Have you ever had to deliver a eulogy? I believe a eulogy is the hardest… most emotional speech you will EVER have to deliver. It is in those moments that our ability to connect with others and provide them comfort/understanding… when they need it most…when YOU need it most … tests our greatest capabilities as well as confronting our greatest fears.
My Father In-Law was…and remains a big influence in my life and I think of him often. Below is my final farewell to him and I know it is long but I hope you will take a few minutes to get to know the man I admired for yourself.
Poppa George Beverly Earle hailing from Yarmouth Nova Scotia Canada had the Churchill gene and I cannot believe that he ultimately did not outlast us all. For a man who drank too much….smoked too much…ate too much…and didn’t exercise….he did more living in his lifetime than a lot of others could ever dream of! We should be inspired by the life he lived…he made all our lives richer in so many ways…it tough to sum it all up in just a few minutes!
I guess it is only fitting that we bid farewell to George in the Church that he and his wife Anne were married…where his step-son Jon and I were married…and where our daughters Katie and Emily were baptized. In his hay day (before he became full time dedicated to the beach in Florida) he really enjoyed counting the dollars that came in each year for the Candy Cane Carnival. Even though this place has so much meaning for him and for us I was struck with an interesting thought as we prepared for this service. I probably shouldn’t use this analogy but I will…because I think George would get a kick out of it. I believe that George’s criteria for a successful trip to Church was like a good Bourbon Manhattan
- Straight Up
- Happened in an hour (in the case of the Manhattan – happy hour)
- And left him feeling warm and fuzzy inside
I also know that George really enjoyed coming to Arizona each Christmas and going to Day Spring United Methodist Church to listen to Pastor Jane Tews. I think what George liked about Pastor Jane was that she was a straight shooter, got us in and out on time and…she spoke to us like real people. That is my goal with you all today…to channel my inner Pastor Jane…just like George loved.
Pastor Jane, unfortunately passed away from a stroke in 2013. In….homage to George…I went looking for her last sermon to use a couple of snippets to inspire us through our grief. I scoured the internet for it and the links to the posting are long gone. I was however able to find a paragraph about it and it turns out her last sermon was titled “Living Tomorrow Today”. I really feel that is fitting as we sit here to celebrate George’s life because I believe he was someone who embodied Living Tomorrow Today.
So instead of Jane’s words…I would like to share a story or two about George that I think embodies what Jane was talking about…
Many of you know that Jonathan and I met at Acadia University 26 years ago. I remember meeting George for the first time in the living room on Forest Side Crescent. It was late one evening as we prepared to go to graduation. George came across as intimidating and had his best skeptical…who the heck are you…Vice Principal demeanor on. I knew from the moment I met him that it was my personal challenge to win him over and prove that I was not the “fly by night hussy” he may have taken me to be (By the way – I get that from my Mom’s side of the family – not my fault). Anyway…things only got more interesting as Jonathan and I declared that we were taking some time off school to backpack across Europe. Through all the discussions…laughter and tears that summer….George finally relented and gave us his blessing to go. I will never forget him hugging me tight just before we went through security at the airport and whispering in my ear “Take good care of him Marce – he’s all we have”. I whispered back…”he’s the one who will take care of me…you raised him right.”
That is classic George. He helped us to fulfill our dream to travel Europe and had a way of breaking though the gruff exterior…to reveal his warm and gooey center at just the right time! He helped us live tomorrow today.
Fast forward to Jonathan and I welcoming Ms. Katie White into the world. We had numerous conversations with George prior to her arrival about how he would have to jump in and help care for her on occasion. George protested…A LOT…and declared that he would break her and that he would wait until she was 2 years old before he could take on any responsibility. Being an only child and not having babies of his own…he had no training. I told him this was my first time with a baby too…so if I could do it – he could do it.
I wasted no time in putting this to the test…and…at the 6 week mark I was headed back to the gym. I remember dropping Katie off in her car seat with diaper bag in hand at Wembley Place for the first time. Anne was still working as a teacher and George was retired so he was home on his own. George could not seem to comprehend that I was actually going to leave Katie with him…alone. I told him that by law – I could not leave her without supervision so if he wanted to leave her in the car seat the whole time and listen to her cry – that was up to him. I was confident he would figure it out. Needless to say…even though he may not have been so sure about his abilities he eventually got the hang of it. By the time Emily arrived a few years later he would be scooping her out of the arms of others declaring that they did not know how to hold her right. A real pro!
That was George. He didn’t wait till the girls were older to forge a relationship – he found a way to live in the moment and make the most of the time he had with them. He found a way to face his fears and live tomorrow today.
Now this may come as a shock to most of you…but George wasn’t perfect either! I would argue that it was George’s imperfections that made him so perfect to us. Actually…maybe they are not really imperfections but more “Georg-isms”. Here are a few of my favorites…
- Jon talks of how the wooden spoon that sat on top of the fridge stung a little bit more when he got in trouble after George arrived in their lives. George made sure that Jon didn’t get in too much trouble from his shenanigans with his friends Douglas & Deanna or his cousins Natalie & Stephanie.
- George purred ALL the time. I can still hear him if I listen closely…hmmmm hmmmm hmmmm. No song or tune in particular…just hmmming all the time. I don’t even think he realized it until we would say…Poppa’s purring…it was the sound track to his life
- George didn’t eat broccoli (cause the Prez didn’t eat it), turnip (cause that was for the cows) or fish. He was a meat and potatoes kinda guy. He had a routine to his menu that included meatloaf…turkey…ribs in the crock pot…ham….hamburger steak and squash (not too wet). It made for challenges in our lifestyle but we always found a way to make it work.
- George had routines that marked the ebb and flow of the seasons…and these rituals were not to be trifled with. Let’s start with….planting the garden in the spring…strawberry picking…apple picking…blueberry picking…trips to Farmer Clems for hodge podge…making ice-cream….making pickles…packing up the car to go to Florida…ham and egg sandwiches for along the route…fly to Arizona for Christmas…back to Florida….drive home in time to plant his spring garden and start the cycle all over again
- George LOVED Sandbar Bills on St Pete Beach. He saw a lot of the ladies behind the bar come and go. He would give them a hard time (in his good hearted way) and they gave it back to them…because they knew they could. As a side note…I got Tom Bird (George’s brother in-law) to check with the owner’s to see if we could have a little brass plaque placed in the bar in George’s honor…they said they couldn’t comply (apparently they have a lot of regulars that could fill up the whole bar rather quickly). Please feel free to sign the petition in the lobby after the service (just kidding)
- He would not wear new things immediately after purchasing them. His shoes, pants and shirts needed to sit in the closet for an undisclosed amount of time before they were worthy of wear. His shoes would be smelly…his shirts would have been treated with Spray & Wash from numerous stains from late night ice-cream and chocolate sauce sessions…but try as we may…you could not get him to wear something right after it had been purchased.
- He smoked…A LOT! When the girls were born I told him he had to quit or put a loonie (dollar) in the piggy bank on the window sill for every cigarette he consumed. By my math Poppa G owes me quite a bit of money!
- Anything that he couldn’t immediately think of the name of he called Hoogie. Hoogie actually ranged from the pickles and chow that topped his potatoes (these potatoes need some Hoogie on them) to hand me that Hoogie ma jigger over there. Over Christmas we actually asked him to spell Hoogie for us and he wasn’t quite sure and we all agreed the way he spelled it wasn’t what we thought it should be. I guess Hoogie will not only represent everything for all of us but it also can be spelled anyway you want it too.
I can tell you that even in his imperfections and set ways we were able to get George to try Sushi…enjoy Miso Soup….do karaoke…change diapers…and even enjoy fish cakes on Christmas Eve….he found a way to Live Tomorrow today.
George was also generous and caring almost to a fault…
- One Christmas he and Anne shipped a life sized Barbie from Florida to Nova Scotia so that Katie would have the gift under the tree that she could not live without. I don’t even want to know what that cost. I’m sure he had to dig deep under his mattress for that one
- He and Anne bought Emily a pink jeep Barbie car one Christmas so she and Taylor could travel in style around the neighborhood. “My girl had to have it!” he would say.
- When Jon and I could not afford to put a diamond in my engagement ring he gave us the stone from his mother Jessie’s ring where it still sits today. Mind you it took till our 10th wedding anniversary before it came out of the safety deposit box…I think he suspected at that point I was sticking around.
I could also spend hours talking about what Florida meant to George (lucky for you I won’t). He needed to be near the water…in the warm breeze…falling asleep to the sound of the ocean waves crashing against the beach. He made lifelong friends there and loved to spend his days poolside at the San Seair…cigarette in hand and gossiping with the ladies. Some other friends he met while he was cruising were Joyce and Galen and convinced them to winter on St Pete beach with him. He also loved to golf with his cronies Tony, Peter, Eddie, Charlie and Dave. They told lots of lies of their success but were always happy to be together and on the right side of the grass. Florida was his one true home and ultimately it is where we will scatter him to the wind.
George forms part of our fabric in terms of his genuine interest and caring of others. He was also a man who loved his family (especially his Grand Daughters and his wife Anne); he loved to travel (he was always planning his next trip even when he was on his current trip), and he would go to great lengths to help others….even if it was outside of his comfort zone…he ALWAYS showed up!
I believe that he knew that each and every one of you appreciated him. His spirit, his soul, his amazing ability to give is still with us. It lives on in the stories we share of how he touched our lives. He would all want to us to continue to live tomorrow today.
So I will end where I began…the posting on Day Spring Website after Pastor Jane passed away had the following….
We find comfort and strength in these words from a prayer by DeWane Zimmerman:
If so much that is precious can be so quickly lost, Let me cherish my present relationships even more.
The love I can no longer give – to this one who has died – help me, to give to those who are alive.
Make my compassion deeper, my sympathy wider, and let me not be blind to all that is good and lovely now.
Thanks for reading…and remember…YOU make a difference!
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