This last week, there came the unexpected news that a friend and former pastor of mine, Doug Millham, had passed away. A massive heart attack, and then a stroke, incapacitated him suddenly, and a few short days later he was gone.
I was only one of many people who had known him and cared about him. After he left service at Hollywood Presbyterian, I didn’t see him very often. But he and his wife, Jackie, were on my Christmas card list (when I was still able to afford that celebration). When I did see him, such as at Hollywood Pres’s Thanksgiving morning service or a late Christmas Eve one, there would always be a warm hug of greeting and a few moments of chat.
He had served at Hollywood Pres as an executive and an associate pastor for several years. This brought him into contact with a lot of believers who worked in the entertainment business. It was not his usual arena of ministry, but he engaged with an open enthusiasm and a desire to help the believers who were facing the challenges to faith in a business that is by turns indifferent and hostile toward Christians. He took the issues that writers and actors faced seriously, and he never trivialized the “entertainment business.”
This morning, a memorial service was held for him and his family, and a very sizable body of people attended. These were people who had known in from the many stages of his life. There were those who had attended Hollywood Presbyterian during his years at the church. There were those who had worked with him in the ministries that reached out to the needy around the world. He had spent a short time as a police officer long ago, before answering the call to go into ministry. In recent years, that law enforcement connection had returned when he served a chaplain to police officers, and then to the LA County District Attorney’s Department of Investigations.
He was one of the tallest men I knew, and he inevitably had “presence.” But that presence came not just because he was so physically imposing. It came from a warmth that radiated from him, an approachability that made proximity to him a “safe space” while one spoke with him.
For me, one of the things I appreciated about him, was his willingness to provide advice and counsel. There were a couple of times when I had emailed him about circumstances I was wrestling with, where I wanted a more objective perspective to the events I was dealing with. He would never make a final judgement of things – he wisely left that choice up to me. That was a quality I definitely appreciated, as I know the final decision about what I was to do had to come from myself. But, his insights and recommendations were always wise and worth listening to. I shall miss that contact, even though I only infrequently needed it.
A couple of weeks ago, he crossed my mind. Not because of anything drastic going on. Just an incidental thought, that popped in my head while driving across town. Years ago, he had acquired a black Corvette (from another friend, in fact), and I had passed a Corvette on the road. The thought of him in the car made me smile. But it went no further than that. I should have taken note of the moment – since I hadn’t seen or communicated with him in a while. I should have sent a short email greeting. But I didn’t.
For those of us who are Christians, our belief in the immortality of our souls and the protective salvation of Jesus Christ gives us an assurance that those who reach the mortal end of their physical bodies as believers will be found in the company of Christ when our own turn at that transition comes. So… though I shall miss Doug’s presence here among us, I know where he has gone.