Farewell Jerry

On 5 June 2015 Jerry Collins one of great All Blacks of the modern game, and legendary hard man, was killed instantly with his partner on a motorway in Southern France when their car crossed the centre line and was struck by an oncoming bus.

At the funeral yesterday we heard the heartbreaking story from Jerry Collin's close friend, Chris Masoe that when Jerry realised the crash with the bus was imminent he leaned over his daughter and covered her with his arm and his body to give her a chance of surviving the impact thereby placing his own life in greater danger. Such an act speaks of the selfless courage of the man and how much he loved his daughter.

While I have always been a great fan of Jerry Collins and admired his fearlessness and uncompromising play on the rugby field, I have been surprised by the amount of publicity and the outpouring of grief his death has caused, particularly in his hometown of Porirua. While Jerry was certainly a great All Black, he is not of the same ilk as Jonah Lomu or George Nepia. Nor was he a man like Michael Jones known for his kindness and moral fortitude. Indeed I remember the uproar he caused when he urinated on the field before a Tri Nations game against Australia in 2006 and of course there was the recent incident in Japan when he was arrested for wielding a knife in a department store – allegedly because he was scared of being attacked by the Japanese Mafia. Nor is his story of rags to riches unusual amongst pacific Island players. On reflection I think the out pouring of grief has happened because we have somehow conditioned ourselves to believe that All Blacks, and sporting stars, the rich and famous and the young are somehow exempt from the tragedies of life – so when they die unexpectedly it comes as a great shock.

In Psalm 73 the psalmist Asaph expressed such a view, "For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills."

Jerry Collins' death is a stark reminder that none of us are immortal and that life is a very fragile and fleeting thing – like a flower of the field that is here one day and gone the next. In Psalm 72 Apsah after mediating in God's house realises this and says, "Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly they are destroyed, completely swept away.. "

In Luke chapter 13 when Jesus is confronted about the tragedy of the murder of some Galileans by Pilate as they were going to the temple, he reminds the crowd that death comes to us all and therefore we should not delay in repenting and turning to God, as he says two chapters earlier it is better to be rich towards God than store up riches on this earth (Luke 12:21).

So what should take from Jerry's untimely death? Certainly we should respect and remember him for what he achieved and acknowledge his supreme sacrifice for his daughter, but his death should also lead us to ask if I was to suffer a similar tragedy where would be my eternal resting place be.

Jerry's sacrifice for his daughter should also bring to mind Christ's own sacrifice for us. When the Father saw the imminent crash and devastation and death that would be caused by sin entering the world, he gave his only son so through his blood we could be covered and have life eternal. Hopefully because of his Samoan heritage Jerry availed himself of this covering.


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