January 29, 2012

A Good Man Dies


Eleven years, eight months after Don's stroke he passed away after a brief hospitalization for pneumonia with respiratory failure. It was a tribute to the kind of man he was both before and after that stroke that his service was packed with many people to help give him one, final goodbye. It was a very upbeat service with many busts of laughter as several friends and family members stepped up front to share memories of Don. My contribution was the eulogy I wrote which is posted below. Don loved the Old West so I tried to put a western twist to his service. With that in mind the reverend used the Lone Ranger Creed in place of reading scriptures and used stories I had told him to illustrate how Don tried to live up to the creed. At the end we played the Randy Travis version of 'Happy Trails to You.'
Jean
****** ******* *****

The Eulogy

The purpose of a eulogy is to share a person’s life in one single speech. How do you do that for a man like Don ******* who in many ways lived an unconventional life? We could say that he was born April **** 1941 and that he grew up on a farm just outside of **********. We could share dry facts that many of you already know like he had three brothers, graduated from ****** High, and was in the Army Reserves. We could tell you that Don worked nights as a die maker at General Motors and he had his own parking lot maintenance business. Or we could talk about the fact that when ever anyone tried to get him to explain why he didn’t get married after dating and working with Jean for several decades he’d say, “Why, we hardly know each other!”

There are three themes that ran throughout Don’s adult life: collecting, snowplowing, and hunting. You didn’t have to know him well to know that these were his main passions. Before his stroke, eleven and a half years ago, he could tell endless stories about being an American Picker long before there was a TV show by that name. Also in his storyteller’s trove were tales of plowing the Big Blizzard of 1978. And when the topic of hunting came up, Don often told the story about the time his friend shot his brand new truck and then put a Band-Aid over the hole to cover it up. In all the years Don owned that truck he never got the bullet hole repaired because he delighted in telling people about how he got that hole in the hood. He loved to tell long-winded stories. So much so that friends used to tease him, saying they had all his stories numbered and memorized and all he really had to do was shout out a number and it would save everyone a lot of time.

That all ended the day Don had a massive stroke that not only took his mobility away but it also took his speech. Even then he still found ways to be a storyteller. One way was to put Jean in a position where she had no choice but to explain what was on Don’s mind. Like the day he parked his wheelchair right in front of the door to a store selling cigarettes and he wouldn’t let anyone in or out. In a militant way only an x-smoker on a mission could do, he held up three fingers while repeating the word “three!” over and over again. This forced Jean to tell Don’s story to the gathering crowd about how he used to smoke three to six packs of cigarettes a day and he blamed the habit for earning him heart by-pass and a stroke. 

There are other labels besides stroke survivor, storyteller, collector, hunter and snowplower we could apply to Don that helps define who he was as a man: brother, uncle, neighbor, co-worker, friend, boss, and landlord to name a few. 

He was also loyal to his friends, honest to a fault, and he was especially kind to old ladies which might explain why he finally married Jean when she was nearly old enough to collect Social Security.
Don was also courageous for the way he faced the challenges brought on by the stroke. His special shorthand story for all he’d gone through was to hold up two fingers and say the word “two!” This was Jean’s queue to explain that two neurologists had told the family he’d be a vegetable for the rest of his life. Most people, upon hearing this, would respond the same way: “You sure fooled them!” And it was true. To friends and family who spent time with Don after the stroke, it was clear that despite his disabilities he was still the same, intelligent and caring person he’d always been.
Over the years Don and Jean had talked about the kinds of funerals they wanted, usually after going to one they didn’t like. He even worked in this very funeral home when he was in high school. And through the experience he came to appreciate the value of a good send off. One thing Don wanted at his service is a western twist. So with that in mind we’re going to end this eulogy by reading the Lone Ranger’s Creed. The Lone Ranger, many of you will remember, was the original good guy of the Old West dating back to the days when kids listened to his serialized stories on the radio. Don was a good guy, too, who not only had a copy of this creed in his collection of western memorabilia but he also tried to live up to it his whole life.

The Creed
"I believe that to have a friend,
a man must be one.

That all men are created equal
and that everyone has within himself
the power to make this a better world.

That God put the firewood there
but that every man
must gather and light it himself.

[I believe….]
In being prepared
physically, mentally, and morally
to fight when necessary
for that which is right.

That a man should make the most
of what equipment he has.

That “This government,
of the people, by the people
and for the people”
shall live always.

That men should live by
the rule of what is best
for the greatest number.

That sooner or later...
somewhere...somehow...
we must settle with the world
and make payment for what we have taken.

That all things change but truth,
and that truth alone, lives on forever.
[I believe…]
In my Creator, my country, my fellow man."
******************
I am closing this blog now as this 'caregiver' chapter of my life is now in the past. I'm starting a new blog titled 'The Misadventures of Widowhood.' Long time followers of this blog know that writing about Don's stroke was my way of coping with the challenges it brought into our lives. I blogged often in the early years and as one challenge after another was overcome my posting became less and less frequent. I'm hoping the new blog will be the same kind of useful tool as the next chapter of my life unfolds. Stop by sometime and say, "Hi" over here.
Goodbye to all my readers here and goodbye to Don, my own special Ke-mo-sah-bee.


To get back to The Misadventures of Widowhood click here. 

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3 comments:

Amy said...

My thoughts are with you.

The Bee Folks - Lori Titus said...

I can't believe it has been so long since I have checked your blog! I am sorry to hear about Don's passing. Your stories have been an inspiration to me to look at the brighter side of a dark life. I hope you have adjusted well, and I will link to your new(ish) blog.

Jean R. said...

Thanks for stopping by! I need to update myself on your blog as well.