember learning something else about him. There was a debate in the Union, and I spoke, somewhat ineptly, against the newly fashionable promotion of unnatural vice. To my surprise he got up — we were sitting together — and spoke for it. Later he told me that he had become a homosexual. I didn’t throw him out — indeed I couldn’t really believe it, and tended to treat the profession as one of his eccentricities — but it was odd. In time he went down from college, as we all did, and I saw him no more. I kept in contact for a couple of years, but then lost contact with him, and with others of my time at college.
The page makes clear that he never married. It contains what is perhaps the saddest phrase I ever saw:
I have no children (that I know of).
What self-inflicted emptiness lies behind those words! I fear that, before I knew him, he came up to college and Satan drew him into sin, to reject Christ, and then on into unnatural vice, thereby cutting him off from everyone. I remember him saying that he could no longer relate to his parents, in times of trouble.
Now he is dead. He died at 48 (I think), alone. What sort of life did he have? Not much, from the look of it. Yet he was a marvellous creation of God’s, a “character” in the best sort of way, one that Dickens would have delighted to draw.
He was a decent chap, I always felt, and yet, on the face of it, he lived a miserable life and died without God. Who can doubt his damnation? His life was empty. He neither made himself happy, nor did what God asked. Poor soul!
Let us hope that I am wrong, and that, before he died, he repented and turned back to God.
It is a sobering warning to us all, to take heed of ourselves. This is not a rehearsal. This is not play-acting. This life … this is it. Either turn to God, or lose even what we think we choose instead.