Okay, stick with me through this post and I promise that all the threads will come together at the end, lol…
Maybe it’s because I just buried my father this week…no, let me correct that, it is because I just buried my father this week that I’m thinking about eulogies.
We had a wonderful memorial for him last Saturday, and several people had a chance to share their memories of him, and how he had made a difference in their lives.
And, whenever I think about eulogies, I think of one of my all-time favorite movies, a beautiful little Irish Indy-film called “Waking Ned Devine.” (If you haven’t seen it, rent it, it’s awesome!)
I won’t give away the plot, but there is a funeral scene in the movie where the main character is giving a eulogy, and says…
“Michael Sullivan was my great friend, but I don’t remember ever telling him that. The words that are spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man who is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral, to sit in the front row and hear what was said. Maybe to say a few things yourself. If he was here now, if he could hear what I say, I’d congratulate him on being a great man, and thank him for being a friend.”
So now, fast forward to today…
There was a great article in the Oregonian today, titled “Face to face with a sense of purpose” by Professor Tom Bivins.
The article talked about how the writer had met several soldiers in a coffee shop at the Brook Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, and had realized that these young men and women, these citizen soldiers, unlike so many of his own students, did not cling to the sense of “entitlement” that so many of the young people of this generation seemed to claim.
Bivins went on to write how many of us X-ers, seemed to assume a “divine right” to an education, a well paying job, and a preordained place in our social hierarchy.
He wrote (of the soldiers he met):
“There was no whining, no sense of lost entitlement. Instead, there was a sense of something else. Douglas MacArthur called it simply duty, honor, country…what I saw in those young faces was a sense of obligation that can only be discharged by a burden most of us would never freely choose to take up.”
Somehow, these two parts (this article and my father’s eulogy) combined and, as often happens, my brain spewed out a completely unrelated thought.
So, here is what I want to say, while I have the chance…
Van Zallee is my great friend, but I don’t remember ever telling him that. I want to speak some words that he will have a chance to read, and so understand what he has meant to me.
I have known Van for many years, and he has always been a man who sought to help and better those around him. Whether by coaching their volleyball games, teaching them the self-discipline of martial arts, or by training his fellow soldiers to defend our country in time of war, Van has always been my best example of a man who understands that his own obligation is to better others, and his “entitlement” is his opportunity to give back, not to take from.
He is a man who uses his own gifts and abilities, not to promote himself, but to help all of those around him improve themselves.
If he were here today, and could hear what I’m saying, I would tell him how proud I am of him, how much I love and respect him and, indeed, congratulate him on being a great man, a patriot, and a brave defender of all that he believes in.
Thank you, Van, for being my example and my friend.
Okay everyone, so here’s YOUR chance…
My mother, who passed almost twenty years ago, had a saying…
“If you think there’s praise that due them, now’s the time to give it to them. For they cannot read their tombstones when their gone.”
Please write a memorial to a friend, something you would someday say at their funeral, but would like to take the opportunity to have them hear from the “front row.”
Friends, parents, spouses, everyone is fair game. Feel free to use what I’ve written above as a template, and post your own tribute below.
Take it from someone who has just learned this: when the opportunity is gone, it is gone forever. Say it now.