I heard the devastating news on Sunday of the loss of a true role model and leader in our community, Mr Dave Beetar. Dave, the recently retired headmaster of Merchiston Preparatory School in Pietermaritzburg passed away over the weekend, due to Covid complications. His death leaves a huge void in the lives of his beloved family, as well his school community and even further afield.
A few days on, I still can’t believe it is true. I try to shake my head, hoping to clear my mind and somehow wake up after a bad dream. However, just a quick glance at social media reminds me that the news is true and the man we all thought was immovable and unshakable, is no more.
After the initial shock of the announcement, I have been battling to process this wretched news. I tried to figure out the injustice of Dave having worked tirelessly his entire life (the last 33 years at Merchiston) and on the brink of his retirement, he is taken from his family and our community.
That is not fair!
In fact, those were my exact words in my complaint to God – “That is not fair! Why now Lord?! Dave still had so many more years in him. He could have done so much more for the world. Our world needs wise people to help us navigate through the turbulent waters ahead! Come on Lord!!”
Even having had that very vocal rant before God, I am still not feeling any better. Dave’s death has coincided with my reading of Ecclesiastes and the last few days I have been completing chapter 12. It is easy to get stuck on Solomon’s words in verse 8: “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.” And if I am allowed to be 100% honest – those were my sentiments exactly. What is the point, Lord!? Everything is meaningless! We work hard for our entire lives and then we are snatched away at some inopportune time. Surely, not Lord!?
As the mist begins to clear I am slowly inching towards the beginnings of acceptance, although I am sure I will have a few more rants with God in the future. I am sure that Dave would want us to pick up the broken pieces and to carry on living as best we can. So, I guess will slowly start to process the events of the last week and try to make meaningful sense of them.
On initial reflection these are some of the ‘lessons’ I want to take from this tragedy:
I want to honour Dave’s life by embracing my every breath as a gift from God.
I want to live my life to the FULL, in the here and now – not waiting for retirement or tomorrow to do something I love.
I want to be intentional about rooting out distractions in my life.
I want to pass onto others what God has given to me. It is only in giving of ourselves that we know the pleasure of God.
I want to be conscious of all the special people God has placed in my life – the people that make the journey worthwhile and who choose to walk alongside me.
A few years ago, Dave asked me to speak to his staff and to lead some prayers after a popular staff member had tragically passed away. I did what I could in the moment of grief and afterwards I remember how Dave and I chatted through some of our own deep emotions. Later, I passed onto him a little book I wrote entitled ‘NOW – Refuse to the moment pass!’ I had written this book after the heart-wrenching death of a friend and it seemed appropriate in that crisis to give it to him. Dave said he found it helpful and I know that he was already embracing many of the points I raised in the book. One of those quotes goes like this:
“Do it now. Do whatever you can right now!” – Thomas a Kempis
Dave was always ready (Ready Aye Ready is the motto of Merchiston School) to offer leadership, guidance, wisdom, care and compassion to all who needed it. Of course, he had to make some unpopular decisions in his years of leadership that they were always made with the greater good in mind.
So instead of trying to figure out why this happened to Dave, and the vexation of the situation, I am choosing to align myself with Solomon’s final comments at the end of his twelfth chapter:
“Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
I think Dave would want that from you and I.
Rest in Peace, Dave.
Much love to Dave’s beloved family as they mourn the loss of a remarkable human being.
Living in Grace