We are living in strange times, aren’t we? I certainly did not want for anyone to take an unnecessary chance to be exposed to a disease that took my brother’s life. Also, an oversized chapel at the funeral home did not seem like the right setting for what would have likely been an intimate gathering. While I would love to see you face-to-face and shake your hand or give you a hug, we can still connect using technology.
Bill and I grew up together. We had the same mother. I have never met his father, our mother’s first husband, and I think Bill only met him a few times. For all practical purposes my dad was his dad and we were brothers.
He was a typical older brother in that he would defend me with others, but privately practice new wrestling holds on me when Mom and Dad weren’t looking. Not infrequently when he would become distracted with TV much later in the day, I would run up to him, hit him as hard as I could, and then run away. Of course, that caused a ruckus and both sides of the story trickled out. Inevitably, we both got punished.
Bill was an adventurer, determined to establish his own identity at a very young age, moving out on his own at eighteen.
Some of his adventures became misadventures.
- He got lost in the woods while hunting. I remember trampling through the brush with my parents when he was long past due, not knowing if he was alive or if something awful had happened. I think he just lost track of the time.
- He has fallen out of a tree and through the ceiling of his own house. He may have fallen a few other times. He always liked climbing things.
- He had a couple very serious motorcycle accidents. One left him unconscious for days.
- He ran out of air while scuba diving in Cozumel.
- He was struck by some sort of robot on the floor of the Quaker Oats warehouse.
- He had a forklift accident in the same warehouse that revealed he had two brain aneurysms, which resulted in a surgery that saved his life.
- These are just the things I know about.
His biography would rival most novels.
We were very different. Bill was carving his niche as manly adventurer who liked guns and motorcycles, while I was more of a nerd and played it safer.
Bill went through a lot. He suffered brain damage from the motorcycle accident, leaving his personality just a bit different than before. The surgery for the brain aneurysms was less than successful and left him with a long, painful recovery, and a little more change in personality.
In his prime, Bill was a tough guy with an edge, but a different Bill emerged the last fifteen years or so. That was about the time he was found driving around Kansas City International Airport lost, late at night. I don’t think anyone knew how much he was struggling. Since that time, he has lived in two different retirement facilities and two nursing homes.
Though he had a few times of agitation, most of the time he was very mellow, thankful , compliant, appreciative, and polite. His caregivers loved him. They did an exceptional job caring for Bill at The Chateau in St. Joseph and Highland Healthcare in Kansas.
When served his meals, he had a way of saying, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” That totally reminded me of Elvis.
One time when I took him to Barbosa’s, after dinner he said, “Brother, that was a little bit of heaven right there.”
Bill got slower and slower. Carrying on a phone conversation was like having an extreme satellite delay. It was not uncommon for him to ask about everyone in the family and then say, “God bless them everyone,” sounding vey much like Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol. In his later years, he was mostly content, gracious, and expressed a simple faith.
Bill’s life is a pretty wild story. We all probably feel a bit that way since life has its way of throwing us some curve balls that we didn’t see coming. Our life is a story, too. We do not control everything that happens in our story, but we do have editing privileges.
I have written bunches of eulogies. Each one is an opportunity to honor someone, learn from them, and reflect on our own life, our own story.
It seems like a good time to ask ourselves, “What kind of story am I writing, i.e., the story of my life?” Is it one that people will long remember with a smile on their faces, a warm heart, and sense of gratitude? I hope so, don’t you?
However your story has unfolded, it’s not too late, things are not too far gone. Remember, you have editing privileges. Let’s leave something real good behind.
I am reminded of this scripture.
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
I think we all agree, there is plenty of evil in the world. Sometimes people call good, evil and evil, good. Love really shows up in times like these.
Make the most of every opportunity. Live a life filled with love.
I’ll leave you with these very special reminders from Jesus.
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
And lastly from the Apostle John.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)
Lord of all and lover of each and every person who reads these words,
We commend Bill to your safekeeping and we look forward to that great reunion with him and so many others who have preceded us. May each of us trust Jesus as our forgiver and leader, joining with him in his kingdom now and forever. In the meantime, we have a wonderful purpose to make the most of every opportunity and live a life filled with love. Help us to write that kind of story with our lives.