This past Christmas, we were given a gift that we didn’t really want to receive. The week before Christmas, Ed Hirshman, a beloved friend, mentor, and recently-retired-director of Harvesters, passed away at the spry age of 73, as a result of complications with esophageal cancer. Ed is certainly “in a better place”, and “is no longer suffering.” I have to admit, though, that the cliché sentiments that people often use to bring comfort to those who have suffered a loss are not sufficient to soothe the hurt of losing someone like Ed.4
He faithfully served as a Marine on active duty for 22 years and on staff at Harvesters for even longer than that. He led Harvesters around the globe, prayerfully expanding the scope of the ministry’s partnerships from a focus solely in Kenya to 11 partnerships in 10 different countries.
Around the time of Ed’s passing, I watched the Christmas classic, White Christmas, which gave me a picture that helped me relate to the death of my dear friend.
In the opening scene, we see General Waverly, who is retiring from the Army, say goodbye to his men. He starts out insulting them and telling them how worthless they are, but ends up melting (in a macho way, of course) and tells them how great they are. The crowd of soldiers send Waverly off singing “We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go…” Even as bombs fall around them, they continue to sing as Waverly moves through the crowd and gives his men a final salute before exiting into a waiting vehicle.
Even though Ed would probably lose his mind because Waverly was in the Army, not the Marines, there are similarities between Ed and General Waverly. Both were rough and brash on the outside, but wise and compassionate on the inside. Ed was respected by those around him, sought after for his advice, and endured for his stories. He didn’t mince words and told it like it was. He was much smarter than he gave himself credit for. Dave Wilson called him a “true warrior with a big heart and compassionate hands.” Ed finished well and had the respect of so many as he gave his final salute.
At his memorial service, when tears weren’t blurring my vision, I saw a room full of people that loved and respected a man whose legacy will not be in monuments, fame, or wealth, but in the people into whom he invested his life.
As one of those people, I must admit, that there is a huge hole in my life where Ed Hirshman used to be. He was a friend, mentor, confidant, and someone I knew was always on my side. It is because of Ed that I am now in ministry. I realize my grief is selfish because I miss my friend and regret things that went unsaid. But I know that God is in all things and that my friend now has a new audience to whom to tell his stories.
Goodbye dear friend. May your legacy continue to bear fruit as the lives you touched touch others.