On Tuesday I got a phone call from my friend Simon Turner’s brother Nick saying that my friend had been found dead.
I was in shock.
I just felt initially numb.
I knew it had happened but simply couldn’t get my head around it.
How could Simon not be with us anymore?
Last time I saw Simon he looked really healthy. His photo’s on facebook’s look so full of life and fun…
Memories of Simon came flooding back… he was fun to be around!
Karaoke at the Sherwin in Sunday night, entertaining the pub with his rendition of the Killers ‘Mr Brightside’; Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’ -especially lighting a cigarette timed perfectly to coincide with the line ‘Light up!’ and James Blunt’s ‘Your beautiful’.
Or singing the “Greasy Chip-butty song” the anthem of his beloved Blades (Sheffield United), often in a pub full of Forest Fans!
Yet it would be easy to write a bit of a blog about the many stories of Simon being life and soul of the party, and he was lots of fun to be around, but there was also a deep side to Simon that I want to celebrate too.
I had gone to St. John’s College to train as a Vicar, and I wanted to learn more about what it means to look like Jesus (this was before the beard and long hair!).
I met Simon somewhere during my first year or so, or maybe at the start of my second year and we became friends. As my second year unraveled a bit when a relationship I was in ended and Simon was there for me when I was in a low and bad place.
Ironically I was surrounded by a whole load of people learning to be ‘Pastoral’ most of whom didn’t care, and in an institution that “talked the talk but didn’t really walk the walk”, yet Simon was the exact opposite -he didn’t brag about his big heart but his actions spoke louder than his words. I was a mess and probably depressing company, but Simon didn’t care and kept on inviting me out, burning CD’s of bands and just being a really good mate, but never in a patronizing or condescending way, care and compassion but with dignity.
Actually, as this continued over my second and third year and the two of us became ensconced in the life and community of the Sherwin Arms, I discovered the community I thought college should be -and Church I dream of building- were represented beautifully within the pub. I used to think when I saw these guys looking out for each other “Church has a lot to learn from this community”.
Simon was a nurse initially working with the homeless in London, a real advocate and fighter for the underdog. I often thought if I ended up homeless Simon was the kind of person I’d want on my case, like a dog with a bone, he would take on anyone -irrespective of position- on what he saw was an injustice.
Simon was someone who gathered people together, he was a ‘feast’ type person -rather than being part of a little clique- Simon’s attitude was “there was always room for another one” -and through my time hanging out with Simon I met some really interesting people.
Yet Simon was something of a “Wounded Healer” he’d been through some tough stuff and knew he carried some scars, later it transpired that he had a real problem with alcohol and was addicted, sadly too his marriage to Lucy broke-down, but in the midst of all this Simon showed incredible bravery, going into rehab and turning his life around. This sentence probably makes it sound easier than it was, as anyone whose been around rehab knows it is a tough -sometimes backwards and forwards process- but Simon came out the other-side and lived in active recovery.
More than that, he used his experiences to help other people, and thanks to Simon many, many people are leading lives of sobriety and drug free.
The Japanese have a method of repairing broken pots by using gold as a kind of glue, which means that where the pot was once broken now is its most valuable and glorious.
Such is my thinking of Simon and his amazing work with recovery in South Africa.
Someone who all of us who knew him were incredibly proud of him and all that he achieved.
When I went to St. John’s theological college Nottingham, to learn to be more like Jesus, I discovered most about Jesus whilst I was there, not from the writing of some dead German theologian or from swaggering around the chapel in a cassock, reciting liturgy like Sir John Gielgud but from a friend who swore like a trooper and smoked like a chimney but reflected Christ in an incredible way by his love for people, his loyalty, his passion, his commitment to justice and to truth, his kindness often very unobtrusive, his inclusion, his wisdom, his wisdom and generosity.
Simon’s legacy I believe will reach far and wide, and will be held by many of us so deeply.
Simon was good at parties! Just thinking of Heaven described in the Bible as a feast “probably serving Eggs Benedict, Mussels and hot Bovril!” Heaven
Often I would work late on my dissertation and Simon would text about 9:30 and say “I’ll go ahead of you and get the beers in” -in many ways this feels like a picture now of his death, he’s gone ahead of us but will be waiting for us at that great and glorious party in heaven.
The Christian faith means that death is not a full stop, but a comma, someone we will see again, but for now we’re shocked and gutted at his passing.
How best can we remember Simon?
Perhaps he can inspire us with his boldness at fighting for justice -I remember seeing a photo of him on a protest with a banner saying “PEOPLE CAN CHANGE”- in loving those around us not with patronizing condensation but with dignity and great love?
Perhaps we can be people that let the walls down and see strangers as Simon did as “friends we haven’t met yet”?
Perhaps there is stuff in our lives we need to be free of, and let Simon be an inspiration to sort out that which needs sorting out?
I’m think Simon is someone whom Jesus could be seen in, and I want to be someone that lives a Christ-like life, someone I was blessed to walk with for a season.
Love you bud.
Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory… when we will meet again.