Tag Archives: grief

The Heart of a Child


The end of June 2009 took the world by surprise. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, dead at age 50.

I remember the day of Michael’s eulogy. I was on vacation home with Elizabeth, just the two of us. Mom was at work. I thought it would be the perfect day for us to wander among the trees and flowers. So, I loaded the car with lunch and toddler snacks, and put Elizabeth in her car seat.

Away we went to an arboretum on the far side of the state. Every radio station was carrying Michael Jackson’s funeral. I turned the radio down, and Elizabeth filled the car with stories of her and her BFF Lola. Most of the speakers at the eulogy were politicians trying to make people impressed by their presence at the funeral blah, blah, blah.

But, I was enjoying my father daughter time too much to pay them any attention. Then Stevie Wonder began to speak. Elizabeth stopped talking. She listened to every word of Stevie Wonder. When he finished Elizabeth sat silent for several long moments. I watched her in the review mirror because when a four year old gets quiet, parents get nervous.

Then Elizabeth looked up at me.

“Daddy, what’s wrong with that man?”

“Sweetheart he’s sad because he lost his friend.”

Elizabeth looked down again in silence for several long moments. Then she looked back up at me and spoke in a soft voice.

“Daddy I will be his friend.”

Stevie Wonder has given me years of pleasure with his music. But Stevie Wonder has also given me something no entertainer has given me before.

He gave me my proudest moment as a father. Elizabeth wasn’t fooled by the fake sincerity of all the speakers at Michael’s eulogy. She noticed the one person who spoke from his heart. The one man who really cared for his friend Mike, not the superstar Michael.

You can fake sincerity and fool us grownups, but you can’t fool a child. Makes me think no one over the age of 5 should be allowed to vote.

Thank you Elizabeth. I have always been so very proud of you.

And

Stevie, Mr. Wonder, thank you for all your great work. You are a giant in the music industry and a true gentleman. More than that, thank you for my proudest moment as a father.

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Jeff


I went to a funeral today, in the rain. My grandmother always said that rain during a funeral was tears from the angels. I did not know Jeff as well as I wanted too, and that was my fault. I have spent too much time as a gad-about, always leaving people and places behind. It has become easy to be friendly, but not too friendly.

 

I had picked out my dark suit for the funeral. Looking at it on my bed, I put it back. I grabbed my favorite light color suit. I was not going to mourn today; I wanted to celebrate the life of a good man.

 

Jeff was the first person I met when I transferred to the plant I work at now. Even then he struck me as different. The company I work for has over 12,000 employees, so remembering one person in particular is a big order. The last time I saw Jeff was a few years ago. He had 25 years with the company and had just taken a buy-out. I asked him what he was going to do, and he said he had a sugar maple camp and made maple syrup. I told him I would have to try some of his maple syrup, and he said I was welcome anytime. Not the normal well intended but hollow welcome people give one another either. No, he looked me in my eyes and shook my hand when he said it. Jeff’s welcome was warm and sincere; he wanted to see me sometime.

 

At a company, as large as ours, we lose several people a year. I do not go to the funerals. Though, today I felt compelled. I did not know why. I arrived and sat in the back row of the church in the corner. For an hour and a half I saw tears from a church full of people who mourned the loss of a dear friend, father, husband, and son. I also saw the tears from overwhelming laughter. You see, Jeff was a bit of a practical joker. Many of the thoughts people shared with us during the service were examples of his genuine great sense of humor. He was a man who could laugh with you, and at himself, but never at you. Like the time he was going to show some girls, at his house for a birthday party, how to ride a horse. You guessed it, he got bucked off. Later he lured them in to the kitchen to “watch two hairs fight”. When the girls had their faces close to the plate of water, watching the two hairs, down came Jeff’s hand splashing water over them all.

 

Jeff was many things to many people. He had a strong faith in God and a love of people. He sought out one man who had lost his wife, and was lost in his grief. Jeff comforted him. When people had a need he gave. He would mow a yard or leave firewood without saying a word to anyone. Jeff always left the recipient to wonder who his benefactor was. Jeff had compassion for all people. His family was his greatest love (after God). When Jeff and Deb wanted their four children to have a better education, they gave it to them. They educated themselves, so they would be able to educate their children, and they have done an outstanding job. Jeff was a doer.

 

Jeff had integrity, real integrity. You see integrity is a very small thing. Honesty and sincerity. That’s it, just two things. Over the last few years I lost my integrity. Oh, I am still honest, but I lost my sincerity. Over the last few years skepticism and sarcasm have replaced sincerity in my daily life. It has happened too many of us in the last few years. But, not to Jeff. Jeff, for 48 years, was always honest and sincere. Some might say brutally honest, without the brutality. Jeff was always straight forward, never mean, but always true to his beliefs.

Jeff had many gifts which he gave freely too those around him; compassion, friendship, faith, knowledge, time, love, humor, loyalty ,and sincerity (to name just a few).

As I left the church I realized everyone had their headlights on, and not just the funeral procession (it was still raining). Yes, they should be on, we all lost something today. When a great man leaves us we all lose a little. Jeff was a great man, but I still did not know why I felt compelled to be here. We need men like Jeff, but there are also other great people we have lost this year, why Jeff.

 

I knew why all of these people were here, but I still did not know why I needed to be here. I drove back with only the sound of my windshield wipers. Sad, but grateful. Grateful because I finally realized why I had to come and honor Jeff. Jeff had one more gift he needed to give. Jeff needed to give me back my integrity.

 

Thank you Jeff.

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