came home from my first sessions of my Intro to Theology courses this semester to a voice mail from Erik letting me know that Hugh Carter had died today at around 12:30pm, from the complications of his stroke some ten days earlier. He was 87 years old. Erik sounded both sad and upbeat, because I think he's having a different experience with Hugh's death: a little more of a direct experience
of a Christian moving into eternal life and toward the resurrection, as opposed to just a merely cognitive belief or faith that this is the way things work. In rushing to Pensacola Tuesday and taking his leave of Hugh – which upset Hugh very much after his initial joy in Erik's arrival – I think that Erik, in being the first to actually and explicitly part from Hugh, became the first moment of Hugh's actual dying. In taking that role in the process, and just the focus of Hugh as the center of his prayer for the last several days, Erik's reactions are more classical, as in the age of frequent martyrdom where the saint's death is celebrated as the "first" day of that believer's eternal life in God.
Erik was his good friend, and I got to know Hugh through that relationship – as an extension of that love. In the ten days that I spent with him in April 1998, traveling with him and Erik to Tunisia via Rome, so that he could see an old friend of his one last time before he lost the strength to travel so much, I was honoured to have gotten to know him at some elemental level. He was the personal saint of many people, but for us I think he enjoyed the opportunity to relax and not have to be a spiritual leader as much as just a co-traveler. The gift I think we were able to give to him was to allow him to join us
– even though we were escorting him on his
trip – and to be once again young with us for the days we shared this amazing journey. He turned 79 on the trip, but in those days with us, I think we gave him some gift of being just One Of The Guys again. Adventure knows no age.