Skip links

For Whom The Bell Tolls

One of my best friends died today. I have been friends with Morris Bagwell since 1961. Fifty years! We went on long motorcycle trips, co-pastored a church for several years, tried to sort out theological perplexities (we usually agreed), ate a lot of Mexican food together, traveled to Europe, Asia and the Holy Land with our wives, and in general shared our mountains and valleys together. We knew and loved each other.

John Donne was never more right about who the bell tolled for today. It was not just Morris who died today, but a part of me as well. I have a significant set of memories and experiences that passed today. Nobody else knows what we knew together. I am diminished by Morris’ death as I was enriched by his life.

Morris and I conducted religious services, sacraments, wedding and funerals together. Morris officiated at my son’s funeral 18 years ago. Saturday at 1:00 p.m. I will speak at the service celebrating his life.

And his was a life to celebrate! He lived with an enthusiasm that enhanced all the lives around him. Morris lived and loved with an abandonment that infected all of us who have lived at a slower pace. He loved his life and life in general as much as anybody I have ever known. There are those who have lived longer, but not many who have filled their life as he did.

Morris was diagnosed with mesothelioma 2 ½ years ago. He was apparently exposed to asbestos years ago when he worked as a commercial electrician. So we have had lots of time (usually over a good Mexican lunch) to talk about life, death, dying, and heaven. He balanced the desire and fight to live with an ‘enthusiasm’ to experience the real life to come on the other side of death. He wanted to live and was accepting of death. The apostle Paul expressed where Morris lived when he said, “To live is Christ. To die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

He preached his last sermon this past Sunday. We talked on Monday and he said, “I’m done and want to go to my real home.” Pain had been increasing over the past year to the point of being unbearable. Those of us who loved him through our grief and tears today are glad that suffering is over, but our sense of loss is profound.

My mother said in the months before she died (March, 1999) that she had more friends and family on the other side than here. When someone this close graduates, I can relate to her feelings. I feel the wisdom of G. K. Chesterton’s view of our lives when he said, “there comes to all men ultimately the awareness that this earth is the wrong place.” Death always feels wrong. Deep inside we know we are destined for something more somewhere else. Thank God for that hope!

  1. I’m saddened by this news and your loss but appreciate your warm tribute to Morris. Although I did not know him as you did, I kept saying “yes” to especially your 4th paragraph. I wish I could be at the Saturday service and will be remembering him and praying for Judye and other family and friends who feel loss of him most deeply.

  2. Although I have lost very few people in my life I do find that even though I am just 41 I sing the old hymn “Lord I don’t feel at home in this world anymore” to myself more and more frequently. At times I “know” things that others seem to miss and see the things that happen that just take me aback yet doesn’t faze others. I just don’t “get” the ungodliness of people. I feel to young to sound so old fashioned. I am sorry for loss. Derek and my anniversary is coming up in April. We will see you then as we come to our favorite Inn and see our favorite Inn Keeper. Looking forward to the peace, rest, and tranquility of White Stone.

  3. Paul, I am so sorry for your loss. I remember the stories you told of the adventures the two of you shared. How blessed were you both to have shared so much life together.

  4. Thinking of you all during this time of loss and grief. But how beautifully said-as always-by you, and our hope is summed up and we are encouraged by how you put these emotions into perfect prose.

    Thank you for sharing this. I connected with God this morning through it and was encouraged remembering this world is not our home, we are just a passing through…

  5. Paul, The same verse came to my mind last night. I can think of no other that better describes Morris’ attitude through all this.

  6. It seems that I can hear Morris’ bolstering laughter as we’re all sit downstairs in the Farmhouse for just a few more rich stories of old. Maybe our story-lines have gotten a bit stretched over the years due to our fading memories but the joy of those evenings still warm the soul. Goodbye, my friend, for just a while!

  7. Your tribute to Morris touched my heart. We have lost a warm, wise, wonderful Warrior.

  8. We have had the privilege to know Morris for only 2 years. Our lives have been so enriched with his friendship. We’ve never met anyone quite like him! He encouraged every person as he ministered here at Oasis in the Pastors Retreat. We will miss this beautiful funny person in this life, but what a homecoming he will receive.

  9. What a beautiful tribute you have given to a beautiful life and a beautiful friendship!

  10. Paul,
    I was both saddened and thankful at the same time when I heard of Morris’ passing to New Life. I know this must have been very difficult for you and Jean. Diane and I wanted to be there for the funeral, but my back wasn’t working well. Please let Judy know that she is in our prayers. We love you and Jean very much!

Comments are closed.