Memories, Tributes and Dirty Fingernails
Friends share special memories and thoughts about their beloved Dwight...
I would like to start a “things I learned from Dwight” file. Nothing fancy, but if you could write down what you picked up I think it would make a great collection of ideas.
For me, especially over the last four years, what I learned from Dwight is that; ”Life is hard, then you die”…. and, the part from the old Westminster Confession; “God loves you and wants you to enjoy him forever.” are, in fact, not mutually exclusive concepts.
- Pete Berol
Dwight taught me and reminded me often that, if Christ has chosen the church as his bride who are we to give up on the church. He taught me to laugh at myself when I took life to seriously, and he taught me the importance of making yourself vulnerable. He taught me that we shouldn't just "play" church but make it real for others.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I am sending 10 of my favourite photos that capture the many faces of Dwight.
I have so many fond memories of Dwight, ministering together at Youth Retreats, Junior High Bible Studies at the Morrison's, and 30 Hour Famines. Late night talks, meaningful prayer and Dwight's dramatic break-ups, until Sheri saved him from himself. Playing ball hockey on the tennis courts, hot tubs and BBQ's and tobogganing. I remember facing death together, while driving to check out a retreat centre, the front driver side tire exploded right while we were passing another car, and nearly crashing. Once we were safe at the side of the road, with adrenalin still pumping through us we laughed until we cried. I remember listening to him on CHRW Radio Western as he played "Christian Music That Doesn't Suck", and asking myself if he could even say that on the radio. He introduced me to so much great music, so many great books and lots of great insights. I'll miss him waxing eloquently about nothing at all, the name dropping and the stories.
Missing You, Neil McGillivray
When I called my wife to tell her the news, I told her that Dwight had "passed over." I think the more common phrase is "passed on," but I, in the recent few hours, have been thinking of it more as "passing through".... through the mist, through the veil, to the place we all live now but just can't see it as clearly as Dwight does.
Dwight, my friend, we love you.
- Tom Willett
I felt it important that I share our story of Dwight’s impact in our lives.
Heather and I have known Dwight since 1991 (Heather a little longer), when he led the Metropolitan Young Adults group.
We had a special relationship and debt of gratitude to Dwight, as he was responsible for Heather and I meeting, ultimately leading to our marriage and life together and our 2 wonderful children.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to Dwight, and his family, and especially to Sherri and Dwight’s parents, who we had the privilege of meeting in London at our house after Dwight preached at Metropolitan this summer. The strength they showed, and the love and support they provided to Dwight is, well… overwhelming.
Because of Dwight, we have learned how to pray, and our children too, have learned to include “those without a voice” in our daily prayers.
We are so very sad to hear of the passing of Dwight, but are comforted that he is safely in God’s hands and his pain and fatigue are over.
We love you Dwight, and will miss you.
Cam and Heather Stevens
What I learned from Dwight is that life in this world is something to be savored, smelled, tasted, laughed, cried, squeezed for every possible or imaginable drop. Even inspired and taught by the wonderful example he set for us, if ever I am faced with what he faced, I can't imagine ever having the grace to handle it as he did. Still, I am encouraged and challenged by his example.
- Randall L. Frame
I'm not even sure where to begin with the things that I learned from Dwight. I would agree with Randy - I told Dwight time and time again that I could not imagine facing the same situation with the grace that he faced this disease with. And yet - if you mentioned it to Dwight..he merely shrugged it off like it was nothing.
He taught me that with great joy comes great pain.....his Henri Nowen quote " if we want to avoid the suffering or leaving , we will never experience the joy of loving. Love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking." Losing Dwight hurts --- but it was worth it because those of us who got to know Dwight knew what a gift his friendship and his love truly was. He was truly a risk worth taking......
Until we see you again, my friend. We will continue to be a voice for your voiceless. We love you and will miss you Dwight.
Street Level Artists Agency
I wrote Dwight a note when he left Habitat for Humanity that I had been blessed to know many people who made me laugh, and many who challenged me to think. He was one of a handful who could make me do both in equal measure. The much needed lesson I hope I learned from him is that you should laugh at least as hard as you ponder life's often confounding questions. Thanks, Dwight!
- Jill Claflin
I learned that not everyone is offended when you forget to capitalize god and jesus in an email.
I learned that some Canadians are better cooks than some Italians.
I learned that to make the “greatest hamburger you have ever eaten” takes about 3 hours to prepare (most of which has nothing to do with preparing food.)
I learned that just because a place sells “THE BEST” imported parmesan cheese, that doesn’t necessarily mean their cannoli is anything to write home about.
I learned that some music sucks, even if it has my name on it.
I learned the greatest song ever written is Man of No Reputation.(sorry Rick, but you know it’s true.)
I learned the heart of man, can be a beautiful thing.
I learned that sometimes, when someone tells you they love you, they mean it.
I learned that the heart of god can live in a man, and hey, I knew that guy.
- Nick Gianconia
I learned how deep and strong and soul nourishing friendship can be with someone who cared like Dwight did.
How to take a hard look at our culture where it needs it and how to tenderly embrace the beauty and brokenness of community.
How to be passionate, not fearful of expressing genuine feelings, even when they don't fit well in the accepted norms of our sub-culture.
Dwight was both distraught by things in the world and in faith and clearly saw the joys of the moment and lived with the tension of those desperate emotions. And he was funny.
May many mercies trail him in heaven and fall upon Sheri and his family.
I love you, Dwight, and will miss you. Thanks for being here.
Street Level Artists Agency
I met Dwight in 1989, about the time I began my Christian journey. What a guide he was! Clearly God-sent and Christ-inspired, we laughed and cried together, played golf in a Youth for Christ tournament in which I was the only female, but he bore it all with the gentle grace we came to define as Dwight. He introduced me to the man I eventually married, influenced my nephew in ways that only now becoming clear, witnessed my baptisim, set an example for living that will never be matched. We miss you Dwight and will see you someday soon...
- Gail and Doug Perry
Over a decade ago, I had just moved from North Philly to the "four story catacomb" that is the Seminary formerly known as "EBTS." Somehow I had just found this Mark Heard guy and as a hater of singer-songwriters believed I'd found an obscure treasure. Sure enough, wandering the halls one lonely night I hear a few guys belting out "Nod Over Coffee". Dwight was one of those guys and I fell in love with him instantly. Is there possibly a more appropriate song. (O.K. so Dwight would have probably chosen U2's "Grace" but, for once, he can't concoct some lousy arguement to ruin my moment :-)
Things I learned from Dwight....
I learned that God makes women stronger than men in order to give guys a fighting chance when the going gets tough
Screw cheerful, I learned that God loves a cantankerous giver....
I learned that cancer makes you talk ad nauseum, alot, often, and frequently
I learned that anyone can write but not everyone can be a wordsmith you'd actually quote to make an important point.
I learned that, if you are touching too many people's lives, you have a really good chance to get into God's "I'd like to have you stop in for an early visit" club.
The last conversation I had with Dwight was about a hilarious moment of fear and confusion (If there was ever someone who grasped those moments....).
So apparently Dwight is driving down the street, actually enjoying a hip-hop CD I recommended to him, blasting his new fave, Kanye West's "Gold Digger". During Dwight's unusually over-zealous recollection, I am struck that people have cameras ready to catch illegal police activity but rarely ready to catch truly amazing things...like a scrawny, balding White liberal Canadian guy, windows down, catching himself about to excitedly sing the "N-Word" at a red light in West Philly. That would be cinematic gold. Anyway, he launches into the classic coversation about the irony and unfairness around the use of the word. This wasn't the first time he allowed me to be priest to his liberal confessional session, but what really struck me this time was how much life Dwight has been living these past few months. Yes he was suffering at times, but he was more afraid of getting punched in the face by the guy in the car next to him for saying the "n-word" than he was of dying from cancer. Although his struggle was constant he wasn't obsessed with this cancer thing 24 hours a day. He sang joyously, with the windows down and the wind in his face. He was tired but not he was not beaten and he was loving us as we supported him.
I always thought Dwight was a beautiful, dirty old man in young guy's body. He finally got comfortable loving and questioning Jesus and now he get's to love and question Him face to face. Like any of us with a childhood scarred by bad pentacostal theology (thank God for good pentacostal theology), Dwight may have secretly wondered if he was really going to make it to heaven. Well we all knew he'd make it sooner or later...I just wish it wasn't so soon.
Thanks for being a walking opportunity to learn how to accept God's love, wherever it comes from.
- Anthony Barr-Jeffrey
I learned that you should never bet against Dwight in the NBA finals (his Pistons beat my Lakers).
I learned to count the cost before committing to design a website for free. BUT, the thank you steak made it all worth it.
I learned that even though I've never seen the lady, that Holly Benyousky if the best looking 60 year old woman in the world. I mean, 59 years old.
I learned to love U2 again, and that that time I threw away all my "secular" CD's 15 years ago was really, really silly...but far more common that I thought. The buying back is common too.
I found a hero/mentor-from-afar that helped me sort through the struggle with my faith and the American church...and mature in my worldview...and then over the years I had the privilege of an ever deepening friendship with one of my favorite writers.
I learned to expand my musical boundaries...to never get too satisfied listening to the same things.
I learned to appreciate the film High Fidelity on a whole new level.
I learned more than I should probably ever have known about my favorite authors and artists. I'll be writing a tell-all book shortly.
I learned that good intentions are not enough...the gospel must be lived out.
I learned to pray for the voiceless and powerless more often.
I learned to value a frail, honest voice more than someone belting out a song at the top of their lungs. Also, you can't beat authenticity.
I learned to say I love you more often to my friends.
I learned most of today's worship music sucks.
I learned that piousness must be confronted with irreverence...and the ridiculous deserves ridicule.
I learned honesty with yourself and others is more important than strength. Weakness and frailty should never been confused with sin. (Related: I learned we shouldn't expect cancer patients to be strong and noble in their battle...just let them be themselves.)
I was tipped off to a lot of great music and film.
I learned that the pursuit of beauty and truth is noble in and of itself.
Above are my thoughts in response to this request from Pete Berol. Last night, after hearing of Dwight's passing, and the initial shedding of tears, I wrote the following tribute. It’s somewhat long and rambling and probably as much for my own therapy (kinda like his cancer updates, no?)....but I wrote this for my friends that didn't know Dwight but who regularly heard me talking about him...so they'd know why I was always quoting him...and so they'd know what Christendom had lost. If you are interested...
I lost a dear friend this week. It pains me to write this, but Dwight Ozard passed away on Monday, November 14.
Monday night, after hearing of Dwight's passing, and the initial shedding of tears, I wrote the following tribute. Its somewhat long and rambling and probably as much for my own therapy...but I wrote this for my friends that didn't know Dwight but may have regularly heard me talking about him...so they'd know why I was always quoting him...and so they'd know what Christendom had lost. If you are interested...
Where do I start?
If I make a short-list of the most influential people in my life, Dwight would be near the top.
I discovered Dwight in 1993 when I visited Chicago for a conference convened by Evangelicals for Social Action (Ron Sider's organization for those of you that know Ron). Dwight was a new ESA employee and in charge of the conference. At that conference ESA debuted a new magazine, PRISM, dubbed as "America's Alternative Evangelical Voice".
Dwight was a music critic...one of the early few willing to writing blisteringly honest reviews of Christian Contemporary Music. Whether it was promoting the latest Springsteen or U2 album, or trashing the latest worship album for being formulaic and simplistic, or highlighting some little known indie artist...Dwight always celebrated artist's willingness to be honest and vulnerable, and to seek truth and beauty....while freely pointing out that which needed to be criticized.
Let's just say...if it was up to Dwight...the CCM scene wouldn't be filled with a bunch of safe, sanitized music that doesn't challenge or offend...rather, like Jesus, it would be a haven for darings artists willing to speak truth to power, to challenge the righteous, the status quo, the prevailing thinking.
The artists he counted as friends fit this mold (and are among of my favorites): Steve Taylor, Rick Elias, Rich Mullins, The Ragamuffin Band, The Lost Dogs, The 77's, Mike Roe, Adam Again, Gene Eugene, Daniel Amos, Terry Taylor, Steve Hindalong, Derri Daughtery, The Choir, Charlie Peacock, Randy Stonehill, and more...
He'd willingly challenge the theology of a Christian artist (or their musical or songwriting talent), or promote a "secular" artist that was honestly seeking truth and producing quality music. He helped me regain my love for U2...and consequently rediscover my favorite band. (And buy back all their albums...after I threw them all out during my early 20's pious phase...some of you may understand.)
So as you might have guessed, over the years his writings influenced much of my record collection. He actually held quite a sway over my buying habits. I could hear about a new artist from several sources and develop a passing interest...but then if Dwight said "you should by this disc"...well, I usually did.
Okay, enough about music....Dwight was about much more than music.
In 1994 Dwight took over as editor of PRISM Magazine. He held this role until 1998. My wife Elizabeth can attest that during that period, when PRISM arrived in the mail...we pretty much had to put our evening plans on hold until I took ten minutes to read his opening editorial...and then scan the music reviews. His editorials (see here for an archive of some of them) were like a letter of home...that magical balance of encouraging me in my spiritual journey while simultaneously kicking me in the pants.
This was a very formative time of my life as I worked in full-time Christian service. Dwight's thoughts on the church and culture, and the need to not divide everything into the sacred and secular, to truly make the kingdom a place for the least of these, to reject earthly power and embrace our fallenness and truly understand what it means "when we are weak he is strong". He was one of the people who taught me to swear when the situation called for it (along with a pastor friend who shall remain nameless)...and the importance of irreverence in the face of piousness...especially my own.
He grew up in the church...and had a great love for what the church could be, but a great frustration with what it often is. His on-line writings are under a heading "Lover's Quarrel" to reflect this tension. Much like Steve Taylor's music spoke to me on this subject in my teens and early 20's, Dwight's writings helped me make sense of my place in the world as a restless follower of Jesus.
So okay, I like the guy, you get the picture? By my mid 20's I'm a big fan.
Then we became friends.
Mid 90's I rode bike from Harrisburg to Philly to visit a friend attending Eastern Seminary. (PRISM's offices are in the basement of Eastern Seminary). I set up an appointment to meet Dwight...just thought I'd take the opportunity as an avid PRISM reader. We started e-mailing here and there...and in 1998 Dwight got me into the Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois for free by talking me into volunteering for PRISM. I got to know him and others more that week...and had a great time. I met his lovely wife Sheri, and we continued to stay in touch via e-mail.
Soon after that festival, Dwight left PRISM to work for Habitat for Humanity in Georgia as Director of Public Affairs. His role there was to develop relationships with Hollywood celebrities and get them involved in house building projects to promote Habitat's work. Among the favorite people he connected with were Harris Wofford, Pat Boone, Graham Kerr and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
He loved to tell the story of hanging out with Sarah Michelle Gellar late one night after a building project...as she shared about just having read the New Testament and honestly wrestling with how to apply it to her life. (Sometimes he'd add the part about this being on his wedding anniversary and he's away from Sheri in some far off location with...Buffy.)
Oh yeah, and those of you that think I'm a name dropper...you ain't heard nuthin' till you hung out with Dwight.
Then, in or around 2000, he was hired by Tony Campolo as Tony's successor and he and Sheri moved back to Philadelphia. As Executive Director of Tony Campolo Ministries he was to become the public face of this ministry...and take over much of the writing and speaking from Tony. It was his dream job. I knew that within a few years many, many more people would know of Dwight as his speaking and writing became better known.
But then six months later he got sick. Cancer. Multiple Myeloma to be exact. The next four and a half years were cycles of declining health, significant procedures, hope for the future, and then reoccurrence. Dwight and Sheri lived through a roller coaster ride called hell. And yet just about every e-mail ended with some variation on the following:
I've been overwhelmed by the knowledge that literally thousands of people are praying for Sheri and I (and even for my staff and for Tony)... and have felt safe and sure in those arms... Thanks. And even as I've felt so at home, I've wondered about those who get news like this and have no support base, who don't feel at home in the church. I've thought, especially, about how people with HIV-AIDS must feel--and if they get the same sense of embrace that I received. No need to preach here--I just invite you to think about that with me, and when you pray for me, remember too to pray for those on the margins of our society, those who have no family, no support, and no love.
In the midst of his suffering, he always drew our attention back to "the least of these"...the hurting, the sick, the poor, the neglected.
Through this time Dwight started telling me how much he loved me...a lot. He didn't take such things for granted. He never knew what the next day held and would not want a word of affection to go unmentioned. I learned to tell my friends and family "I love you" more often.
Dwight was thankful for the graciousness of Tony Campolo Ministries, who kept him on another six months or so until it was clear he couldn't consistently fulfill his role there.
He then went freelance as a writer, speaker and non-profit consultant, starting "Dwight Ozard Consulting Services", which allowed him to work when able, but not providing much of a consistent source of income. With him back in the Philadelphia area our bond of friendship strengthened...Dwight asked me to help him design his website, I agreed, and we worked together to design it and get it up and running. And Elizabeth and I got to be good friends with Dwight and Sheri through many trips to Philly for a meal or one of the Ozard's famous dinner parties.
Dwight and Sheri are amazing cooks. The way Dwight tells it...or told it...(sniff)...when he first got sick, he laid around watching TV for six or seven months...mostly watching the food channel. It kept him grounded in day to day life. He figured he needed a hobby, so he became a gourmet chef.
At the center of his life and theology....Dwight believed that Christians should live life to the fullest. We are called to celebrate the goodness of God's creation. But, rather than indulging for selfish reasons...the good life should be lived in such a way as to share with others....not in-dulgence but "outdulgence"--the good life focused outwardly on others through extravagant hospitality ("outdulgence" is a term Graham Kerr coined...and a book on that subject Dwight was to have written with Graham, although sadly he was too ill to do so).
So let's just say, we ate well at the Ozards. I remember the evening Dwight and Sheri had Elizabeth and I over for a thank you dinner for all my work on his website. He plopped down in front of me one of the largest and juiciest steaks I have ever seen...and I ate the whole thing to everone's amazement. (Hey, I was up late many nights working on that site...and this was my reward...and I wasn't going to trust leftovers to survive the two hour drive home.)
Dwight celebrated with me when I got hired as executive director of a Christian non-profit working with homeless single moms...and he was a source of encouragement and counsel. On Monday I was wrestling with an issue about the time I got word of his death. After an initial shedding of tears...I mentioned to Elizabeth: "This is the kind of issue I could have called Dwight about..."
I'm feeling this loss on many levels. Imagine a guy going from hero/mentor-from-a-distance...to close personal friend. How lucky am I?
I'm admittedly a little pissed too...because I know Dwight had so many great books, articles and sermons in him...and I was looking forward to digesting them all. (Other than leaving behind loved ones, I think this was one of the hardest things about his illness for him too). But I'm also thankful for all the time I had with him...and the body of work and relationship that influenced my life in so many ways.
Oh, there is one more reason I love Dwight...he introduced me to Johnny Cash. For that I am eternally grateful. And sometime soon I'm going to go see the new Johnny Cash movie with Dwight on my mind and heart. I wish Dwight could see it...but then again, maybe he's hanging out right now with Johnny Cash and John Coltrane...two of his favorite "profane saints" (Dwight's term).
Thanks, Dwight, for your faithfulness...and friendship. I love you. And miss you.
Grace, peace and dirty fingernails,
You have to start with the finest of ingredients.....
That it pays off to kiss up to your butcher.
Simple living is not ugly living.
- elizabeth schwartz
Pete: I really appreciate you starting this chain...great idea.
I met Dwight and Sheri about 3 years ago when they stumbled into our "twentysomethings" Sunday school class at Wayne Presbyterian Church. They didn’t stick around the Sunday school class (go figure); but, we gained two great friends.
Henry Nouwen has been one of my favorite writers for many years, and what I took from Dwight was something I first read from Nouwen (as most of you know, Dwight was also a big fan). We learn much more from our weakness than we do from our strengths and, what’s more, others generally learn more through them as well (insert your Jars of Clay thoughts here). Dwight had so many strengths, so many things he knew so much about. That said, I still think his greatest lessons came when he was struggling the most. Dwight was merciless against easy answers…there were no easy answers in his life and he didn’t easily trust people who seemed to have them in theirs. Dwight fought to understand the truth; and it wasn’t always pretty. Yet the struggles to understand why things were hard, why they didn’t make sense, always seemed to bring him back to his faith walk, with a new understanding and appreciation of God. Like Jacob, Dwight wrestled with God...and, like Jacob, God won...every time.
In the midst of the struggle, though, Dwight enjoyed God’s gifts. Dwight loved good food, good drink, good music, and good company. Dwight was so thankful for those blessings and has made me more thankful for them in my own life. We have to grasp onto joy, whatever the circumstance, and be willing to take God’s gifts as they come. In looking back at Dwight’s journal, I think this excerpt is one of my favorites:
“Last year, just after he was diagnosed with inoperable, terminal cancer, the singer/songwriter Warren Zevon was asked by David Letterman if he had gained any particular insight about life since learning of (and now living/dying with) his condition. Zevon paused initially and made a quick joke, then replied, simply, that he’d learned how important it is to “enjoy every sandwich.” However frustrated, impatient or disappointed I’ve been these past couple of months (and I’ve had my moments, to be sure; just ask Sheri, who has taken the brunt of my weepy, self-pitying fearfulness with an astonishing amount of patience and grace), there haven’t been many lessons more important than that one.”
I hope you will all forgive me; but, I think I am going to take a small bit of my best scotch and put on my favorite Charlie Peacock album and think about my good friend. My time with him was short; but, he was a great blessing to me that will spark many smiles for the rest of my life.
Relying on His Grace,
I learned that you can and must cause those around you to think again, that was a line from Dwight one time to a group of us he was holding court with during a meal, "get people to think again about their beliefs and response or maybe the lack of response."
I remember the first time I met Dwight, I was working with Compassion International here in Canada at the time. He and I had attended a outdoor Christian music festival. At that festival was Charlie Peacock with his sideman at the time the late Vince Ebo. This was my first taste of Charlie's music, I don't think it was the first time Dwight heard him... but it was like we just discovered bread. As Dwight and I talked I began to learn to savor all the moments of friendship, art and good talk.
Those of us that got a bit of time with Dwight lived large.
I will miss him,
Rev. Paul Sharrow
the Lazarus Commission
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
I met Dwight in about 1996 or so at my first or second GMA week. I was writing a lot for CCM Magazine and remember sitting on the floor in a hotel room with Greg Rumburg, April Hefner, and Dwight. April saw that Dwight and I were hitting it off, and as she walked out the door for an appointment quipped that he'd better not steal one of their writers. Of course that fueled our conversation about how I could contribute to Prism in the near future. Thus began a short stint (2-3 years?) of our working together on a regular basis, which ended when he left Prism. He was so open to new ideas, and so absolutely convinced of my ability to tackle a subject or an interview - even when I didn't believe in myself. We discussed my doing a feature on Madeline L'Engle, but in the end I was a little too intimidated to tackle such a literary and spiritual giant so early in my writing career. So we let it pass on by - something I'll probably always regret.
Since Dwight lived in Philly and I in Austin, we never saw each other except when we were both in Nashville. One of my favorite Dwight memories occurred one particular year at GMA week. One night several of us ducked out of the showcase at the Ryman and headed for 'church' - at Seanachie (An Irish Pub) - an evening ritual that somehow seemed to restore us to sanity in the midst of what often seemed like madness. Dwight and I were walking through the streets of downtown and it was unseasonably cool. A very drunk old woman approached us and asked him for money. Rather than blow her off or throw her a dollar or two (which are so often the knee-jerk responses) he stopped. She was clearly quite inebriated and was talking up a storm. He listened to her for a minute or two and said, "Are you cold?" She said yes. He then put his arm around her and held her close to him, and while she jabbered on, he quietly prayed for her. He gave her all the change he had in his pocket and offered to take her to eat. If I remember correctly she declined, but he made arrangements with her to meet her there the next day to give her a coat or some other means of warmth, with the idea that he'd take her to dinner. I later learned that she stood him up.
I was very moved by his compassion, and by his spirit of love and charity toward her. He shrugged it off and said, "You know, sometimes all we can give someone like her is a little shred of dignity. Homeless people are so often shunned and scorned, offering our presence and the willingness to hear their stories - no matter how drunken or pitiful they are - is one of the few ways we can truly love them." As I write these words I'm struck by what a simple concept that is... one most all of us would say is obvious, but few of us find such tangible and demonstrative ways to live it out. Dwight taught me how to be comfortable in such situations, and encouraged me (by the way he lived) to move toward the weak and the lowly and the outcast.
Finally, I must also share the most recent lesson I learned from Dwight, perhaps the most profound. We stayed in regular touch throughout the first few years of his cancer journey, and in intermittent touch over the last year. While he was battling cancer I was dealing with a season of unprecedented chaos and loss in my life. I didn't disclose the details to Dwight because I thought that in light of his suffering mine would probably sound like whining, and besides, he had enough crap to deal with without having to shoulder the burden of my circumstances. I responded to his "update" emails with appreciation for his honesty, a few encouraging words, and a promise to keep praying. But at some point I decided that it wasn't honoring of our friendship for me to withhold the good, the bad and the ugly in my life, regardless of any good intentions I may have had.
I spilled it and didn't hear from him for awhile. And though he was battling for his life, he took that info in and held me - and my circumstances - in his heart and prayers. We exchanged a few very brief emails, and in August of this year he learned of my separation from my husband of 23 years. Out of the blue, on September 23 I got an email from him, with the subject line of "how are you doing?" It read:
"Been thinking about you a lot these past few days. You ok?I replied with a short update and an admission that I was in a season of lamentation. His reply stunned me:
Laura: A couple of words, of late, have been both motto and motivation; in either order:
Much like the old lady petitioning the judge in Jesus' parable. I'm sure she took some kind of perverse pleasure in her harassment.
I'm going to take that same pleasure in asking God, daily, to heal me.
And to heal your world, one way or the other.
Restoration or gracious, godly death, either way, joyfully and belligerently, knowing that you will bring your needs to the Judge regardless of him, you, the judge and anyone else who is watching with something to say.
Hang tough, will ya.
Prayers for you, and for your kids, and for your husband.
That day I knew that if my marriage had to die, I wanted to do it in a gracious and godly way. I had never thought of it in such terms, and his prayer for me reminded me of Jack Nicholson's line to Helen Hunt in "As Good as it Gets" when he says, "You make me want to be a better man." Dwight made me want to be a better live-er, a better die-er, a better stranger and alien and pilgrim and struggler. He made me believe that dying well is possible, and gave me the desire to aim higher than just 'getting through it.'
Of course, as I read his words I also knew that he was talking not only about me, but about himself. What a selfless act of pure charity; I can scarcely bear the thought that a dying man was praying such things for me.
Ironically, Dwight died on my 24th wedding anniversary.
Thank you, Dwight, for being a model and a mentor both in living abundantly, and dying in a gracious and godly manner. We love you, we will miss you terribly, and will see you in no time at all.
- laura harris
What I think I have learned most from Dwight's life is the poetry of life is in the writing not in the completion.
After reading these responses over the past day or two, what I've suspected of Dwight all along has been confirmed: Dwight loved us all. Okay, that sounds simple, but there are a dang lot of us on this list! I often marvel that God has the capablilty to love and know every single human being. I think Dwight got a big does of whatever mystery that is, that makes loving that many people possible.
Here's what I've learned from Dwight, in the best summary I can come up with:
1) I had Dwight sign my "gag" surgical mask when he & Sheri visited the Nashville crowd in early October:
As the great Canadian Philosophers Bachman-Turner say, "Any lovin' is good lovin'" love, Dwight
2) This is something Dwight added to a Christmas e-mail a few years back, and I've stolen the idea from him and now add this to my cards each year:
To a radically, perpetually unnecessary world;
to the restoration of astonishment to the heart and mystery to the mind;
to wine, because it is a gift we never expected;
to mushroom and artichoke, for they are incredible legacies;
to improbable acids and high alcohols, since we would hardly have thought of them ourselves;
and to all being, because it is superfluous:
to the hairs on Harry's ear, and to the seven hundred and sixty-eighth cell from the upper attachment of the right gluteus maximus in the last girl on the chorus line.
Prosit, Dear Hearts.
Cheers, Men and Brethren.
We are free: nothing is needful, everything is for joy.
Let the bookkeepers struggle with their balance sheets; it is the tippler who sees the untipped Hand.
God is eccentric; He has loves, not reasons. Salute
Robert Farrar Capon "The Supper of the Lamb"
I miss you already, Dwight. Pax & Bonum and big bear hugs.
What did I learn from Dwight? In my experiences with Dwight, he proclaimed an updated version of what Billy Sunday preached back in the 20’s: "God must have a sense of humour – he created parrots, monkeys – and some of you people..."
I first met Dwight when he was a youngster, in the early 70’s. Dwight’s parents, Jack & Dorothy, were pastoring in the small town of Fort Erie, Ontario, where I had grown up. I had just come back east from the West coast. I probably freaked out a few people in the church because some had no grid for where I was coming from: I had come to faith in Christ in the Jesus people movement, after living on a Buddhist commune in Northern Ontario, hanging out with Communists, marching against the Vietnam war in San Francisco, traveling around Mexico and California, etc. with all that was happening in those days. But Jack & Dorothy and Susan and Dwight (and the church), accepted me and loved me as I was, even though I’m sure I must have been a pain quite a number of times.
Pastor Jack assigned me to Terry, a man who came to faith in Christ one Father’s Day (and who passed away from cancer just last year). Terry had been dishonourably discharged from the army and had a penchant for doing things like getting into trouble in the revolving tower overlooking Niagara Falls for singing “Mr. Bojangles,” while dancing on the revolving restaurant’s table tops. Terry and I became best friends – though we were probably the “odd couple” in the church, yet wonderfully accepted by the Ozard family. Terry and I didn’t quite know at times how to adapt to Christian protocol, yet the Ozards modeled Jesus for us. It seems like Dwight also would struggle one day with protocol in his quest to know what it meant for him to follow Jesus...
I eventually went off to Bible College. For my third year internship in 1978, I was invited to go to where the Ozards were now pastoring, in Essex, Ontario, not far from Detroit, Michigan. It was like a family reunion to be back with the Ozards – I was like the wild grape grafted into the vine and Dwight was my little brother. Dwight and I occasionally had great fun messing around between the various church activities. He liked Love Song and Larry Norman, music from the Jesus People movement that I played for him.
Dwight’s finest hour during my internship was one night at supper. He spontaneously burst into imitation of the gyrating black preachers from Detroit. He had those boys and their raspy voices down pat. Dwight’s mother was trying to maintain some decorum at the supper table but could not maintain her composure, until finally she exclaimed (unsuccessfully holding back her laughter), “Jack, would you do something with your son!” Of course, Jack was laughing so hard, he had no intention of disciplining him. We were all under the spell of Dwight’s good ole’ “black” magic!
I have not seen Dwight since those days, but we were in touch via email from time to time during these last four years. He encouraged me in my work since it often touches those who have been traumatized from abusive pasts, those “who have not had a voice.” My wife and I have prayed regularly for Dwight during his battle. Isn’t it interesting how you feel you really know someone through prayer, and bond with them, even though you haven’t personally seen them for years?
As I would pray, I could still see Dwight, the black preacher, making Jack and Dorothy and Susan and myself laugh to tears. Thank you, Dwight. Now, through our tears, you make us laugh again...
Now you and Terry can sing Mr. Bojangles together, dancing on the Lord’s banqueting table. Now you can fully express your Detroit black preacher persona, without any pain. I think the Lord will be laughing - two white boys with rhythm - God’s rhythm...
Mr. Bojangles ( Nitty Gritty Dirt Band ) http://users.cis.net/sammy/bojangle.htm
I knew a man Bojangles and he danced for you in worn out shoes With silver hair, a ragged shirt and baggy pants, the old soft shoe He jumped so high, he jumped so high, Then he lightly touched down
I met him in a cell in New Orleans, I was - down and out He looked at me to be the eyes of age as he spoke right out He talked of life, he talked of life, he laughed, slapped his leg a step
Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles Mr. Bojangles, dance!
He said his name, Bojangles, then he danced a lick across the cell He grabbed his pants a better stance, oh, he jumped up high, Then he clicked his heels He let go a laugh, he let go a laugh, Shook back his clothes all around
Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles Mr. Bojangles, dance!
He danced for throws at minstrel shows and county fairs Through out the south He spoke with tears of fifteen years how his dog and him Had traveled about His dog up and died, he up and died, after twenty years he still grieves
He said I dance now at every chance in honky tonks For drink and tips But most of the time I spend behind these county bars 'Cause I drinks a bit' He shook his head and as he shook his head I heard someone ask him `Please' Please ..........
Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles Mr. Bojangles, dance!
Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles Mr. Bojangles, dance!
Dwight taught me that all Christians don't have to agree, except when it comes to helping the poor.
That it's OK, and encouraged, to question God.
That when your world is falling apart, "God fills the void"
That life's too short for cheap wine and mediocre food
Life isn't life without good friends to love you through the crap
You can say a letter is a "quick note" even if it's like 3 pages long
And a creed that Dwight said in an email (which I shall now butcher)
The 3 things in life that matter:
What are we doing right now. What are we doing that matters?
Find a hand that's worth holding. Hold it and don't let go
If you have 2, give to someone who has none.
Dwight is one of my favorite people. He consistently challenged me and forced me to re-think my beliefs. I have to say, that I really truly understand what I believe about the world largely because of Dwight...because with him, it wasn't ok to just slide through life. I'm not sure when I met him, but I think I was still in college and was very content in my conservative midwest upbringing. Dwight helped throw all those notions out the window.
About a year ago, we had a great series of emails going back and forth about politics and ethics, and Dwight just responded with "Ah, Lori. Can we burn this mother down?"
This year, I have been going through a divorce, and somehow Dwight always seemed to think that my situation was more dire than his. He went out of his way to make sure that I knew that he and Sheri were concerned, and always had a place for me to crash in Philly.
Remember how Dwight always ended his emails petitioning the AIDS victims/those without a voice in our neighborhoods? Well, I used to pray for Dwight when I walked around my neighborhood, so I prayed for those people too. I know there was someone in my neighborhood - right around 17th street in Huntington Beach - who i was praying for. I just don't know who. I mention this to Dwight one day, I think when we were celebrating his 40th birthday in Vegas, and he was obviously moved. I don't remember what he said, but I remember the look on his face, a look of total compassion. I can't really explain it, but it was probably my favorite moment with Dwight.
I miss my friend.
I learned a lot about God's grace from Dwight. It wasn't just from things he said, it was "between the lines". It was the light in his eyes, his welcoming smile and his kindness with people. That was grace in motion to me.
I'll miss you, buddy
Dwight walked into my life I think about 12-13 years ago. I think it was at an NAE convention. We were like the youngest guys there and connected. In the years since we would see other at this or that and I read his material in Prism and marveled at the funky music groups I had never heard of he would review.
Then there was the Habitat era and we meet at another convention and he gave me a hammer. Very cool. We were giving out brochures and he had hammers.
But to be honest it has only been in the last two years, that I really got to know Dwight. We moved to Philadelphia from Chicago. I did not realize Dwight was back here. We discovered fact we lived 10 minutes a part!
Breakfast, lunch quick emails, phone calls.
They happened nearly every week. For me Dwight was a friend in a foreign land. When we first moved I wondered why God had sent us in exile. How do you complain to new colleagues about being sent to Siberia? Dwight was the ears that listened.
Here in Siberia, I found a Detroit Tiger fan whose hope sprung eternal, a person with the same name (I am also Dwight) and the best friend I have had since moving here.
What did I learn from Dwight?
Friends can disagree.
Greet the stranger.
Love the unlovely
Hope for the best.
Don’t stop thinking about Tomorrow.
The Food Channel is cool.
Profanity is sometimes the only way to really describe bad things.
Normal people are sometimes weird and weird people are sometimes normal.
Hockey equipment stinks in a beautiful way.
People that are different than me are different than me, but may not be wrong. Maybe I am the one who is wrong.
Jesus loved the people. All the people in the world.
It is ok for one guy to tell another guy that he loves him
I miss Dwight.
Senior Vice President
Thanks to all of you, first of all. I've enjoyed every one of your reflections, and I think it speaks volumes of Dwight. If friends equalled wealth, Dwight would make Bill Gates look like a pauper. When I heard our friend was gone, I reread -- blubbered through, actually -- "27" (http://www.dwightozard.com/cancer_journal_entry.asp?cankey=78), because it says so much of what he was about and so much what we loved him for, and because it shows him at his wordsmithy finest:
It's just that while I'm ready to go, I'm just not ready to say good bye. Not even close.
I'm not ready to go because there are more three hour meals to linger over and glasses of expensive wine to raise in toast and celebration.
I'm not ready to go because I want to spend many more Autumns celebrating the intoxicating depth of flavor in a ripe, firm tomato and the simple beauty of that tomato eaten with a bit of extra virgin Olive oil and a bit of fresh Basil pulled from a plant that I actually grew.
I'm not ready to go because there are institutions of the Irish and British and Flemish and Belgian and just plain dingy varieties--whether in Nashville, Philly, London, ON, Toronto, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Americus, Windsor, Detroit and even Europe--where I have yet to sit with my best friends and laugh and sing and weep and read aloud, finding something off the godly in all that involves the pasta-like limberness found only in a hug at closing time.
I'm not ready to go because there remains great joy in breathing deep the aromas of feasting on the fated calf, drinking beers made with wild, natural yeast that blows from the rolling meadows of the Alsace autumn into the open windows of a Trapist monastery.
I'm not ready to go because I've never been to Europe.
I'm not ready to go because I've got carpets to yank from under your feet, and I'm not ready to go because I've got a notion that I might be able to tell you of a better place to land.
I'm not ready to go because I've got slightly off-color jokes to whisper to my father and never tell my mother.
I'm not ready to go because I want to write their eulogies, and I don't want them to have anything to do with mine.
I'm not ready to go because I need to kiss my wife more often, to spend more time in bed with coffee, the Times, Coldplay in our CD player, and the morning sun filtering through the windows, even as we decide to get rid of the coffee and paper because there's better stuff to do.
I'm not ready to go because I want more time to yell and scream and holler about the obscenity of throw away toilet brushes, McDonalds more than once a month, pre-made, crust cut, pressure-sealed, Wonder Bread Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches, and a diet that makes you eat only the food that made you fat in the first place.
I'm not done because I've yet to muster the courage to walk through Norman, OK or Wheaton, IL or even Wayne, PA, weeping & laughing and praying and mocking, all in hopes of finding a way to to call ourselves out from our preoccupations and perversions and warfare and to find begin to prepare a way to be something even close to faithful.
I'm not ready to go because there are still too many Christians that feed our anger with vengeance and not kindness, who claim our faith should make us wealthy, but not generous, who feeds and nurture a sense of entitlement that justifies walking past those who have none when you're on your way to buy your eighth or ninth.
I'm not ready to go because I haven't done enough to help us understand that simple living is not ugly living, that the balance to the decadence of North American entitlement is not a shapeless hemp dress, Nicaraguan art, sandals made of recycled truck tires or used, medium brown sedans.
I'm not ready to go because I want to find a way to live as a servant to the gaggle of ditsy, indistinguishably blonde Eastern University undergrads who have become our new, noisy, neighbors, who seem to begin to make noise only when Sheri or I decide to go to bed.
I'm not ready to go because I've other stories to tell, yearnings to map, visions to chronicle, books to write--better stories than the stupid ones with Cancer in them.
I'm not ready to go because I have not fully expressed the depth of hatred I hold for Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw, Barbara Hershey, Bette Midler, everybody in Steel Magnolias, Brian Piccolo, and every other fictional or real-life literary figure who has cancer or is dying from it, just to make me cry.
Screw "Love Story."
Amen, dude. I will so miss you. I hope you have a new set of irons, and that you and John Walmsley just teed off on the back nine. I hope you're headed for the big concert tonight to hear Johnny Cash. I hope there's a party afterward, with chocolate and wine, and you'll sing and tell stories and dance up a storm. I hope because you hoped, because we all hope, with that ridiculous, impossible old curmudgeon Paul, ".we exult in hope of the glory of God. " Now dance, white boy -- DANCE!
I met Dwight when I was working at GMA about 6 years ago. It wasn't until I started my own consulting biz that I started some email correspondence with Dwight. I asked questions and he was so kind to respond very eloquently and in a timely manner. I remember once feeling guilty for getting his advice for free that I sent him a check for his time and insights. It wasn't a large amount but I learned from Dwight that sharing wisdom with others is highly important, no matter what we get in return.
I learned from Dwight that it is okay to "speak your mind" with a balance of truthfulness (even if it hurts) and thoughtfulness (soothes over the hurt).
I learned that it is important to be passionate in life no matter what struggles you endure during the process.
I learned to think less of one's self and more of others.
Dwight, thanks for your wisdom, now enjoy peace and a new body! Blessings
I will try to be one of the voices of the many nurses who have been blessed to be part of Dwight's life and times in and out of the medical community. Dwight is the face that appears when I try to explain to friends how much I love my job as an oncology nurse -- how rich the experience is and how often we find times to laugh together. When people hear that I am a "chemo" nurse, the typical response is something like, "I could never do that" or, "It must be so hard . so sad," but I know that my work gives me the opportunity to meet wonderful, brilliant, spiritual people who are willing to be open and vulnerable and are willing to share life's lessons and gems.
Dwight was surely one of those persons. He made me think of those Master Card commercials: the I-V stick, $75; the chemotherapy bag, $500; the blood draw. $125.00. Dwight's lessons on love and marriage . priceless . Dwight's memories of being backstage at a U2 concert . priceless . Dwight's Christmas CD's . priceless . Dwight's stories of Sheri and their visits to Maine and Canada. priceless . Dwight's stories about faith and his understanding of Jesus in today's world . priceless.
Then there is the part that always comes when unbelievably inspiring and unforgettable people depart from this earthly place, leaving us behind to fend off the crazy times and cope with the overwhelming and challenging times by ourselves . the times we really know, if only for a moment, what real loneliness is. To be so blessed, to have shared just a moment with Dwight, and to carry his memories and spirit forward is a true gift that he chose to give to me. to all of us
9:39PM on the train back to NYC from the viewing:
I love Dwight.Or more specifically I like him ALOT, which seems the reverent statement in my mind. I mean I do love the guy but love, being a decision, always and still felt like there was some effort involved, and enjoying Dwight's company and digesting his thoughts were near effortless as they come.
I've only seen him on four separate occasions; two days in twenty-ought-three when we were both working a music festival just outside of Ottawa, Ontario, one day in late summer when I finally met the woman he'd talk so often about (incidentally, it's not bragging when it's the truth) and then at the Pre Bubble Boy Party in October. And still, I have very deep feelings of love for him. Feelings I know are shared with the same depth of emotion by hundreds of others. It's really hard not to feel this way about Dwight. Because though he would amaze me, I wasn't that surprised at how amazing he was. I had an inkling of that from the day of our first introduction.
Somebody said you should 'marry up'. I'm not there yet so that's how I pick my friends anyway. And I think our relationship was pretty simple. We mostly entertained each other, he with stories, I with quips on those stories. It seems like it's all we had time for really. But it meant the whole world, that time spent.
But what did I learn from Dwight. Well, I recognized a man who grappled with faith in real life and some of the incongruencies and contradictions and victories and pitfalls ... I don't know. Dwight and his life were a blessing to me. He came along at a time I needed to know someone I could relate to had already navigated the road I think I'm on. I really wanted to know him longer. I wanted to look at things the way Dwight looked at them. I wanted to be like him and in turn the God who has called him home.
I got to meet his families today, the Ozards and the Whites, and visit with Sheri. Talked with these people that God chose to care for and be in Dwight's life and the friends he loved and vice versa. I was excited to meet them because I knew Dwight. I wanted them to know how much Dwight meant to me. And I guess I needed to say good-bye to a man I looked up to. So when talking to Sheri and the Ozards found me choking up, Mrs. Ozard told me, 'God gives us tears so He can wipe them away' and that He would do great things out of this. I believe her. I know his funeral and successive times people get together to remember him will be sad because his time here seemed like it was cut short. I won't understand why this side of heaven. But they will also be celebrations because he was who he was, he is where he is, and he meant what he meant to us. And if it's about a Dwight, it would be about a party breaking out at a wake. I pray to be able to one day better vocalize what I learned from him over the course of our friendship but what I learned today was, since you're the company you keep (and I was honoured and priviledged to share his), there are a number of people I will still get to enjoy and be blessed with because of his life.
- Bradford How
Got to the church on time and was able to stay all the way to the closing hymn. It was a beautiful and uplifting service, and Dwight was very much alive throughout. I especially loved his father's words -- they touched my heart very deeply.
Thank you Lord for allowing me to be there for the countless friends of mine who were far closer to Dwight but could not make it. Not sure why I was allowed this privilege, but I pray that the seeds of faith, hope and charity that Dwight continually sowed will take root in my heart and blossom into something that will bless others as his life has blessed mine.
Amen and amen.
I don’t think that we have ever met, but I am one of the myriad of people who were blessed to have met your husband and to consider him a friend,. Were it not for his own generosity of spirit and great hospitality, I would hesitate to use the term “friend” for I only met him maybe three times. But looking again at his website and seeing the wonderful web of people who were drawn to him, I doubt that I am the only one in this position. His arms stretched wide to include a diverse group of people: rockstars, homeless folks, gay people, preachers, activists, and even timid white, middle class guys like me.
I first met Dwight back in 1992 at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I had just flown down to Philadelphia to visit EBTS and explore whether I wanted to study there and work for ESA. Having missed my train stop, I had to walk for a couple of nervous miles in the dark back to the school. As a result, I arrived well after the office had closed and at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. Upon hearing that I was also a Canadian, someone called up Dwight and he welcomed me up to his floor, gave me half of his soup and proceeded to take me and a few of his friends out for beer and wings. It was a wonderful welcome and it quickly dispelled my fears about attending a sober, “Baptist” institution. Dwight gave me the low down on the school and ESA, and a very frank assessment of working in a basement office with exposed water pipes but doing really cool, prophetic work while going deeply into debt.
In the end, I turned down the Finney to take the money that Carleton was offering me to study international development. Although a pragmatic decision, I always wondered if I had chosen the easy way out (“God” vs. “Mammon!”. But Dwight was gracious in this, saying “If God opens a door like that, take it!” and he never made me feel bad for not making the same choice that he did. I continued to follow his PRISM editorials with great interest, and was honoured when he asked me to write a short book review.
The second time we met was at the Chicago Declaration II conference. After my visit to Eastern, Dwight had hooked me up with the Christian Environmental Association in California, and I attended their first 1993 conference. From that came an invitation to attend the Chicago conference in the Fall of 1993, where Dwight again welcomed me and invited me to the post-concert party (another haven of alcohol at an ESA event! Was there a theme here? Did Sider know?). I recall his ease with the performers –Randy Stonechild, Rick Elias and Phil Keaggy – and having a Heineken with Phil and having to admit that I had never heard of him until that night. “Oh,” he said graciously, “It’s great to meet someone who doesn’t know my music”. It was my first and likely last encounter with the world of celebrity, but a moment that I will always recall fondly.
My third meeting with Dwight occurred when we bumped into each other at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto a few years later. I was there to meet my new girlfriend (now my wife), Tricia, and Dwight also mentioned that he had met someone very special. Reading his postings these past few years as he struggled with his illness, his love and devotion for you was always conspicuous and lavish, and it is great to know that I was given an early heads up on this budding romance.
Although we never met after that point, we did keep up an occasional email correspondence, even as you two were in Georgia and Trish and I moved to Tanzania. I followed his blog from afar and after we returned to Canada in 2002. It was only recently that I noticed that I hadn’t received an update for a while (I think that I may have fallen off listing in the summer), and it was a note from a mutual friend who knew Dwight from London that broke the news to me this morning.
I’m typing with tears right now, scared that my delayed grief may seem self-indulgent and incidental given my tangential relationship to Dwight. But I’m writing as well to let you know that there is a wide embrace of people around the world who mourn Dwight’s death and that embrace is there for you too, right now. We also celebrate his great gift of friendship, his joie de vie, and his passion for speaking up for the voiceless.
My prayers are for you and all who knew and loved him. Please know that you are not alone.
Under the Mercy,
Written about three weeks after Dwight's passing:
This past Tuesday evening I finally got to go see Man in Black. I had a standing invitation to see it with a friend opening night, but alas, that was the night of Dwight's funeral. So Tuesday was the earliest we could reschedule.
The movie was amazing. Joaquin Phoenix was channeling Johnny in action and voice. Its amazing he actually sang every note. Reese Witherspoon is supposedly just as good or even better...but while I have a limited memory of seeing clips of Johnny performing (to compare Phoenix's performance to), I have very little memory of June. But it was a fun, rollicking, heartbreaking, ultimately redemptive movie.
Afterward my friend and I went to a local restaurant and I kept my word to buy a round of scotch in Dwight's honor. (I even got through four small sips of the stuff...sorry...that's the best I could do, Dwight...and all the vomiting the next day?...I think that was due to the flu, not the scotch.)
What really made the moment was the jukebox. As the scotch was being delivered to our table, Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" was playing, next was Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues"...two of Dwight's favorite artists...by the third song my friend and I were waiting in anticipation....and....it's Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me". We had a good laugh over this. Now, one thing about Dwight...as we all know he had very high taste in music, film, and food. Admit it, he was a movie, record and food snob. BUT, you could like just about anything in his presence as long as you labeled it a guilty pleasure. So we called this Def Leppard tune a guilty pleasure. A few songs later was The Dixie Chick's "A Home" (another artist and song that Dwight turned my on to) followed by Marvin Gaye "Let's Get It On" while images of Jack Black flashed on a TV screen for a preview of King Kong. (If you saw High Fidelity, Dwight's self-proclaimed autobiographical movie, you'll know why this song and Jack Black go together.)
So as we imbibed our scotch and greasy pub appetizers, everything seemed fitting for an evening remembering Dwight. Love you, Dwight. Miss you, Dwight.
Grace and peace,
IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR SON DWIGHT OZARD
(written November 2006)
One year ago Nov. 14th our beloved son, Dwight went to be with his Lord and Saviour, after a brave battle with Multiple Myeloma over 4 years and 8 months; – a wild roller coaster ride of hopes raised and then dashed, delays and disappointments, ups and downs, several heavy duty chemo treatments, 2 stem cell transplants, more drugs than any one body should have to endure, all with their own weird side-effects, a scheduled bone marrow transplant postponed then cancelled because he was so very ill. Then the Lord in His wisdom called him home.!
How we miss our son, our regular telephone conversations, our periodic visits either here in Canada or down there in Devon. From our point of view, his passing was much too soon, for this relatively young (43) but fruitful, eventful life.. But we take great comfort from the assurance of Scripture that today he is “with the Lord!”
Dorothy and I wish to thank those of you who responded to Pete Beroli’s request to send in “Things I learned from Dwight!” We found these “thoughts” remarkable as they poured in from quite an eclectic group of Dwight’s friends. They evoked laughter, brought much tearing to our eyes, gave us greater insight into the scope of Dwight’s influence and the variety of friends (in which he was rich), and helped us much as we continue to come to grips with this enormous loss. We will read them again today.
We were never more proud of Dwight than during those almost 5 years in his battle with this disease. Proud of his bravery, his determination to live as normally as possible; Proud of his love & devotion to Sheri & hers to him; Proud of his writings, the influence of which is wide-spread and we are still discovering, ongoing; Proud of his social conscience. So thankful for his strong faith -- And we will never forget the surprise 50th. Anniversary party he pulled off for us in May 2005 - such a precious memory to us today!
Dwight loved life and lived it to the full. He loved good food & loved to cook; He loved to golf; He had a cryptic sense of humour.
We knew he had a lot of friends & wide circle of influence, BUT only as the e-mails & cards poured in, did we begin to realize just how far-reaching & how much he was loved & is missed. Dwight said a few weeks before his death, “Not much money, but rich in friends.” It was true.
Immediately upon the onslaught of this disease, he began his “Cancer Journals”, with his regular up-dates of the journey. These were posted regularly on his Web Site and circulated far & wide. They have had a tremendous impact upon countless. They provided great insight into his character, gifts, faith, courage, skills and humour.
His trademark signatures – “Grace, Peace & Dirty Fingernails” – “Heirs on the side of Grace” will always be remembered and continue to challenge us all.
The Friday before he passed away, Dwight whispered to us, “I’M ALRIGHT: I’M IN THE HANDS OF GOD!” – words that will always bring comfort to our hearts!
Those words express a great Scripture truth: when one is in God’s Hands, indeed, everything is alright! – And this has never been more true for Dwight than today; knowing he is free from pain; free from the frustrations & debilitating effects of this disease; - and at rest. “Free at Last!” – “WITH THE LORD!” – “Being confident of this one thing, that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!” – and who can even begin to imagine the glories & wonders of “Being with the Lord”!
None of can even begin to understand the mysteries of life & death; we all have many unanswered questions. BUT the bottom line is we are to “commit our souls unto the faithful Creator” and trust our Faithful Heavenly Father.
Dwight wrote early (2001) in his journal - ”No matter which way all this turns out, I am the winner!”
He wrote later “I am ready to go; I am not afraid to go; I’m just not ready to say goodbye!”
On Monday, Nov. 14th. 2005, we said a temporary goodbye to Dwight; but because of what Jesus did for us at the cross and our faith in Him, we will see him again in the presence of the Lord. Dwight confessed in one of his updates, “I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION!”
In July 2005, Dwight was invited back to speak at Metropolitan Church (London, Ont.) where he had served for 3 years. (’88-’91) How thrilled he was to be able to come & speak at those two services. His message, “The One Called Alongside!” – He finished his message with a great story & a quote from Wesley & made it his own confession; He raised his arms and said in a clear emotion-filled voice, “WHILE I HAVE BREATH I WILL PRAISE THE LORD!”
Today we remember Dwight with great Love.
Jack and Dorothy Ozard
The following are some of Dwight’s quotes that Sheri chose to be in the Memorial bulletin a year ago;
“When you say my name to our Redeemer, remember to pray too for those who don't have a high-powered Outlook address book or an impressively cluttered Rolodex or a cell phone cluttered with the numbers of friends or their name on church prayer chains.
When you ask our Father in Heaven to care for me like an Eagle gathers her young under her wing, remember that there are far too many in this world, both far away and next door, for whom the very fact of their suffering means isolation from the love of family, friends and even their place of worship.
If you remember me, remember too those born into death and suffering and who literally have no one in this world who even knows their name, let alone someone to breathe it in prayer to God.
That process of making my cancer a chance to help others expand their world--to begin to think about issues of justice and suffering and who has a part in that suffering, both as creator and as potential reliever of it--that process, that ministry, has been pure gift to me, a chance, as the rock star has said:
...to make beauty out of ugly things.
And that's pretty freakin' cool.”
* * * * *
He stood with the weak when he could only kneel
He called us to speak when he lost his voice
He introduced us to those we did not know
He asked us to pray and we did.
* * * * *
Either way, we want to just to make the most of this thing, to use a metaphor that I'm certain is inappropriate, given my disease, to suck the marrow out the bones of life, to live deeply without reservation, hesitation or fear. To breathe deep the air of spring and the breath of God, to savour the depths of flavours and the best of God's good earth and to "taste and see" the goodness of God, to hold the things that matter close to the heart, to treasure the hard parts of loving and frolic like a 4-year old in a mud puddle in the good, easy parts.
Don't waste this thing.
It's too good.