Farewell to Dan Syfret

We begin with a happy song that Don loved to listen to, Smile by Uncle Kracker. It's a mostly whimsical song about things that maybe should get you down but don't and how sometimes you just smile. I then read Psalm 150 which includes a call to praise God in the open skies, which we were doing, and to use all manner of instruments–and I imagine all types of people–to praise Him. I then guided the group to share happy memories of Dan:
  • He would always give me a lift wherever I needed to go.
  • I loved his dog, Whiskers
  • I loved his smile and his jokes.
  • He would buy me a beer when I needed. It would hang out and talk when I needed that, too.
  • He was always cool to me.
  • He loved us. He always came out here to help us in whatever way he could. He wasn't a rich man but he gave anything he could. Who here wasn't touched by his kindness?
  • Dan had much that could have made him bitter: legal issues, drug issues, and a complicated set of things that even forced him to choose living on the street at times. But he wasn't bitter. He was joyful. And he loved sharing the Gospel.
  • Dan had one message, "Love your brother." I loved and respected him so much for that.
  • Dan loved people and I always respected him for that.
Then we listened to Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd. That was Dan–a beautiful and simple man. I then shared "Jesus wept" for those who knew Dan and "Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn" for those who were there to stand in solidarity today. I then opened up opportunity to share with the group what people would miss about Dan:
  • I'll miss asking him for a cigarette. Because he didn't smoke and he always gave me a smart answer.
  • I'll miss watching him wipe out on his skate-board.
  • I'll miss our prayer sessions together.
  • I'll miss playing with Whiskers.
  • I didn't know him very long, but we had a couple of really good talks. I miss being able to have more of those talks.
  • He was wise. I will miss being able to talk with him.
  • I'll miss how he made me better. How he loved all of us.
  • I miss talking to him so much.
We were joined by a young man who was walking down the street. He was dressed well, but I noticed a few characteristics that might mean "street youth." After listening to all this, he spoke, "I was just walking by when I saw you guys. I am so glad that I joined you. I have needed something like this for a long time. I lost two street friends in the fire in New Orleans." He added through the tears, "I am so sorry for all your loss even though I didn't know Dan." I assured this stranger that he was with family and that this circle of people had lost a friend, Johnny, in that very same fire as well. He looked amazed. [Eight people from the street youth community lost their lives in a fire in New Orleans Dec 27, 2010. Read more here.]

We then moved to the final portion of the memorial service. We listened to Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum. Dan was a solid Christian believer. He wrested with faith issues in his earlier life, but he was completely solid in his relationship with Jesus the last few months. I personally can attest to this through our hours of prayer together. I then shared Hebrews 4:15-16 with the street youth. "These verses are very special to Street Youth Ministry. They describe the type of Savior that Jesus is–one who understands our every weakness because He Himself was temped in every way, but was found to be without sin. So this can give us confidence that we do not need to hide, lie or run from Him. We can approach Him with confidence that He understands and loves us. Dan knew this intimately and completely. " I then asked the group to share what they take with them from Dan, what endures of Dan in them:
  • I think Dan's soul goes before all of us and pleads our case with God.
  • Dan is probably waiting to come pick us up in his van and give us a lift to heaven.
  • Dan wants us to remember his main message and to really do it: "Love yo' brotha' Dig it?"
  • Dan's talks with me about what he was trying to do these last few weeks will stay with me a long time. I wish we could have more.
  • In one of my last prayer sessions with Dan, he prayed many prayers of thanks for what God would be doing in Dan's life 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and even 25 years in the future. God cannot answer literally some of those prayers now, but he will still answer Dan's prayer about 25 years: "God, I thank you for many grandchildren, all of whom know and love Jesus."
  • We have to take life one day at a time. Each day is a gift. 
  • We must find a way to stop coming to the tree to mourn friends who falls from addiction. Those of us who have this disease must stop killing ourselves. We must come to grips with this disease. It is so powerful. We are each made special. I am so creative. That's my gift. I can't waste that just because I'm prone to addiction. We all have special gifts, and we have to use them for good. Fight the disease! Get help! Stop making us come here to this tree to mourn yet another friend who has been taken from us. Please!
I had not planned such a strong message, but the group created this powerful message for themselves from their grief. First that Dan was a great man and wanted them all to live up to this call to action, "Love yo' brotha'." They questioned each other and repeated it to one another many times in the service. And the second message was that they needed a wake-up call to fight harder against addiction. And for the right reasons… so they could become strong and use their own precious gifts to help others. 

We concluded the ceremony, commending Dan's soul to heaven and asking him to intercede with God on our behalf to help make us better, to help us use our gifts for good, to help us stop turning from God and turning from our responsibilities to one another. We enjoyed fellowship and a dinner provided by volunteers in the cold until sun down. Many received blankets and warm clothing. It was a fitting way to celebrate Dan's life. 

Farewell husband. Farewell son.Farewell friend. You are a beloved child of God, and we were blessed to have you in our lives. May we "love our brotha'." May we stop being selfish and surrender ourselves completely to God and begin to fully use our gifts as you intend them. Amen.

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
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