My good friend Dr. Ed Cook died today. I met Ed over ten years ago when I was appointed to East Heights United Methodist Church. I can even remember the first question he ever asked me. Ed believed in the Socratic method, he liked to ask questions to push one's thinking even more than he liked hearing the answer. I was in a summer Sunday school class to introduce me as a new pastor. As I was telling my story I made the claim that I had discovered how Wesleyan I was by going to seminary. He asked me what specifically made me Wesleyan. Most United Methodists would just smile and say isn't that great, he likes John Wesley. It was really the only question I received that morning that challenged me to think on a deeper level. What was it about Wesley that I really loved? For the next ten years Ed continued to ask questions that would push my thinking.
Ed Cook was not the most dynamic human whoever lived, but he was brilliant and had a beautiful sense of humor. Because he was so smart and soft spoken, he often seemed intimidating to many people, but I found him to be one of the most compassionate and caring individuals I ever met. Our relationship jumped to a new level when he lost his dog Chysa. I sent him an innocent e-mail saying I missed him at church and I was sorry that Chrysa died. It started a chain of e-mails that discussed many things including a theology of dogs. I realized the depth of his capacity to love through our conversations. It was the first time I had practiced pastoral care by e-mail.
During my last few years serving at East Heights, Ed became one of my closest friends. He loved to talk about process theology and his passion for the environment. I often consulted with him on my understanding of scripture, especially the meaning of Greek words. Ed was a life-long learner who never lost his hunger to grow. He often used language that others could not understand, but his patience as a teacher was unending. There are many lives who are changed because of his love of teaching.
I don't know why we became such good friends. Ed was closer to my parents age than my own. His background in medicine was foreign to my experience. I was responsible for contemporary worship and he could never get the organ loud enough, but our spirits were and always will be connected. One of his favorite quotes came from Gandhi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." That is how he lived his life. That is the way I hope I can live mine. Ed, I miss you already. You have been one of my dearest friends. Don't phall down when you get to heaven!