Saturday, June 21, 2008

Grab your ticket and your suitcase. Thunder's rolling down the tracks...

The memorial service yesterday was the best one I've been to.

It was so very Chuck, from beginning to end. His spirit was in every moment. I don't mean to sound corny. It really felt that way.

The service was at a Methodist church, but it wasn't church-y. It was informal and comfortable. Before the service started, Springsteen was playing, as was the slide show of the night before. We had about 20 minutes before the service began, and I sat and really considered the photos.

What I was struck by was that they were all family, and all really living. And what I mean is this. There was photo after photo of Chuck, his wife, sons, and extended family - of several generations. Celebrating Christmases and birthdays and weddings together. Going on trips - skiing, boating, scuba diving - together. Spending time. And living life fully.

He took such care of his family. And his employees. And even though he did an amazing job at work, he didn't miss an opportunity for fun.

Crap day at the office? He'd suggest we sneak out at 4:30 and meet at the bar downstairs for a quick drink. And he was a VP. Saying this to several of his employees. Sneak out. With a twinkle in his eye.

You don't, in life, work for many people like this. I don't imagine I will again.

Four close friends of his spoke, and they told stories of Chuck's life. They were overwhelmingly stories of generosity, of kindness, of gleeful pranks, of escapades, of hosting. Let's make this great! Please join the fun! Be part of this adventure! And have another beer! Can I get you anything else?

Over and over you heard the same themes in different stories.

And then the kids got up - his three sons and a number of nephews and one niece, ranging in age from maybe 7 to 19. They read letters they'd written to their dad, to their uncle. They were so loving, so poignant.

Afterwards they invited everyone back to their house. It was a backyard party - so incredibly fitting. There were kegs and tons of food.

I'd only known him two and a half years - working for him for two of them. I'd been apprehensive about attending all of these events, since there were so many people who'd played much larger roles in his life. I didn't want to take any family time away from them.

But every moment was completely Chuck - so inclusive, so open, so warm and embracing. People said this about him over and over again at the service, and it is endlessly true.

Marta and I went together and at one point his mother stopped to talk to us. I'd met her once before. When Marta introduced herself she said, "Oh, Marta! I've heard Chuck talk about you! He talked about all of you, you know. He really loved you." And she gave us enormous hugs.

I was struck by her generosity. How, in such a hard time, could you be this kind and generous to people you barely know?

This is how Chuck was. He was the one with cancer, and yet he was assuaging our fears. How was he? Ah, you know, good and bad days. But things will be fine!

And because of how he said it, you really, really felt he would be fine. There was no way someone like him was leaving this earth so soon.

Chuck had an amazing sparkle. His enthusiasm reverberated off the walls. It really did. He made you feel considered, invited to join, important as a character in the larger scheme of things. Being around him felt good.

Attending these events over the past couple days I realized that the positivity, generosity, and grace that dominated Chuck's personality extend to his entire family.

And so it was with his family, and with these events celebrating Chuck's life.

I felt so grateful to be a part of it.


  1. And so it was with his family, and with these events celebrating Chuck's life.

    I felt so grateful to be a part of it.

    ...I felt so grateful to be a part of it....

    What a wonderful testament to a person's life. To Chuck's life...

  2. he sounds like a wonderful person. a perfect way to celebrate his life :-)


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