Today’s post is a bit personal as well as a bit of a shameless plug.
My Uncle passed on the 10th of May and yesterday* was his memorial. (*That used to say today, but I’ve been figuring out how to word this post for so long that it’s not midnight.) In light of some complications, I wrote a eulogy (of sorts), just in case it was needed. Thankfully, it was not, but I felt that it would be appropriate to post it here in light of the fundraiser I’m going to share with you. Maybe, after reading my eulogy, after watching the video, reading the comments, you’ll understand the man my Uncle was and how great of a cause this is.
A family friend started the GoFundMe page for my Aunt to help with expenses. In 28 days we have surpassed the half-way mark and we’re still going. If you have the time, please feel free to check out the page, read some of the messages that have been left. If you can donate, we thank you greatly. If you cannot, sharing this page is also a fantastic way to help, and we thank you too.
(^In this raffle you can win a BlackRock College jersey signed by famous rugby players! Pretty neat.^)
Moving on to the eulogy.
I have never written one before and despite reading every sample I could get my hands on, I was still clueless. So I just wrote. (As I always do.) At first I wrote what came to mind, I asked myself what Uncle Ronan would want to say. In the end, it all came down to love, and it came down to working to be our best selves. Because that’s all he ever wanted, for himself, his wife, his children, his family, even for strangers.
I was hesitant to share this for a multitude of reasons, and to be honest, I still am. But I’m going to do it anyway. Thank you for reading, for checking out our fundraisers, for subbing to my blog. Thank you for supporting me.
Ronan was a far greater man than I ever got to know. When he married my Aunt, I was too young to really understand who he was, and since I grew up on the East Coast, I only got to see him in small frames of time. But I knew some things. I knew he attended Blackrock College, I knew he had a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters. I knew he was from Dublin, and I knew he met my Aunt in a bar. I know that he loved motorcycles and knew that he loved to laugh. I know that my Aunt was the love of his life and his children meant more to him than words could express. (But he’d try.)
These are all small facts about his big life, small bits of a man who came into our family and became my Uncle.
The parts that I got to experience with him are what make him great to me, small moments of my life where he shines brightest. The moments when he took the girls and I to Disneyland and Sea World during my summer vacations in California. Moments when he dropped what he was doing to counsel me when I needed help. Moments when he encouraged me to push farther with all of my goals because they were worth it and so was I. I saw it in the way he spoke to my cousins. The way he looked at my Aunt, with adoration, with complete and absolute and undying love.
I get to see it in his friends and family who continue to tell their stories, share their memories and kind words with us. Every day they affirm what I believed to be true, that he lived fully. That he lived his life with compassion, selflessness, appreciation and joy.
But life is like a candle, it either melts away or a harsh breath of wind blows it out. So when someone is given the diagnosis of cancer, the reaction is a mix of “We can fight this” and “Oh God”. Because as strong as we are, the word cancer has implications, implications that make life more finite than we expect.
And for my Uncle, the battle was relatively short. Six months. Gone. But it wasn’t just six months of cancer. It was six months of life shattering change. It was six months of family butting heads and family coming together. It was six months of learning how to put one foot in front of the other while your knees buckled beneath you. It was six months of reliving every moment of our lives with him and living his life with him in that moment. Because that moment was all he had.
But it was six months too soon. Because you’d think that it wouldn’t be a surprise for someone with that disease to pass. But it was. Because while he was alive it felt impossible for him to die. And then someone pulled the rug out from under us and he was gone.
During his illness, he asked something of his family. He asked it in different ways, whether it was to end a bad habit or to try harder at something. But no matter what the request was, in essence, he was asking us to live better. For all the days he isn’t going to get, we get to live them for him. We get to take each day and ask ourselves how we can live a little fuller. A little bigger, a little kinder. With a little more love.
I do believe that he was too big of a person for this world to ever try to contain. His dreams and his love never stopped, never faltered. He attacked life with a tenacity that helped him build his life with my Aunt, with my cousins, with his family. He left a big hole in us, in everyone he knew. And I do not think that it can be healed completely.
But I do believe that it can be filled with good things. I ask that if you find yourself with an aching spot where he used to be, that you fill it with memories.
I will remember him as being the mustard man, coming down the stairs in the large mustard colored T-shirt, spreading his arms and laughing out loud. I will choose to remember him on his motorcycle, Keelan on the back, driving down de-Portola. I will remember him flinging Keara into the pool repeatedly while she laughed uncontrollably. I will remember him for the goodness that he embodied, as a person who was an example to many.
Every day will be hard. And it won’t get easier for a long time, and even then, the ache won’t go away completely. But as he asked his family to live better, I’m going to extend that request to every single one of you. I know its cliché, but use this as an opportunity to take away a new appreciation for life. Take the days that he cannot live and use them to the fullest of your potential. Use them to become the best you. Use them to love more, to find more wonder, to chase your dreams.
I know that despite what I do know about my Uncle, that I will enjoy continuing to learn about the man that he was. I’ll get to understand more about the compassion, love and drive that made up the man that our family loved.
In closing, I’d like to reiterate that my Uncle spent his life pushing people to become more than they thought they could be. So whatever you become, whatever you are, be a good one for yourself, and for him.