Do Not Resuscitate: January 2007: Archives

January 13, 2007

A Eulogy For My Uncle Bobby genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances

This past Sunday my Uncle Bobby died after a long struggle. Before he died he asked me to write his eulogy and on Wednesday I delivered it at his funeral mass. I hadn't intended to publish this eulogy for my Uncle Bobby but decided to do so after it was suggested by his son that I should in fact post it here at Thought Theater.

When I was a child (around second grade), my dad and my Uncle Bobby built their houses next door to one another on five acres of land. My dad and my uncle were business partners throughout their working years and our families grew up together so we shared a lifetime of experiences...both enjoyable events and difficult moments.

In deciding to publish this eulogy, I concluded that the message it contained could be meaningful to any reader and that knowing my uncle wasn't a prerequisite. I've frequently written about the intertwined nature and meaning of life and death here at Thought Theater and this eulogy is an amplification of those thoughts in a real life...and death...situation. I hope it can offer more depth and perspective to my prior postings.

A Eulogy For My Uncle Bobby

One of the easiest things to do in life is to judge others…perhaps it helps us avoid the hard work that comes with self-reflection...perhaps it makes us feel better about ourselves. In life, we all make judgments…and we all know people who simply judge others, but we rarely encounter those who move beyond judgment towards understanding and compassion…simply because they choose to do so. Having the awareness necessary to make such a choice is a rare occurrence…but also an affirmation of the inherent goodness at the core of our humanity. Uncle Bobby lived that choice.

Over the years, we’ve all heard people say that those who don’t judge others also lack the capacity to judge themselves…or simply put; that they choose to allow others ample leeway…because it’s the same leeway that they are seeking from others. It seems like a tidy formula…but little in life is tidy…so it seems foolish to accept such a simple premise. On the contrary, the choice to reserve judgment is simply an acknowledgment that the humanity we all share is undoubtedly imperfect.

My uncle never believed otherwise…and that is what made him the fine person he was. When others sought to simplify life, he sought to see more of it…when others chose to narrow life, he set out to do more living…and when others chose the safe path…he chose to take the risks that would allow him to be more alive. Those choices made him the compassionate person I know…and also more vulnerable to the scrutiny of those who chose easier paths. He also knew and accepted that likelihood.

Some might wonder why a person might make such a choice …but in truth his reasons were actually simple and straightforward. He revealed who he was at all times because he sought to meet those he encountered in real ways. It wasn’t good enough to engage in meaningless chit-chat with acquaintances…he sought to connect much more deeply with all those he encountered…even as many of us who were frequently around him wondered why he would put himself out there for all to scrutinize…and to judge. Notwithstanding, all of you here today are a testament to the merit of how he lived…and in being here you acknowledge that his efforts touched you because he made the difficult, though rewarding choice to take expose his heart to you.

In life it is often easiest to draw the wrong conclusions…but that would also be far too simple. I had to face that reality when Uncle Bobby asked me to put his life into words. I had to set aside my own willingness to draw conclusions in order to find the truth. On the surface, the passing of a friend or family member seems to be about the person that is no longer here…but in many ways it is also about those who remain and the choices they have made and will yet make. The death of a loved one ends one story…but it can also serve to define and direct those stories that will continue on in those who remain.

Life is a string of choices woven together into a fabric that has texture, color, and meaning. To understand life we not only have to create and understand our own fabric, we must attempt to interpret and appreciate the fabric that is found in the lives of those we encounter. All too often it is easy to conclude that a good life must look a certain way…have a prescribed texture or a familiar color…but that too is far too simple. In death, we seek to explain the life of the person who has passed…but perhaps we would be better served to understand what the ending of one life…and how it was lived…can teach us about the remainder of our own lives…and the choices we make.

Uncle Bobby lived a good life and it is important to not only see its color and feel its texture…but to also understand its meaning. I remember the many times he shared with me one of his favorite sayings. He said it was far worse to never make a decision than to make the wrong decision…because if you aren’t afraid to make decisions…then when you do make the wrong decision all you need to do is make another one to begin the process of correcting it. Much of his meaning can be found in his appreciation for…and his living of that very philosophy. Much wisdom lives there as well.

Uncle Bobby believed in living…and he accepted that living wasn’t always neat and orderly…but he never allowed that to prevent him from doing more of it. Even when life threw obstacles that might have led others to give up…he forged ahead. And he did so without bitterness or regret. He never ceased believing that tomorrow was an opportunity…and he refused to let yesterdays disappointments put an end to his dreams for the future. He hoped for a world that could overcome the flawed nature of humanity…but he also embraced its reality. There can be nothing wrong with that.

At the same time, he sought to believe the best about everyone. Not long ago we were talking about the recent mining disaster in West Virginia where only one of the miners survived…the youngest one. While the authorities were attempting to sort out the events that transpired underground, Uncle Bobby had his own theory about how the one miner may have been able to come out of the mine alive. He had heard that a number of the miners were found without their breathing apparatus…and he speculated that perhaps the older miners may have made the decision to give what little oxygen they had to the youngest miner…so that he could make it. While I don’t believe that turned out to be the case, it is one of many clear demonstrations of how Uncle Bobby thought about life…and it provides further insight into his meaning…as well as what each of us can take forward from this day and from his departure.

He was an eternal optimist…something many may have struggled to understand. He believed in humanity even during the times when little humanity could be found. He believed in the power of the individual and the enduring nature of the spirit and the ability of the will to overcome adversity. Why? Because he felt that if you didn’t believe it existed in others…it couldn’t exist within. He refused to accept that humanity…when given the choice…would ever choose defeat over destiny…despair over determination…and he believed that if the time between birth and death is precious, then to allow it to succumb to fear and pessimism would be to diminish it. He appreciated each day and the opportunities each one presented.

If Uncle Bobby were here, I’m sure he would want each of you to remember that life is shorter than we think and that we all have an appointment to die. We live under the false perception that living is measured in years…and that the more years we are alive, the more life we live. We often mistakenly let fear keep our spirits in check while bargaining for more years instead of more life. Uncle Bobby chose more life.

As I’ve thought about Uncle Bobby’s life and the lives of many others I’ve known who are no longer here, I’ve come to realize more of what it means to live. What we frequently recall about those who are no longer here isn’t the years they spent…it’s the living they did. When you stop to think about the things people talk about when reminiscing about friends and family that have passed away, it’s usually about the fully human things that made them vibrantly alive…the risks they took to show us who they truly were while not allowing themselves to be crippled by the fear of judgment or disappointment. We remember the colorful stories that illuminated their unique identities…those special traits which were then…and which will remain forever more…unabashedly beautiful! That’s what I will remember about Uncle Bobby.

If Uncle Bobby were able to speak to each of you today, he would want you to remember that the future is uncertain…and at the same time it isn’t all that important…live fully each moment. What you will be when you are long gone will not be that which you accumulated…it will be that which you shared and gave of your authentic self to others…that is carried forward…willingly and deliberately…by those who knew and loved you. Most importantly, he would wish each of you the courage and conviction to be the most authentic and unabashedly beautiful person that he came to know and love during his time here with each of you.

In this life, some people have no dreams…some people fear their dreams…some people can only imagine their dreams...but when all is said and done, Uncle Bobby lived his dreams.

I’ve never been good with goodbyes…so I’ll offer these closing thoughts in the hopes that they capture…and help each of you keep the spirit of Uncle Bobby alive in your hearts and in your actions…

Life is a dream, have no regrets…your spirit lives on long after that…death is a dream, rest well my friend…live without fear, your life never ends.

Sweet dreams Uncle Bobby.

Daniel DiRito | January 13, 2007 | 9:59 AM | link | Comments (2)
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