"As life runs on the way grows strange with faces new Till near the end, the milestones into headstones change, 'neath every one, a friend."
I don't know who wrote those lines, but I remember reading them for the first time, over twenty years ago, and they stuck.
Every now and then, they come back. And as the years roll on, they come back more frequently, and every time they do, I think I understand them a little better.
Recently, I've lost three friends.
Brian Johnstone, the quintessential voice of English cricket. Brian Redhead that superb journalist and broadcaster. His voice has wakened me every morning for as long as I can remember, and I have lain in bed and chuckled with him as he probed and prodded the truth from recalcitrant politicians.
And then, Sir Matt Busby. Like many of the millions who mourn his passing, I'm no great football fan. As a friend of mine used to say, "If they were playing football round my bed, I wouldn't open my eyes!" But we can recognise and acknowledge greatness, and Matt Busby was one of the greats. There aren't many left.
One of the most moving tributes to him came from our own George Best. Fighting back the tears George acknowledged that despite all the hassle and the heartbreak the young tearaway genius from Belfast was causing him, during those golden years, Matt never stopped loving him. He never ceased picking him up when he fell down. Never stopped standing up for him against his enemies. Never condemned him.
Perhaps what affected George most of all was what Matt Busby's son had told him at the funeral. "My dad looked on you like a son."
That really touched George deeply, and it showed. "For someone that great to think like that about me," he said incredulously to one of the reporters outside the church. "For someone that great to think like that about me."
If you're a Christian, how long has it been since you felt the same sense of incredulity, of wonder, gratitude and humility that Someone that Great should think like that about you. (lYNSAY ALLEN)