The chapel was beautiful for Roy’s memorial service. The mortuary director and staff handled the details with the proper reverence. The emcee did a great job of listing the family members, survivors and predecessors. The words spoken from the podium seemed to flow so easily and clearly painted a picture in our minds Roy’s life. He had affected so many. Roy had written his own eulogy for us through the years. To my knowledge however, he had never picked up a pen and ink and deliberately put on paper the many events that we were now remembering.
The family had meticulously arranged a room full of memories with pictures and various items from his life. There were several collages of vintage dog-eared photos, most printed on the old photo paper that was common years ago. Each one told a story of the man so full of life and abundant compassion for others. Even the old black and white prints ushered out thoughts directly to the time and place depicted. Colored ink was not necessary, the vibrance of the man was vividly clear. They seemed to speak, almost out loud, of the colorful life of this good man.
The staff directed each guest to methodically file past the display of masonry tools, newspaper clippings and notations of his generosity and accomplishments. The single file line quickly fell apart. Crowds gathered around the various displays, some standing on tip-toes, to get one more glimpse of their respectable friend through the throngs of onlookers. The pictures and mementos in the displays were beautiful reminders of a life so full of love and even a good bit of playful orneriness. We all cherished the physical reminders, but the life he lived told the story without the aid of cameras, pen and ink.
Roy’s beloved wife passed away a few years ago. This had clearly left him heartbroken. The house was now just too big. He would invite his friends up to his home. He converted a spare bedroom to an entertainment center that became known to us all as the Sandbox. It was his hub in the social wheel. It included Roy’s favorite decorations, pictures from the U of A games, Neon beer signs, and a full bar stocked with Heineken and any other beverage that Roy’s friends preferred. Many evenings Roy would strike up a conversation with a new-comer at the local Vero Amore restaurant. Many mornings would find bending someones ear at the counter at Jerry Bob’s Family Diner. It wouldn’t be long until he knew their favorite beverage and a good bit about who they were. If the new-found friend didn’t indulge in adult beverages, that didn’t matter to Roy. He would invite them over to the Sandbox, but on the way, you could be sure he’d make a pit stop and pick up something that would make them comfortable at the bar.
It was at the Sandbar that many of us would hear the tales of the numerous high-profile masonry projects that Roy so passionately shared. Anyone that came in contact with him immediately fell in love with his stories. It would be only a few minutes of greetings and introductions, and the box of pictures would be spread out all over the bar, and the tales would begin. From the massive and ornate libraries and community buildings in Chicago and Saint Louis, to the hall at the University of Arizona, he would explain them to awe-stricken guest brick by brick, arch by arch. His accomplishments in the masonry field were outstanding and his passion for it was electrifying. They will stand for many years as monuments of the craftsmanship of this talented mason.
Roy was the quintessential giver. He would not mention his generosity much, nor would he readily accept charity. He didn’t need to talk about all the good deeds and compassion, it was clear by his demeanor and actions when he noticed someone going through a hard time. The depth of his humility and compassion for his fellow-man, will undoubtedly never be completely realized by everyone.
Roy loved to get a hug from the pretty ladies and shake a good man’s hand. The hugs usually lasted a bit longer than the handshakes. He talked often of his kids, grandkids and his beloved wife. If he ever met a stranger, Roy made sure they didn’t stay that way for long.
I am confident that Roy was oblivious to the play by plays that he created through the years, yet they projected like a lifetime movie in that memorial service. Inadvertently, Roy wrote his own eulogy. The story could have been quite different. The chapel could have been stone cold, quiet and empty, void of the laughter of friends and family sharing hugs and memories. It was, however, exactly the way he would have wanted it.
There is powerful cliché that goes something like this; If you don’t change your direction, you will end up where you are headed. It appears Roy had clearly mapped out his route. He may not have been completely aware of the impression he was making on so many lives, but I am sure he knew where he was headed.
Today, I will take a lesson from our dearly departed friend. Not with pen and ink, or word processor, but from this day on, I will attempt to live my life as if to write my eulogy. I will lay out the plans for the rest of my trip through this life. I will be conscious of my actions so that my eulogy will be festive, warm and full of fond memories. I intend to create an autobiographic eulogy that I would like my friends and family to experience upon my passing from this life.
We will all write our own eulogy. It is our choice whether the chapel will be festive and warm, or cold and quiet when the day comes that we make our final exit from this old world.
- eulogy (inconvenientsuspense.wordpress.com)
- Eulogy Speeches: Use a Story to Help You Get Started (socyberty.com)