I have only known Nick for three months, but in three months he had become a part of our family. It was normal to have him randomly stop by our house, by the cafe I might be studying in, or to call at any hour of the day to talk. Come midnight we would always kick Nick out of our house so we could go to bed, but that would always translate into an extended conversation at our front door. Those nights (and there were many) were filled with conversations about theology, about Al Gore (whom he loved), about politics, family, faith, church planting, Bagby hotsprings, and everything in between.
It was right about midnight, the day before he died, that we stood at the door and he told us about a time where he almost killed himself driving around a corner on highway 14. We laughed, as usual, at his ridiculous stories that surprisingly always turned out to be true. Earlier on that same Sunday night we grilled Nick about how fast he was driving his new bike. We told him to slow down. My friend said to him “don’t make me go to your funeral”, and he responded by saying that the saddest thing about crashing would be the thought of his bike getting beat up. That’s just how Nick was.
I loved Nick because he was so raw, so authentic, and so passionately in love with Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, at times he could be a complete ass, but he was always the first to laughingly admit it in a proud fashion. It was in that spirit that he smiled as he showed us his shirt he wore that Sunday night at our churches worship gathering (it included the f* bomb) He always left us shaking our heads and smiling because he would say the most off the wall things, like when he said he thought Mother Teresa was in hell…umm…I hope he’s being proved wrong right now. He was passionate about being a missionary. As a recovering addict he saw himself as a missionary to his people, to addicts and homeless and broken people. You rarely saw Nick by himself, he was always inviting others, always bringing people along with him, he really was a missionary. In our short three months with him he went from wanting to be a missionary somewhere overseas, thinking that he had to go somewhere to make a difference, to passionately embracing the reality that God was using him here and now to change peoples lives. Because of that he was eager to plant a downtown church plant with us, a church that was focused on relationships, on loving every person because they’re loved by God. As a matter of fact, it was in our last moments with him that he kept pushing us to get moving with this church plant. He kept saying over and over again how he was ready to live in Christian community, how he wanted to start doing meals together a few times a week where we could invite neighbors and friends (ironically we talked about tonight being the first), and how we should start taking bums out for lunch together.
I love that for most of the Renovatus community the last words they heard from Nick was him yelling “Hallelujah” as he walked into our worship gathering late. It was loud and obnoxious, and genuine…it was totally Nick. The word “hallelujah” can be defined as an exclamation of “praise the Lord”, or more fully as what happens when you are so in love that you cannot help but burst in adoration toward your lover. This word might be the best description for Nick.
The best word to describe my house yesterday would be numb. We all just sat around, some of us crying on and off. We unloaded the dishwasher that was filled with the dishes from the dinner Nick made for us that Sunday night. On our house-mate’s desk sat a dvd that Nick was supposed to pick up on Monday, the day he died. The house seemed to linger with his absence.
I only knew Nick for three months, but in three months he became a dear friend. God’s people who are trying to live his kingdom within our messy world will miss Nicks presence terribly. I am not sad for Nick. I am sad for us, for the three churches he was involved in, for his friends who were in recovery with him, and for the ways God could have used him to be an agent of hope to the world.
Thank you God for giving my family three months of Nick. We feel blessed because of it.