Monday, April 18, 2016

putting jack to rest

It has been over three weeks now since my friend Jack Brock died.

I told you the news in jack is dead. A terrible bike accident whose details serve no purpose to relate. They serve no purpose because the accident was not who Jack was.

A large group of friends and acquaintances got together during the first week of this month to celebrate the Jack we knew.

People who knew Jack very well shared the parts of him that he shared with us. When everyone who wanted to have a say had said what they were going to say, I was asked to give the final toast.

Some people have asked me to publish what I said. Here is my best recollection. For some reason, it has taken me two weeks to get to the point where I could publish it.*

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I recently heard a story of a man who died in North Carolina. At the funeral, the pastor asked family members if they could say a few good words about the deceased. Everyone turned him down.

The man had been a nasty piece of work. But a nephew agreed to speak. When the time came, he stood up, went to the podium, and looked around at the audience. “Mah uncle was one mean man. But some days were not as bad as t’other.” He then sat down.

I don’t know how true that story is, but I can promise you two things. First, that eulogy would never apply to Jack Brock – as your stories today have shown. And the second promise is that I will not be as brief as that nephew.

It is a bit ironic that I am standing up here today. I thought it would be Jack talking about me.

About two months ago, Jack and I had dinner with the type of discussion we both loved. The question before the house was: “Resolved, this house believes that a person should live his life as if he were living his own obituary.”

Neither of us thought the proposition was true. We agreed a life should be lived justly and morally, but it had to be lived as we chose to live it, and not as how we would want others to remember us. That meant when it came eulogy time, all of the warts needed to be displayed along with the accomplishments.

All of the great stories we have heard today were true. They were part of Jack’s life. He was a joy to know. He had a great smile. He lived life to the fullest.

But he also had his faults. Being critical when a little grace would have sufficed. Being impatient and frustrated over things he could not change. Seeing failure, and missing the glimmer of hope.

Of course, that simply says Jack was human. And his failings were another reason we liked knowing him. He was a real guy.

A philosopher once said there is a reason people come into our lives. If we let them, they will teach us things we need to know. In the process, we also help them.

There is probably some truth in that – certainly there was with Jack and me. Because, in knowing Jack, with all of his positive attributes and his personal foibles, he has changed me for good. And, in many ways, because he was my friend, for the better. I am certain all of us can say something similar.

So, Jack – we raise these glasses to you – in honor of a life well-lived. Thanks for leaving your hand print on our hearts.

To Jack.

* -- I borrowed some of the more mawkish sentimentality from Stephen Schwartz. But even the most mawkish sentimentality can be authentic.

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