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Eulogy for Bridget

Eulogy for Bridget

Bridget Spence, a long-time Event 360 team member and committed soldier in the war against cancer, lost her fight late last week. I was incredibly humbled to be ask to speak at her funeral. Several of you have asked that I post my words. Here they are.

I'm humbled to address you on behalf of the hundreds of team members who worked with Bridget and the thousands of participants who were changed by their relationship with her. 

Danny told us that he thought we might have a unique perspective to offer the family. But we'd venture to guess that we knew the same person that you did. Take the humor and kindness and strength and sass you knew and put it in an event fundraising firm. That was how Bridget lived. She was real. Authentic. She was the same person to us as she was to you, and we mean that as the deepest compliment. 

But we’re sure you’d appreciate more detail than that. So we want to share three main thoughts.

The first is that although Bridget died of cancer, and dedicated her professional life to fighting cancer in all its forms, that is not how she was defined by us nor how we will remember her. Nor will she be remembered for her volunteer work with Susan G. Komen or Dana-Farber.

She will be remembered as a friend with an infectious laugh and a warm, easy way. She will be remembered as a thoughtful speaker and a brilliant writer. She will be remembered as someone willing to challenge her managers and her peers. That is, as a leader. She will be remembered, as Event 360’s Teri Yoder has said, as a wise soul. And we will forever be grateful, as Event 360's Molly Fast has said, that for someone who was given so little time, she chose to spend so much of that time with us. 

The second thing we'd like to share is not what we know about Bridget, but what knowing Bridget has taught us about all of you.

We say in our family that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, so we know Dottie that you are loving and kind, the way Bridget was. We know Billy was caring and committed. We know you both possess a deep reservoir of strength. 

Danny, Patrick, and John, we know you helped shape the person Bridget became, and we know she shaped you. Maybe more than you would have liked! So we know you three are energetic and driven the way that Bridget was. We know you are strong and passionate.

We know Bridget wouldn't have chosen to marry someone who wasn't exceptional in every fiber of his being. And so Alex, we know you are warm and patient, imbued with quiet confidence and resolute fearlessness. 

Finally, as most of you know, Bridget worked primarily on our 3-Day project, a three-day, sixty mile walk that raises money for breast cancer. Some of you have probably participated in the event yourselves. Knowing Bridget, most of you were probably approached to donate to her at some point. 

Like many things in life, walking sixty miles is a lot harder than it sounds. And when you are walking the event there comes a point – usually in the middle of the second day, when your bones are starting to creak, and your feet are fighting back at you, and you realize that you still have more than halfway to go – that you are faced with your biggest obstacle: Your own willpower. 

And at that point, you have a conversation with yourself – about why you didn't make more time to train; about how ashamed you'd really feel if you stopped; about what you'd say to your donors if you quit and took the bus to camp.

And then, you have a choice. You have to decide if you're going to get up and start moving again.

The most important thing we can share about Bridget is that throughout our time with her, Bridget never stopped walking. 

Bridget, you made it to the end of the day. You finished your route; you fought the good fight; you kept the faith. 

Now, the rest of us have a choice. How can we know the way? We can hear you telling us to get up and start walking again. We'll meet you at camp. 

Eulogy for Dad

Robert R. Shuck, my father, was killed in a car accident on November 7, 2009. His death was a shocking, heartbreaking tragedy. I delivered a eulogy at his funeral on November 12. 

I would like to start by thanking all of you who have come here today. Many of you traveled some distance and at considerable inconvenience to be here, and we are profoundly grateful.

I have struggled this week to make sense of what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. As much as I want to reflect on what kind of person my Dad was, I have found it hard to do so. It is difficult to fully describe the soul of a person when you are immersed only those possessions they left behind. 

I have spent the last four days absently trying to sort out those possessions –- shifting through piles of paper, sorting through to-do lists, culling through files on his computer; moving from room to room, picking up books in one, picking up pictures in the next. 

I found a rake with leaves still in it, well worn, set in its place in the garage. His legacy, the tools of a patient gardener.

I found a gold star that he made, by hand, for the front door — as well as a prototype, perfectly measured, folded carefully from graph paper. His legacy, the proof of a disciplined craftsman.

I found dozens of post-it notes, with lists of tasks and bullets of thoughts and reminders. “Plan for window & door improvements in 2010.” “Children’s Books – Research.” “Ask Cathy about cheese soup recipe.” His legacy, on orange and pink squares of paper, the evidence of an ordered mind.

I found pictures of grandchildren, framed and displayed, pictures given to him and a few he took himself. I have thought about what we will do with the pictures. We will gather them up I suppose, all but the picture they represent, the legacy of a proud grandfather.

I found a journal of days, an entry book logged with comings and goings. “June 4th: 2 mile walk in park.” “October 16th: Raked leaves and trimmed bushes.” And in between the daily order, I found thoughts heartbreaking to read. “July 7th, 2007: I am not a meaningful part of my family’s lives, nor they of mine. I am too isolated.” Another entry from several months ago, after I had called him to ask that he postpone an upcoming visit, said simply: “September 5th: I was invited to stay home.” A legacy of repetition and routine. A legacy of a father too distant. 

I found the confused eyes of children too young to understand, searching for an explanation that I already know age will not provide. I found comments like those from my son: “I think Daddy wants another Dad.” No, just the one I already had. A legacy of questions. 

In a search to understand I found tire tracks in the grass and an impact in the mud. I found glass shards and pieces of plastic. I found a car crumpled, nearly snapped in two, a physics problem made real, the solution to which was blood and broken bones. A legacy of senseless violence, a horrible legacy for a peaceful man. 

None of these –- the post-it notes, the logs, the tasks, the pictures, the debris — are any part of the legacy I wish to keep, nor any part of the legacy I wish you to have. We must do our best together to remember a better legacy, a legacy more representative of the life. 

To my sister Cathy: A legacy of love from a man who cared deeply about you. Although he never could quite find a way to express it as you might have wanted to hear it, he expressed it in the way he needed to say it. You were his biggest joy. 

To my brother Tim: A legacy of pride from a father who loved you as his own and admired you more than you know. Your intellect and dedication to craft reminded him of the best pieces of himself. 

To my wife Jeanie: A legacy of tenderness from a person who reveled in your unconditional acceptance, your lack of pretense, and your caring. 

To my uncle Dave: A legacy of admiration from a brother who considered you his biggest hero. 

To my aunts Cathy and Jane: A legacy of thanks for the joy that was your family, and Mom’s. 

To our children, Dad’s grandchildren –- Matthew, Sierra, Johnny, Ellie, Celia June, Aidan, and Danny: A legacy of strength, a legacy that my grandmother called “the red blood of the pioneers” –- a legacy born of centuries working the soil, the fortitude to keep walking forward in the face of the inertia of the world. 

To the Marsicks, the Schurdells, the Krafts, and all of his neighbors and friends: A legacy of gratitude, an unarticulated thank you for the shared experiences and laughter. You brought out Dad’s best, and you understood that though he expressed himself through the dimension of science, he was far from one-dimensional. 

And to me: 

I have not been sure what my legacy is. I cannot so easily move past the debris and the broken bones. I cannot so quickly forget the journal entries and the notes, the expressions of a solitude borne somewhat unwillingly. 

And yet my legacy sits in this room. In my family –- those connected to me by blood, but more than that, in the many of you who have become my family by choice, a choice more yours than mine. Dad’s legacy to me is a quiet admonition that the human experience is not a solitary one. My friends, you have been unwilling to let me be isolated and alone, and in doing so you have helped me extend my reach further than Dad was able. My dad’s legacy is your friendship, and I am incredibly grateful for it.

We must remember that God almost never gives us what we want, but almost always gives us what we need. These gifts –- these gifts of love, pride, tenderness, admiration, gratitude, fortitude, laughter, and friendship –- these gifts are Dad’s bequest. They are to be respected, to be cherished, and above all, to be shared

This is our obligation to the patient gardener: To extend his life into the next; to multiply his blessings; and above all, to go out into the world and to sow the seeds he has given us.

Eulogy for My Grandfather, Warren Shuck

Warren J. Shuck, my grandfather, died in early February at age 97. He was an incredible man in the way that phrase should be used — he was honest, caring, intelligent. He had character.

I had the huge honor of speaking at his funeral.

Gramps, I found the note that you wrote to us. You had placed in the upper drawer of your desk, on top of a pile of this month’s checks. When I read it, I understood that you meant for us to find it.

You wrote,

“Now that my days are numbered and I have only memories, I think of all the things I didn’t do. I loved my family very much and was so proud of each of you but I didn’t tell you when I should have. Richard was our pride and joy, and now I don’t remember ever telling him how much I loved him. Now I wonder how I could have been so involved in the activities that had no lasting permanence and not more devoted to the things that last.”

Gramps, I want to tell you two things.

The first thing I want to tell you is that we know that you loved us. In particular, I know that you loved me. Despite what you remember, you actually told me quite often. Maybe you were different as a father, but as a grandfather you were one of the most expressive and emotional men I’ve ever met. You couldn’t say grace without crying halfway through. You laughed a lot. You worried about your family, probably too much – in fact, it was after watching you just this past December that I realized that I learned my nervous habit of picking my fingernails from you.

But most of all, you never let a visit go by without telling me that you loved me and that you were proud of me.

In the past week we have talked to quite a few people about you. Every one of them has told us how important you were. When they reminisce about you, they use words like “sweet,” “kind,” and “gentle.” You were both devoted and involved, and it has made a huge difference to the people that know you.

The second thing I want to tell you is that I know that you did not write the note simply to make yourself feel better. I know you weren’t looking for affirmation or reassurance. The note was written to us, not to yourself, and it would be missing the point to dismiss it by simply saying, “Don’t worry Gramps, we knew that you loved us.” You were trying to tell us something.

So I want to make sure you know that I have heard your message. But what I need now is some help in following it.

Gramps, you have taught me that real accomplishment is shared accomplishment. So in my dealings with my business associates, help me put integrity ahead of achievement and support ahead of success.

Gramps, you have taught me that the ties of family are tighter than the bounds of biology. So in my relationships with my relatives, help me place acceptance over agreement and reconciliation over retaliation.

Gramps, you have taught me that love is gentle. So in my marriage, teach me humility instead of hubris and compassion instead of competition. Help me to say what should be said rather than what could be said.

Gramps, you have taught me that time is precious. So in my parenting of my own children, help me practice patience. Help me overcome the tendency to train good children and instead help me raise fine men. Help me find ways to show love in action as well as in words.

Finally Gramps, you have taught me to enjoy and strive for a better life. So in my regarding of my own self and the world around me, teach me charity over criticism and courage over complacency. Help me enjoy each minute without regards to the number remaining. Help me see the beauty of life.

Lastly Gramps, I wanted to let you know that I’m sorry about the fish – I really thought they would live in the toilet. As for the fence post, I pretty much knew that would break when we hit it.

Say hello to Gram and Mom and Rich. I’ll miss you.

You are here with us every day, and we love you.