I have written and rewritten notes in an attempt to organize my thoughts for this talk. This has not been an easy endeavor.
There are many accomplishments Dad achieved and wonderful attributes he has. There is no way that we could discuss all of them here with you today. I have wondered to myself what dad would want to hear or say himself in this situation. I hope to capture a message that he might want delivered.
What I think that he would want me to talk about first would be the gratitude he has (and that we have) for the outpouring of love and support given during these past four difficult years -- with special attention to the trials of these last few weeks. We have had countless expressions of love and support from friends, family, and many other loved ones.
I personally have been impressed at the love and support that has been offered - whether in word or deed. There is no question that we (Eric and his family), are loved. Thank you for the meals and treats, services that have been offered, the time that has been given so freely, for phone calls/letters/emails of support and encouragement, and for prayers of faith offered in our behalf. All these expressions of love have strengthened us and lifted our spirits.
I am humbled at the consistent gratitude exhibited by Eric and JoLynne. Every dark cloud that we have encountered along our journey has had a silver lining - whether it wanted one or not. As far as I have been aware, dad never complained or said 'why me?' throughout this process. He was, however, often heard saying how grateful he is for his wife, kids, family, friends, and many others that he met along his way. He frequently expressed gratitude to Heavenly Father for blessing him and helping him. I do not pretend to know how this level of gratitude was cultivated or maintained.
Sadly, I have found myself asking ‘WHY?’ all too often. There have been many sleepless nights and tears shed in asking these questions; worrying about whether we were taking the right roads, concern that we were missing something, feeling angry or sad or lost. Why is this good man having to go through this experience?!?
Dad usually called me back from these dark roads. His bright light of faith and his trust and confidence in our Father in Heaven and Savior refocused my attention.
With the recent events, I find myself frustrated that I am losing a most dear friend. He has been a trusted career counselor, master gardener, gift advisor, and fun planner. Yet, there was dad again, calling my attention back to the Savior and our Father in Heaven - though perhaps not directly.
Dad often gave of his time and means to serve those around him. As I reflect on the years gone past I have a few moments that are recalled without effort. These are happy memories. I think many of you have experienced the same phenomenon. In the past few days I have had many individuals tell me of different ways that dad has blessed their lives. From letters or expressions of appreciation, love, or support to physical assistance given. From his use of personal time to assist others to his callings with the youth or as a leader in the church, he has touched many of our lives.
I remember one sweet time when he touched my life. It soon after returning from my mission, before Shanelle and I were dating, when I was struggling in a math class. Dad came over to assist. He encouraged me and took the time I needed to help me understand the concepts I was struggling with. He loved me - though there was no obligatory relationship or conventional social requirement for him to care. He was genuinely interested in me. I perceive that he believed I could do anything.
His interest in me increased as I began seriously courting his daughter, Shanelle. This interest was made evident in various ways. My personal favorite was his playfully cleaning his shotgun before I picked her up for one of our many date. Another sweet memory I have was the time that Dad, Mom and I sad down for an interview before I asked for Shanelle’s hand in marriage. I am honored at the joy he and JoLynne expressed when we woke them one December night in Mazatlan to tell them that Shanelle had accepted my proposal of marriage.
Honestly, I do not think that he treated me any different than he treated his own sons. He joyed in successes, cried in defeats or frustrations. He was always interested in my schooling and career. Through good times and bad, dad was there - never wavering or holding back. As our family continued to grow, I saw this same love expressed to Natalie and Callie. That is the amazing thing about love, there is no need to apply principles of economics. Love is boundless.
Dad was OVERJOYED at the birth of our little Vivian. He loved talking to her and playing with her. He would spend every minute he could reading to her, swimming with her, chasing her, or playing whatever game she wanted. He loved watching her color, paint, ride her bike, or just run around. When we were home in Oregon, Shanelle and Vivian would video-call with Grandma and Grandpa every day. They were even lucky enough to go to see them in Miami after one of grandpa’s surgeries. Another sweet memory I have is when Vivian made mom and dad cry when she announced our pregnancy with our little boy who will be coming in January. I will never forget these times and expressions of joy.
It hurts me to think that he will not be able to be here for Vivian and our expected little boy throughout the rest of their childhood.... Yet, his influence will still affect them. Because of dad, I want to be a better man, a better husband, a better father. The multitude of uncles and aunts has also been impacted by dads infections love.
In preparing my message I noticed many areas in which I could not separate dad and JoLynne out from one another - I think there is a great lesson in this difficulty of separating their influence.
I have been impressed at the relationship that he and JoLynne have. I am not privy to their entire relationship by any stretch of the imagination - but you do learn a lot about people when you drive from here to the middle of Mexico and back again in a motorhome together.
During regular life, as well as during vacation times, Dad cherished Mom. With nearly every breath and action he expressed his love and respect for her. Similarly, he was constantly focused on living a life that is pleasing to our Heavenly Father. He did not care if he was popular or if he had the best or nicest things -- he wanted to know that he was right with God.
In the interest of time I will sum up a few things that I learned from dad:
- Do Not Delay - Live for Today. Follow those promptings for good that come to us... and do it now.
- Humor is an important part of life. Use humor to build and strengthen those around us. Use it to lighten the burdens of those we love. Never use it to harm or degrade others.
- Smile - you never know that comfort or strength that might be conveyed to someone in need.
- Remember the teachings of the savior found in Matthew 25:40 "...Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Also see Mosiah 2:15)
- Be "anxiously engaged in a good cause" by "[doing] many good things of [your] own free will" (See: D&C 58:26-27).
- Mosiah 4:9 - Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
The final, and most important, things that I think he would want us all to know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. That Christ provided the atonement for us so that we could return to live with our Father in Heaven, Savior, and family again.
I can almost hear Dad say:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [He is] with me; [His] rod and [His] staff they comfort me.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
5 ... my cup runneth over.
(adapted from Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd)
To his family - though I am sure there are many things he would want to say individually - I believe the central message he would relate would be: Thank you for making this difficulty journey with me. I love you. I believe in you... you can do anything you want to do. I love you… And never forget how much I love your wonderful mother.