I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to say for this eulogy. This is the first time I’ve ever attempted such, and from having been to a few of these types of services now, I have learned that, essentially, we are presented with a picture of who a person was, through others cataloging the accomplishments of one person during his lifetime.
So, I guess, I could now proceed to enumerate a laundry list of John’s business successes … but per my own personal beliefs, I do not feel that we are defined by the material things we leave behind, nor buildings and landmarks that may one day bear our name.
I would like for everyone here to pause and think about this for a minute.
What is it that makes us unique as individuals? [pause] When asked that question, most of us would then proceed to list things we like to buy, or activities we like to engage in, sports we like to watch or participate in, the type of music we listen to, or movies we like to watch and such. [pause] But, these are not things that define us as who we are. These are not the things in life that make us unique. These are the things which make us like each other.
Before I continue further along this rather unconventional line, I will have to mention a few things which I should talk about. Because I, in no way, wish to downplay my own personal relationship with John.
He was my stepfather. But, he loved me with all his heart. He always struggled to provide me with every benefit and advantage that he could, from education, to the latest greatest sports car, even at great stress and financial detriment to himself. Despite a relation not based on blood, he was just as much my dad, as my own father was.
I should probably also mention how much he loved my mother and how much she loved him. Or, how hard worked for this church, and about how he also adopted our faith as his own. However, I feel there are others here, who are more far more qualified than I, to discuss such matters, or other conventional items one should itemize.
I, on the other hand, and as any of you here who know me will attest, [pause] am an unconventional person, [pause] thus I will return to the unconventional line I began earlier.
What I am more concerned about, is the question of what makes us who we are. What defines us as ourselves? What made the person we knew as “John” .. “John?”
I believe that we are defined by our actions. That we are defined by our relationship to the people around us. That we are defined by our actualized philosophy of life.
There are many people here in this room whose lives were directly impacted by John in many ways. There is many an animal in Saddlebrook, that literally, owes it’s life to John. Not just two of the most amazing animals, Chocolate and Gisele, that many of you know, (and which John, displaying uncanny intuition, was able to pick out from among dozens). But, countless others, who relied on John for their sustenance and survival.
And, in the same way, there are many people in this room who John was able to provide for, while not discounting the people he literally fed as well, [smile] were provided with many different means of nourishment by my father, be it emotional, spiritual or financial.
While trying to define John, it would be very hard for me not to talk about his quirks and eccentricities. John, above all, was also apparently a person who cared little for “convention.” I remember how, after many a year of living and wandering overseas, I finally returned here to Florida in order be near my parents, my reaction [smile] to some of these eccentricities, or better yet, should I say disregard for what others may think about him.
Before John got the golf cart, he simply got on his electric chair, reclined back in like it was a lazy-boy, feet up over the handle-bars, put the dog on his lap, and drove all over Saddlebrook daily. My mom, a person more concerned with convention, [pause, smile] was thus forced to buy him the golf-cart … to which, to the residents of the community, John, it and Chocolate are one.
He drove it daily. He drove it everywhere.
He fed every stray cat that he could, earning the wrath and enmity of the country club. He got the 50 Megawatt spotlight, and used it to go viewing animals at night, hence producing a whole new stream of complaints. [pause, smile] He drove that golf cart everywhere, even on State Road 54, earning many a grimace from me and my sister; “Oh no! What’s he done now?” Eventually, he also got the tractor, and drove that thing everywhere he cared to, anytime he wanted, and on whatever road, path, or lawn he damn-well pleased.
I have to admit something, and it is something I am ashamed of myself for, because I failed to make one major connection. By being too close to the situation, I failed to appreciate the conjecture of his … “philosophy” .. with my own.
One day, a young man from Saddlebrook came up to me and told me he saw John driving the tractor on 54. Bracing myself .. “Ugh, John!” … I did not expect the following words … [And, I’m paraphrasing here, keep in mind that the person’s speech patterns have been highly influenced by today’s television programmed youth culture] “Wow dude! Your Stepdad is awesome. He does whatever the bleep he wants. He doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.”
Oh through the mouths of babes… He is right!
And, I think, we need a little more of that in these times. For it is in these times that our sense of what defines “a community” is being attacked from all sides. These times when people are disconnecting themselves inside their houses with only the blue lights of the television flickering. [Walk down the street and see it for yourself.] Disconnecting themselves from their neighbors … disconnecting themselves from their family … disconnecting themselves from themselves. These times when we only know our neighbors by the car we see drive by us, or the customary wave we give through a chance encounter on our way from the house to the car.
John was the informal mayor of his community. He knew the names of just about everyone’s kids, dogs and parents. I was very impressed by that. We should all strive to know our neighbors half as well.
And that, I think, should be part of John’s legacy to all of us. At moments like this, when we are reminded of our own mortality, we should pause, reflect, and take a lesson from this wisdom.
Life is too short. Don’t live your life for others. Who cares what they think. Do what you want do. Love those around you and let them love you. As for the rest of people out there, if they can see the big picture, and see your big heart (which, John, bless his heart, had a huge ticker in that rib-cage of his), they will love you regardless. As to the others, who do not know or understand you … WHO CARES!
And I would like to close this eulogy, with a rather shocking announcement:
“John is not dead.”
The body that lies in front of me here, WAS what the person we called JOHN. However, “John” is now here in this room among us. He lives within the mind of every person in this room that knew him. He lives within the heart of every person here who was close to him.
Yes, John is not dead. John lives on. He will live on within our hearts and memories. And while we live here on this planet, so does he. One day, should the day come, that the very last of all the people in this room should pass away… well, until that day … John lives.
And until then, no one can dare say, “John is dead.”
~ by celticrebel on October 9, 2007.