Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Last Word for a Great Man

I was honored to be given the opportunity to give the Eulogy at my grandfather's funeral service.  This is the transcript, which I thought would post here so that it always exists somewhere. 

I've often heard Warren Barber, my Papa, referred to as a great man, the patriarch of our family.  As I was traveling home, sitting on the planes and in the airports, I started wondering exactly what that might mean, both to the people who were saying it to me, but also to those of us in the family that he loved so much.  
According to Webster’s Dictionary, the first definition of Patriarch is “a man who leads a family, clan, or tribe; a king.”  
Papa was certainly all of those things.  He started his own business, put all his kids through college, gave my grandmother Elizabeth whom he loved beyond reason, everything she ever wanted.  

 But Warren Barber was more than a good father or good king to our family.  He was more than just a patriarch. When my brother died, it was Papa who came to pick me up from the neighbors house after the accident, and it was Papa who first comforted me when we got the dreadful news that Hollis was gone from us.  
He supported each of us in anything we might want to try, in every crazy endeavor.  Don’t get me wrong, he had no problem telling you exactly how crazy he thought your idea or your plan was, and how insane you might be to attempt it.  But then,  after he’d said his peace, he would pause and say say, “Well, if I can help out, let me know.”   And then he’d have your back after that.

Family was central to my Papa. When my mother was a little girl and her allergies got bad during the summer, he’d drive her around in the car because it was air conditioned.  He visited his mother every night after dinner until the day she died, filling my childhood with post dinner car rides from Main Street to Park Street, where I could play with the same toys my Papa had played with as a child, in the same living room that had once known the small  footfalls of  his little brother, Bobbie, who had died during a measles epidemic in 1924.  Sometimes Great-Grandma and Papa would barely talk to each other during those visits.  They’d sit and watch baseball, or the news. Once on the drive home I asked him why they didn’t talk that night.  He replied, “Sometimes you know someone so well you don’t need to talk, it’s just about being there.”   In the last few years when I would go visit Papa, sometimes we wouldn’t talk. I knew that was okay, because for him it was just about being together.   

I grew up always knowing my Papa was there for me.   His loss leaves our family with a hole in the middle, because Warren Barber was the heart and the soul of our family.  The center-point on which we all rotated.   Without him, we who have been left behind have been cast adrift and must re-calibrate to a world without him.
Still, on the other side of that loss, I know that he is again with the friends and family who have already left us.  His mother and his father, his baby brother,  his golfing buddies, and most of all Hollis and Jennifer, who have waited for him all these years and whom I have no doubt were the first to welcome him home.  

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote, "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall never look up his like again." Although it was not written for him, a better sentiment for Warren Barber cannot be expressed.   I too, will never look upon his like again.

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