I had a pretty intense experience a couple weeks back. On Saturday, August 30th, a young 27 year old guy by the name of Bryan McQueen was driving his motorcycle down 131 in Grand Rapids when he lost control and was killed. I did not know Bryan at all. He however knew me, or at least knew me for my music. The week after he died his family, through various channels, was attempting to connect with me anyway they could. They wanted me to come and play at Bryan’s funeral. Bryan had apparently shared with his family how much he enjoyed my album Still Frame and liked my music. I received about 3 phone calls from his family, an email from a pastor involved with the funeral ceremony, and a couple other calls from people related to the family. The message to me was loud and clear that it would really mean a lot to this family if I could come and sing at the funeral. I felt an incredible sense of humility to know that this family would choose to involve me in the ceremony to remember their son, grandson, brother, friend, fiancee, war veteren. There was a sense welling up in me that this was one of those moments I had always hoped God would use me and my music for. To minister to people who were hurting incredibly. I agreed to play and walked into the church quietly and alone on Sept 6 to get ready to play the 3 songs they had asked me to play, Be Thou My Vision, Free Lands, and Lift Up Your Eyes. I got sat up and ran through my songs as practice and sound check. As I was practicing Lift Up Your Eyes I could see someone out of the corner of my eye watching and listening to me. Afterwards this person came up and spoke to me briefly. It was Bryan’s mother. She thanked me through her tears for being willing to come and play, and I was speechless. I really had no idea what to say to this woman who just lost her son. A little while later she came back again, this time with Bryan’s dad, and fiancee. To say the moment was extremely intense and emotional would be a pretty big understatement. They thanked me again and did their best to smile and greet me. Then they walked away to talk to more family and grieve. The church where the funeral was being held was completely packed. I am guessing a few hundred people attended. The sadness in the room was just completely overwhelming. I got up to play my songs about half way through the service, and I marvel at the fact now that I got through them without breaking down myself even though I didn’t know Bryan. There was sadness and despair, intermingled with hope, faith, and love. It was intense to say the least.
I had to leave right after I finished my songs because I had another show I was supposed to be at right away. I never got a chance to talk to anyone else at the funeral afterwards. I walked out feeling like I had lost someone. Like he was my friend, my brother. It was the same feeling I had leaving every other funeral I have ever been to. A sense of being powerless, incapable, incomplete. I have heard people say, “everyone dies, its a natural part of life”. I don’t care what anyone says, death is not a natural part of life. Death is the antithesis of life. It’s the complete and utter opposite. It is the void. We were not made to die. We were made to have life and have it to the full.
I was unbelievably honored, and humbled to be a part of the funeral. I can’t think of a way that God could more directly use me and my music to minister to people. It put all my prior cares about music to rest. If I was only ever given the ability to sing and play guitar so that I could be a part of that service, or other services like it, then so be it. However, if that was my only business, then I can’t wait for the day that my business dries up.
If you could, keep Bryan’s family, fiancee, and friends in your prayers, as they mourn and groan over the loss of their loved one, just as creation mourns and groans in longing for restoration and new life.