Saturday, June 19, 2010

Eulogy

Dear friends,
Thank you for being here with me, with my family today. I suspect if I said “thank you” to each of you, personally, you’d probably respond with something like “well of course I’m here – where else would I be?” I know this, because this is what I have been saying to you and what you have been replying with over the past 7 weeks. But I say this now, here, because I really want each of you to know, as deeply as you can, how changed I am because of you. No doubt Amy’s death has profoundly changed me and will continue to change me, but you, this community of dear friends, brothers and sisters, have shown me something about what community means, what friendship means, what love and compassion means. My boys and I are forever in debt to you all. And I must say, part of me hopes, prays, I never need to pay you back. But if that time does come, I hope I can show the same compassion, courage and loving kindness you have shown me.

I also what to acknowledge Amy’s professional colleagues. I can’t begin to count the number of times Amy expressed her joy with her work/life balance. She felt she had an ideal situation being able to work part-time yet stay connected to her profession and also have time to be a wife, a mother and active in our community. It meant a lot to her as a woman, as a professional with a career, and a mother with children. And it meant a lot to me.

The paradox of it all is that in this time of great loss for me and Adam and Bryan, have we been given so much. We have received so much. Knowing that you all stand by us, are near us, to hold us up and catch us, has steadied us and helped us begin to find our way. So it feels strange to stand here and tell you how lucky, how truly blessed we are. But I cannot deny it. Thank you – I love you all.

I believe it is no small measure of the impact Amy had, and the love and energy she put into everything she did, that the boys and I now receive that love and energy back through you. It is her love, I believe, we continue to receive, in large part, through each of you. It is that love that the boys and I take, that we all take, to continue her work in this church, at work, the creation of her birth center, and that I draw strength from to be a father to Adam and Bryan.

Some of you know the story of how Amy and I met back in January of 1999. I won’t entertain you all now with the details, but just to say that while I don’t believe in love at first sight, I was certainly smitten. Yes, we met at a bar – I prefer to say a nightclub – and we talked nearly the whole night. And yes, dancing was involved. And if you ever saw Amy dance, you can imagine how I was smitten. After one dance I told her I wanted her phone number so I could call her and ask her out. She obliged, I called her the next day and we went out. We would call it the “best first date ever.” And it was. We just clicked on so many levels. And on our second date, we discovered, to our amazement and delight, our mutual desires for family, children and future. As we discovered each other that first year, I found in Amy a partner who could challenge me intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, yet let me be who I am. I never felt I had to be someone for her other than myself. And honestly, that was a new experience for me. To be myself, in true partnership, with someone. We were a great team.

And we created a good and special life together. We felt lucky. We used to talk about how lucky we felt. Amy used to say she felt she won the lottery – I used to tell her I felt I had been dealt a very strong hand. We traveled around the world, integrated ourselves into our community and committed to each other to create a relationship of deep commitment and mutual growth. On one trip we took to Spain - Amy had a conference in Madrid and we tacked on a few extra days for ourselves - we were in Arcos de la Frontera a small town in Andalucía. Arcos sits on a high bluff overlooking the plain and we stayed in a converted castle, a parador. During dinner there we distilled this concept of our relationship. We had been discussing it on and off for some time, but it was there that we came up with the words: Creating a nurturing environment so our family can experience the divine in all things. 23 November 2003.

We had our moments, of course, like everyone. Crises of confidence and disagreements subtle and not so subtle. And while we had expectations of each other, I never felt like there were conditions on our love. I never felt Amy hold back her love and I hope I was her equal in that regard. And it was through this that Amy gave me the most precious gift of all. Besides the gift of time she shared with me, how so ever brief, was a gift of profound love. And through that profound love she showed me how to be loved. Through her words and deeds, I knew fully she loved me, without conditions. The most precious gift imaginable. I can only hope she felt the same of my love for her.

It was 7 weeks ago yesterday that Amy was ripped from me, from us. And regardless of your belief, it is undeniable how completely un-ambiguous, in this plane of existence, is the certainty and finality of death. And paradoxically how ambiguous and uncertain all else now feels. An old and dear friend was over at our house last night and we were discussing this and how we seem to spend so much of the short time we have alive on what now feels trivial. We talked about how it takes something tragic to create “perspective.” But why is it only after some tragedy, the death of someone close, a wife or mother, that we gain “perspective?” I’ve been reading the writings and poetry of the Persian mystic, Rumi, of late. There is a quote of his: “grief is the garden of the heart.” I’ve been turning that quote over in my head since I read it about a week ago. Grief is the garden? Why doesn’t he say “love is the garden?” Why can’t it be through love that we grow our hearts? Why only in grief? But is it not, for us humans, that to experience ultimate love means we must risk ultimate sorrow? So while Rumi doesn’t say it, explicitly, it is there - ultimate love must be a pre-requisite for ultimate grief. It can be no other way. They are the mirror to each other. So if there is anything to take from this tragedy, it is to love fully, openly, and risk that ultimate sorrow. I stand here before you and tell you now that I would do it a thousand times again and accept that risk. I am a changed man because of Amy’s all too short life, and now because of her death. I really have no choice but to honor her life and death, our love, and tend to the grief garden and let it grow. There really is no other choice.

So to you dear friends, bothers and sisters, we, the boys and I, have just begun to sort out our now very different lives, begin to explain the inexplicable, and tend to our gardens of grief. And I imagine that will take the rest of our lives – at least that is what others, some of you who are here today who have experienced similar loss, tell me. So as the boys and I step out from today into tomorrow I will continue to need your support in thoughts and words and deeds. Many have asked “what can we do to help?” Mostly, for us, it is just knowing you are nearby. Sometimes it is your shoulder to cry on that I’ll need. And as the days turn into weeks, and months, then years, don’t be surprised when I ask for a shoulder.

And to you dear Amy, I so miss you. Your beautiful eyes and sparkling smile I now carry in my memory. To me they are your passion and fire. A passion and fire which burns strong among us who stood witness to your life and received your many gifts.

I feel you around me, Amy, your passion and fire. There are no words to describe its profound nature. That I love you fully and with all my heart and all my soul I hope you know. I believe you do. And I also know, and I believe you know, how much your two beautiful boys love you – And please know they also feel your love. A love they carry inside them for eternity. Amy, I will look for the courage, strength and guidance I will need to be an able father to them and to honor and represent your motherhood for them. This is my vow to you. Amy, I will always love you and may you know eternal peace.

1 comment:

  1. John, your eulogy was so heartfelt and beautiful. Thank you for sharing yesterday and on here for all to read. Another big (((((HUG)))))

    I also have a photo of the altar. I don't know if you took one or want one but if so let me know. It was too beautiful not to capture.

    What was the statue? Thank you and your family again for sharing more about Amy with all of us know mostly just knew of one of the many facets of her life.

    ~ Jessica G.

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