Friday, June 11, 2010

A Final Tribute

You know - the difficult part of death is how hard it is to accept it for those that are left behind.  Our faith tells us there is absolutely nothing sad or scary about dying - in fact, most of us will work a lifetime in hopes of spending an eternity in heaven.  There is no doubt in my mind that my Grandpa is among the best and certainly he will be the angel watching over me until the day we meet again.

I guess if there is one positive out of how the last few weeks of my Grandpa's life occurred it is that we all had a chance to see him, talk to him and he was very open about wanting us to ask any final questions we had.  He knew he was dying - we knew he was dying.  There were no surprises.  While it doesn't take away the sadness it also meant that the days we all joined together to celebrate his life would be done exactly as he wanted.  He had a say and we all wanted nothing more than to respect those wishes.  Well, I had the honor of being asked to give a Eulogy of my Grandpa along with my Uncle Dan.  Just as Grandpa had asked for.  While grief had gotten the most of me for several days - yesterday, June 10, 2010 I was calm, I was cool and I was collected.  My guardian angel stood by me as I told a church full of people what a great man he was. 

Today - I share what I had typed for his Eulogy - while there were some slight variance in the actual speech I want to remember this day, the day I honored a truly special person in my life.  While all of the memories/jokes might not mean something to everyone I will cherious these always.

Grandpa Tom
September 1, 1927 - June 7, 2010
Funeral:  June 10, 2010
Corpus Christi Church
Galesburg, IL
Eulogy by Julie Coughlin

I feel truly honored to be speaking today on behalf of Tom’s Grandkids. There are 7 of us who have had the absolute distinct honor of knowing and loving a great man. Today we grieve and celebrate the closing of one step of his journey and the beginning of another. I am certain that he is looking down on all of us today in complete peace and contented with what he left behind in this world. Now I could talk for hours on end about countless stories and memories of my Grandpa and I will probably do just that in the coming days, weeks and months.

But today – I’m celebrating my Grandfather’s life and am in complete awe of the impact he had on so many lives. I can now fondly look back and say with great pride that my Grandfather was a teacher to his grandchildren. While he wasn’t always the loudest or most talkative – he led by example and has taught us to:

• Enjoy the simple things – is there anything greater than a tea party thrown by his granddaughter Natalie?

• Appreciate the arts, music and theater – even if its only socks on the hands of his grandkids giving a puppet show from the balcony

• Don’t take anything too serious/have a sense of humor– after all after 60 years of marriage he was still playing cards with Grandma and we all know what a fierce competitor she is and Grandma, I’m with you, he must have been cheating – no one has that much good luck

• Be giving – for all the gifts he was given – he returned the favor ten fold. Whether it was helping rebuild the deck of a neighbor, building wooden toys for the needy, sharing the vegetables from his garden or giving the gift of friendship

• Seek wisdom each and every day – and don’t let anyone tell you the National Inquirer isn’t a great place to get the news

• Be unique and don’t let anyone change you – it doesn’t matter how strange orange juice on cereal might look – you are who you are

• Be a trailblazer even when it’s a little bit scary – he did not regain his sight without taking the road less traveled

• Always share – the greatest things in life are too good to keep all to yourself including birthday celebrations with his grandson Gabe for 22 years

• Be a historian of your own life – be a storyteller, take pictures

• Use the gifts and talents God gave you – for him it was artistry, craftsmanship and compassion

• Never stop believing

• Love God

• Love Your Family

• Love life in whatever you do, wherever you are – John Deere Employee, Ice Cream Shop Owner, Woodworker, Construction Manager, Fisher, Grillmaster, Water Tubing Boat Driver Extradoinaire, Golf Coach, Great-Grandpa, Grandpa, Husband, Father, Brother, Son – I can tell you he loved it all

Perhaps some of you have heard this poem before, it was written by Henry Scott Holland, who was a professor of divinity at Oxford University – I find his outlook on death to be comforting.

He said:

Death is nothing at all-I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way you always used. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without the ghost of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant...There is absolutely unbroken continuity.

What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Grandpa – we love you, you will live on through our memories and stories and may your presence be ever existing in our lives. Until we meet again.


  1. Through tears, Wonderful Julie!!
    I'm sorry we weren't there for you!

  2. That was beautiful Jules.

    Shelley, the kids and I have your family in our thoughts.

  3. I can see you speaking these amazing words with grace and dignity. Your Grandpa is most certainly looking down and smiling at his wonderful family!