If you will grant me one more day of writing about loss, I promise you this day is the day that will move us forward. I will try to place you in the setting that the words you will read, were said to us. Maybe that will help, but most likely you have all been in this setting before in some manner. You have all listened to prayers. Songs. Eulogies. I think I misspoke when I told you of The Eulogy. It should have been more fitting. This isn’t the end of a man’s impact on our lives. It is the beginning of carrying him differently through out the rest of our lives. A eulogy speaks of an ending. These words speak of carrying on.
If you could be seated on that hard chair. Squeeze yourself in, shoulder to shoulder, with a cousin, a spouse, a stranger. A face familiar to you only from the last few days of being in the same place and sharing the same sorrow. The young man sitting in front of you, to your left, with tears drip…drip…dripping off of his cheek. Hitting the dark of his jacket. You glance around wanting to see the sister, the brother, the parents, the kids, the cousins….make sure they are okay. Knowing you can’t make anything different.
The room is large, but not large enough. You glance through the other rooms opened up to hold the one family. His family.
The preacher sits after welcoming the brother.
And the physically strong, powerfully built man steps to the podium. His father standing there next to him. And with a deep, but soft and gentle voice, he speaks to each of us individually. And pulls us closer. Together.
He says with tenderness and sincerity…
“We’re all here because Paul touched our lives. It may have been as a co-worker, a team mate, a friend, or because you were family. The truth is… we’re all family. Paul’s heart brought so many of us together and has sewn us into one family. I found great comfort hearing the word “brother” whispered between tears and laughter this week. My circle of brothers is wide and powerful. I owe my little brother for that. I love each of you…as Paul did.
That’s why I’m here. We all have immeasurable hurt in our hearts; tears for the world that has lost someone so special and tears for our own lives, a little bit darker now. But Paul would have none of this… the crying, the feeling of being lost. He would seize this and turn it into something powerful, convert this into a time of celebration, repurpose this into something good; something in that makes me proud to be his brother. The true definition of this man.
Many of you know him by a common passion or interest. Maybe it is work, sports, school, or music. Maybe it’s because Paul met you waiting in line at a store and invited you to his house for a Saturday evening bonfire. When you’re with Paul there are two types of people that you encounter; friends and friends that you have not met. I can honestly say that Paul was entirely genuine and his smiling face and contagious laughter never concealed other motives. If he told you that he loved you, it was an absolute.
But he was deep. Deeper than any ocean. His layers of feelings and caring were the core of who he was. He had dreams and aspirations that many share, but few actively chase. Paul was a do’er, an unstoppable force, a man passionate about what he wished to accomplish.
Paul was a man who was also passionate about family. I once described Paul as being the strongest and also the most gentle man you will ever meet. He loved his wife deeply. He depended on her more than she would ever know, to be his rock…his safety in a storm. He loved his Mom and Dad. Not a day would go by without a text or a phone call from Paul to make sure that they were ok.
His greatest love was for his boys. He believed in them. We shared many starry evenings together, dreaming and predicting successes for our children. He knew that both of his sons were both smart and ornery, perhaps a payback, because they are both a lot like their Daddy. They are destined not just for great things, but to become great people, just like their Daddy.
Paul was tirelessly pursuing his dreams. Everybody here has seen hardwood smoke billowing from the smoker, smelled pulled pork and brisket, and tasted the sauce that he helped create. Few people were able to see him endlessly typing on the computer, completing a bachelors’ degree from DeVry. Paul was under constant pressure to succeed. Pressure that he put on himself. Pressure to be a good son, a good father, and a good husband. These were all interconnected for Paul.
He found time to be a coach for Youth Wrestling, Little league Baseball, and to teach his sons to be outdoorsmen. He gifted the boys with a connection to him that will transcend any distance. That was his love of music. Just this week I watched Oldest Son playing his guitar. His fingers moved effortlessly across the frets and he plucked each note perfectly. I could feel Paul’s smile.
This week my mom was talking to Clark, owner of Clark’s IGA. Our family has shopped at his grocery store for generations and he has been a great friend. Clark was recalling a moment that he had with Paul at the Small Town Fourth of July. They were having a quiet moment away from the bustle of the BBQ booth. Paul had just exclaimed how tired he was from smoking pork shoulder all night. Clark asked him why he did it. Without hesitation, Paul told him “For my boys, its my legacy.”
A defining moment of this man.
This legacy is what kept Paul moving, not for personal gain…but to have something to share and then give to his beloved boys and the rest of us. This legacy now falls on me, his family, his entire family. That’s you.
Here is my challenge to you. We’re all a better person because of Paul. Theres a family here with a huge hole torn wide open. We all have that hole. Healing starts today. Don’t let the selfless acts of love that brought us all together be in vain. Reach out to others. Open your heart and do things because they are right things to do.
‘The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.’
How do we say goodbye to a giant of a man, a friend to everyone he knew, and most importantly a loving father, husband, son, and brother. The easy answer is…we don’t. Paul will remain in our hearts and more importantly, our actions.
I miss my brother, and I know that you do too.
I’ll press on, and I know that you will too.
I love my brother, and I know that you do too.”
No need for exaggeration. No need for drama. No need for anything but the love and kindness and decency of one man given to the entirety of the world he touched and shared his life with. With the strength of his convictions he sets us up, embraces us, and encourages us to take what Paul gave us….and go on.