I was blessed to have known Bro Drew Nelson.
Proud that he considered me a friend. Joyful for the time we spend together on holiday or over a meal with family and friends. I met Drew on an Ulster Society trip to Theipval to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. I last saw him twenty five years later in the kitchen of his home in Dromore, Co Down. We shared a bottle of wine, some cheese and biscuits. A poignant and precious memory.
As it is with men we did not discuss our feelings, our memories, or our fears for the future. Not because we could not, but because it was not required. Rather we discussed practical matters, how his mother was getting on in the care home. The care package he would need going forward. The loose ends he had to tie up in the office. At 9.30 the nurse arrived, emptied the dishwasher and tidied up around the sink. We said goodbye wished eachother ‘all the best’ and I left. That was two months ago.
By chance on Saturday I was at an event in the Orange Order Museum, which will stand as a lasting legacy to Drew’s commitment to and vision for the Orang Institution. A mutual friend was over from England. He had planned to visit Drew at home but, had decided against it, as he had the cold and did not want to compromise Drew’s health. Sadly as we now know this simple act of Christian love was not required.
On Thursday I along with many others from across our land will attend Bro Nelson’s funeral. Yes we will mourn the loss of a great Ulsterman, a great Orangeman, a great Unionist. But above all we mourn the loss of a very dear much loved, and much missed friend.
But we give thanks to the Lord for blessing us with that friendship. We give thanks for blessing our Institution with brethren like Drew Nelson.
Safe in the Arms of Jesus,
Brother Graham Craig, Belfast