two martins

They even looked a bit alike. They were even diagnosed with cancer at about the same time. And now they have both died, just 11 months apart from each other. Having both enriched my life in such different ways, I took such delight in knowing that there was that day when they met each other, through a mutual friend, David Lyle Morris, who loved - and sung - his way into their hearts and homes.

My very favourite friend Martin (Lovatt). My very favourite cricketer Martin (Crowe).

I've mentioned Martin Lovatt a few times in this blog. There is the lovely photo of him at my 21st birthday party all those years ago. And a couple of posts around the time of his death last April (I was in China). I will always have an empathy now for those who endure grief at a distance and on their own. But God knew - and he sent an angel to me. Here is a little extract from a later sermon:

            At Hong Kong airport, on my way, I received the news
that my special friend from childhood
was in his final days in his battle with cancer.
          Off I went into a country with no gmail, no facebook.
           Martin died while I was in China. I experienced real grief. 
      Within an hour I was sitting around a circular table
having lunch with a group of people,
whom I had never met in my life,
who did not speak a syllable of English
& who kept an eye on my chopstick technique.
            They wanted me to say something about my work after lunch.
            ‘What could I say?’
 I decided to share about Martin, his friendship, his death
& the difficulty of being so far from home.

Afterwards one of the pastors stood up & through translation, simply said to me: 
“Today this is your home. We are your family. You are always welcome here.”

That taste of what it means to belong to the (global) family of God will never, ever leave me. Under God's gracious hand - and through an extraordinary series of events - I was able to get home to Auckland for Martin's funeral (four out of five nights spent on 10+hr flights and hardly noticing the impact) and to bear witness to his loyalty, his gentleness and his goodness.

I've mentioned Martin Crowe a few times in this blog. Quite a few times, actually. A big fan - ever since I saw him batting, at 14 years of age, in the school nets just weeks after my return to NZ from India, and concluding to myself, "if this is the level of talent in New Zealand, I am never going to play cricket here." My fullest reflections came in a review of Raw. I've lived overseas ever since I wrote this piece and a joy for me - from a distance - has been to see the rehabilitation of MD Crowe in the eyes of the NZ public. People have short memories! For most of his career, he was treated very poorly. Not unlike Brendon McCullum's journey. Does anyone else remember the vitriol around the Rutherford-Crowe captaincy debate? Or, the press coverage during the build-up to the World Cup in 1992? Some of these journalists change their colours pretty easily...?!

On the day after his death, it was amazing to find Crowe mentioned with the header on the front page
... and then to be the dominant story in the sports pages.
There have been a few other posts ... like his presence on my 'first eleven' list of cricket memories AND my passing moan about his deflated Test average AND his entry at Number One in the list of my all time favourite sportspeople (mind you, Lydia Ko was only 12 at the time!). One obituary speaks of his 'elegance and eloquence'. That is it for me, too. As the elegant batting drifted from view, the eloquent writing came into focus ... and my enjoyment of MD Crowe's talent continued on uninterrupted.

I am not really a 'Rest-in-Peace' man. Partly because I don't understand what it means. Sorry. Maybe someone can explain it to me. I am more of a 'Rest-in-the-certainty-that-God-will-receive-you-in-accordance-with-His-mercy-and-justice' man. But I hope my enduring prayers have been answered and that an encounter with the mercy and justice of God in Christ has brought to Martin Crowe the peace that I know Martin Lovatt experiences.

Now and then I ask myself why I have been drawn to these two Martins who are now both gone at such a young age. With the Crowe Martin, it does come back to the 'tortured genius' phrase (the title of an early biography). While the 'genius' drew us all forward in our seats, it was the 'tortured' that drew from me an uncommon empathy and, yes, even the occasional identification. With the Lovatt Martin, it is about liking him with a friendship that prevailed through seasons and separations - but also about a longing to be like him, following his example, as he followed Christ's (1 Corinthians 11.1).

nice chatting



Ben Carswell said…
Lovely post Paul - thank you :)
Paul Windsor said…
Thanks, Ben. Hope you are travelling well.

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