Friday, April 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Eric

My husband’s oldest brother Eric was one of the nicest people I have ever known in my life. Eric always, always gave everybody the benefit of the doubt. I never once heard him utter a mean word about anyone. Eric was a Saint here on earth, as I am sure he is a Saint now in Heaven. I met Eric when Ray and I started going together when I was seventeen, and I asked Ray if Eric was always as nice his whole life and Ray said that yes, indeed he was. Eric was just such a sweet, loving, good-natured person, he was the kind of person you would strive to emulate but come up exceedingly short. You always felt good in Eric’s company. And he was not a showy type of person at all, Eric was very unassuming, but you were just so attracted to his quiet gentleness. Eric was a very humble man and even though I think he may have been somewhat discomforted by my praise of him, I wish so much I had let him know my feelings while he was still here with us.
We lost Eric over eight years ago, and our world still feels a great void without him in it.
Eric died from a very rare neurological disease (and strangely, my own Dad passed from this very same, very rare neurological disease). The disease first manifested itself in Eric with him having trouble with his speech (he slurred words), and then some balance problems, and then there were appointments with doctors and a battery of testing, and more doctors and more tests, and then he was finally diagnosed in his early forties with this disease. But as Eric’s body continued to weaken over the next ten years his spirit did not, nor did his faith. And I think that was part of what drew people to Eric. He made you look beyond his disabilities because he was able to look beyond them. Eric was not his disease, in no way was Eric about anything that incapacitated him physically. Throughout Eric’s decline I never saw him display any sign of self-pity or self-indulgence, his thoughts always seemed to focus on his wife Barbara, and those around him. Here was Eric spending his last year on earth bed-ridden in a nursing home, unable to dress or feed himself, and yet he still exhibited that giving spirit that would draw people to him. His charitable attitude was so evident that all his nurses and aides at the nursing home were drawn to Eric, bringing to him their own problems and tales of woe. And as far as I could see, Eric never lost his capacity to find the good in life and the good in each person who was lucky enough to cross his path, and he never lost his sense of humor as he fought the losing battle of this disease.
The day Eric passed away his wife Barbara was visiting us. It was the morning of December 16, 2000 and she had come to drop off Christmas gifts, she was going to make the rounds of our house first, then her plan was to go on to Ray’s brother Donald’s family and to his sister Susie’s family too. Barbara had seen Eric that morning before her drive down to us and she had promised him that she’d call to let him know that she had arrived here safely. There was no answer in Eric’s room. Barbara then called the main nurses desk on his floor and she was told that Eric had passed away. We all knew that Eric had been on Hospice Care for the last few months but that certainly didn’t lessen the shock and the devastation.

At his memorial service Barbara read the following, which I think is most fitting:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
2 Timothy 7 & 8

Happy Birthday, Eric, it was an honor to know you.
‘Missing you still.


  1. Always my big brother!
    Happy Birthday!

  2. The Commentator aka Katie (Umma's Favorite Child)April 3, 2009 at 10:57 AM

    As I was reading this just now, the e-mails from you, Daddy, & Jackie got to me, too!

    I didn't realize that it was his birthday today, but just 2 days ago, I was telling Jayden a story about MY Uncle Eric (as opposed to HIS Uncle Erik).

    It was right after Ellie was moved from her crib to a 'big-girl bed' and I was moved from a 'big-girl bed' to a 'real big-girl bed'. Uncle Eric was visiting (I seem to remember he was watching a Giants game with Paw, so it must have been football season), and I insisted that he come upstairs to see my 'new' room (it was the same room, but it looked different, so it was 'new' to me), and I showed Uncle Eric my new bed, and Ellie's new bed.

    Uncle Eric would sit on my bed, and pretend to be confused, and say, "So, Ellie sleeps here on this big bed all by herself?!?" And, I would laugh, and laugh, and tell him how wrong he was. Then, he would go to Ellie's bed, sit down, and say, "Katie, how do you fit in THIS bed? Surely, you're too big - you can't even stretch out in this small bed!" And, I just thought it was the funniest thing in the world that Uncle Eric could 'forget' so soon after I told him who slept in which bed!

    Jayden thought it was very funny that I couldn't stretch out in his 'big-boy bed', and that's what made me remember this.

    I can still see and hear Uncle Eric 'acting' for me, and I still get a kick out of it!

    Happy Birthday, Uncle Eric!!!

  3. Whew, it has taken me almost two days to get over here to comment, first, a time crunch, then my keyboard did it's thing of no response (about every 20th time I log on) ...yes, even my keyboard is whacky!
    You did such a lovely homage to your brother-in-law...he certainly made the world a better place, so now, in his honor, we need to do the same.

    blessings always, my wonderful friend,