The Funeral

Note: This all starts with Life is Precious on the right. Start there and read up. My regulars, you’ll be shocked to see how much I’ve posted today!

What a beautiful day for a funeral. Really. I mean, this is what you think about. Or what I think about. Besides wondering if I’ll make it through my talk.

We assembled at the funeral home, said our final farewells, a few prayers and made our way to the church.

It was packed. Absolutely packed. Mom and Lynn didn’t want to walk down the aisle, so they went in the side door.

The rest of us were in the back of the church. The priest started with a prayer, we spread the pall over Tim’s casket and then walked forward to our pew.

Uh oh. It was hitting me now. Not now. I love this song (Eagle’s Wings) and I want to sing it. I couldn’t. I wasn’t crying, but I couldn’t sing.

Renee was doing the second reading, and I could see her walk to the altar out of the corner of my eye. She was sitting in back with Erin, just in case she had to feed her during the service. I knew she would do an awesome job, but I couldn’t look at her. She did us proud. She nailed it.

Then, I was feeling OK. I could sing, I could talk, I didn’t have to bite my lip.

I was thinking ahead and was worried about the sign of peace, thinking I would lose it then. I didn’t.

OK, I thought, I’m going to do this, but then I was worried about Brendan and Tommy, and whether or not they’d get through their talk.

The time came. Tommy went first. He was nervous. But he nailed it. Perfect humor and perfect explanation of the ‘twin thing.’ I joked with him before he went up and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’m not going to listen.”

I went first at my Dad’s, and I think that’s how I made it through that one — barely.

Tommy finished and I was still feeling OK. Brendan and I went up to the altar together. This 13-year-old stood in front of about 300 people, not too mention his Dad’s coffin, and hit a homerun. He was fabulous. I had told him that people would laugh, and they did. That helped him. And I thought it would help me.

I was wrong.

I had a very general opening and then a couple of jokes. I got through that without too much trouble, but I knew as soon as I opened my mouth that I wasn’t going to get through the entire thing — the best thing I’ve ever written, and I wasn’t going to be able to finish it.

It was five pages long. Midway through page three, I lost it. Then I dropped the papers. Picked them up and said, “good thing I numbered them.” Everyone laughed. I thought I could do it again. But this was just the part where I was getting to the more emotional parts.

I knew I was toast.

I looked over to Father Perkins and he (thankfully) came over to pick up where I left off while I sat sobbing like a baby.

I knew where he was, heck, I practically had it memorized. I also knew that I wanted to say the last line myself. So as he got to that part, I stood up, moved closer to the lectern and he realized what I was doing. I then said the last line like I wanted to and returned, still sobbing madly, to the pew.

The first thing my Mom said was, “You were right. That was the best thing you’ve ever written.”

I could hear sobs everywhere. I wasn’t trying to make people cry. Or feel sorry for me. I was trying to get them to know Tim better than they did. I had learned so much about him in the past few days from his work colleagues. I wanted them, and others, to know the Tim I knew. And, regardless of whether I read some of it or the priest read some of it, when it was over, they knew.

So, if you’d like to read what I couldn’t make it through, here it is — my eulogy to my brother Tim — the best thing I’ve ever written:

Note: It’s written in all caps. That’s not a mistake. It’s just how I type things when I’m giving a talk. Hope it’s not too difficult to read.

FIRST OF ALL, ON BEHALF OF THE O’FARRELL FAMILY, THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT. IT’S A PRETTY AMAZING THING. I KNOW NOT EVERYONE WILL BE AT THE CEMETERY, BUT I DO HOPE YOU’LL JOIN US AFTERWARDS AT THE CALABRESE CLUB IN WESTERLY FOR FOOD AND FELLOWSHIP.

ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING THINGS FOR ME THROUGHOUT THIS PROCESS HAS BEEN LEARNING ABOUT TIM’S WORK LIFE. THE WORDS PEOPLE HAVE EXPRESSED ABOUT TIM HAVE BEEN NOTHING SHORT OF AMAZING.

ONE CONVERSATION IN PARTICULAR, REALLY TAUGHT ME THAT THERE’S A DIFFERENT SIDE TO TIM I NEVER KNEW. THE WORKING TIM.

THE PERSON I WAS TALKING TO ACTUALLY USED THE WORD DYNAMIC TO DESCRIBE MY BROTHER. I SAID, TIM O’FARRELL, RIGHT?

OH YEAH, HE TOLD ME. ABSOLUTELY DYNAMIC. HE MADE PEOPLE LAUGH. HE CRACKED JOKES. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, THIS PERSON TOLD ME, HE GOT THINGS DONE. AND PEOPLE RESPONDED TO HIM.

THAT I BELIEVE. MY BROTHER ALWAYS GOT THINGS DONE.

BUT DYNAMIC? I’M STILL NOT SURE I BELIEVE IT.

RESERVED? YES.

STOIC? NO QUESTION.

SERIOUS? WITHOUT A DOUBT.

THOSE ARE WORDS I WOULD USE TO DESCRIBE MY BROTHER TIM.

BUT THEN IT HIT ME.

THIS PERSON KNOWS ONE SIDE OF MY BROTHER. I, AND OTHERS, KNOW OTHER SIDES OF HIM.

AND FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF MINUTES, I’D LIKE TO SHARE SOME MEMORIES WITH YOU ABOUT THE TIM O’FARRELL I KNOW.

SEEMS LIKE EVERY HOLIDAY MEAL, WE END UP REHASHING FUNNY FAMILY STORIES AROUND THE TABLE. ONE OF MY FAVORITES IS THE TIME TIMMY HURT HIS WRIST OR ARM – I DON’T REMEMBER WHICH. WHATEVER IT WAS, IT WAS BUGGING HIM SO MUCH. BUT MY MOM DIDN’T BUY IT. SHE FINALLY TOLD HIM THAT IF HE WANTED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL, HE SHOULD TAKE THE INSURANCE CARD, GET ON HIS BIKE AND GO. IT WASN’T LONG THEREAFTER THAT MY MOTHER GOT A CALL. TIMMY NEEDED TO BE PICKED UP. HE WAS IN A CAST!

PHONE CONVERSATIONS WITH TIM ARE ALWAYS FUN. IMAGINE SOMETHING LIKE THIS.

HELLO.

MICHAEL.

YEAH.

YOU GOING TO MA’S?

YUP.

WHAT TIME?

NOON.

SEE YOU THEN.

OK.

NOW THAT’S DYNAMIC – WOULDN’T YOU SAY?

MY BROTHER TOM GOT MARRIED A COUPLE MONTHS AGO IN INDIANA. I FLEW OUT. TIMMY DROVE – AS DID MY MOM AND MY SISTER. LYNN AND MOM LEFT AN ENTIRE DAY BEFORE TIMMY. HE CAUGHT UP TO THEM NOT TO FAR FROM THE FINAL DESTINATION – MAKING UP NEARLY A DAY’S HEAD START.

THEN, ONCE HE GOT THERE, HE HAD TWO THINGS ON HIS MIND – NEITHER ONE OF WHICH SEEMED TO BE HIS BROTHER’S WEDDING. NOPE. HE WAS MORE FOCUSED ON FINDING A PLACE TO WASH HIS TRUCK AND THEN GETTING BACK TO THE HOTEL QUICKLY BECAUSE IT HAD FREE SPEED CHANNEL.

ON A MORE PERSONAL SIDE, I DON’T THINK ANYONE HERE EVEN KNOWS THIS – YOU KNOW US O’FARRELLS, WE’RE NOT KNOWN FOR SHARING A WHOLE LOT – BUT TIM SAID ONE OF THE MOST MEANINGFUL THINGS ANYONE HAS EVER SAID TO ME.

THE IRONIC PART OF THIS STORY – HE SAID IT AT MY BACHELOR PARTY.
THAT NIGHT, I FOUND MYSELF THE BUTT OF MANY JOKES AS MY FRIENDS WENT AROUND THE TABLE ROASTING ME.

MY BROTHER TOM GOT IN THE ACT, SHARING SOME EMBARASSING STORY. EVEN MY DAD GOT INVOLVED IN THIS LITTLE GAME, REALLY TAKING THE OPPORTUNITY TO BUST ON ME.

THEN IT WAS TIMMY’S TURN. I HAD TAKEN SUCH A VERBAL BEATING, HE COULD HAVE EASILY JUST PILED ON AND FOLLOW THE LEAD OF HIS BROTHER AND FATHER.THAT’S WHAT I EXPECTED.

BUT HE DIDN’T DO THAT.

INSTEAD, HE TOLD ME HE RESPECTED ME AND HOW I GOT TO THAT POINT IN MY LIFE. HE THEN TOLD ME – AND THE REST OF THE GROUP – THAT HE WAS PROUD OF ME. I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT. I NEVER EXPECTED IT. ESPECIALLY THEN – AT MY BACHELOR PARTY.

IT’S SUCH A SIMPLE PHRASE. BUT IT CARRIES A LOT OF MEANING. AND GIVEN THE TIMING OF WHEN HE SAID THAT, IT MEANT THAT MUCH MORE TO ME.

IT ALSO MEANT A LOT TO ME BECAUSE, DESPITE HAVING TWIN BROTHERS, THAT THREE MINUTE OR SO HEAD START TIM HAD OVER TOM IN THIS WORLD CLASSIFIED TIM AS MY BIG BROTHER. TOM IS MY OLDER BROTHER. TIM IS ALWAYS MY BIG BROTHER. AND WHAT LITTLE BROTHER DOESN’T TRY TO IMPRESS HIS BIG BROTHER?

WE NEVER TALKED ABOUT WHAT HE SAID TO ME. NOT LATER THAT NIGHT, NOT EVER. BUT IT HAS ALWAYS SAT WITH ME AS A MEANINGFUL MEMORY.

ANOTHER THING I’VE LEARNED RECENTLY IS JUST HOW PRECIOUS LIFE IS. MY BROTHER TOM CALLED ME LAST MONDAY WITH THE NEWS OF TIM’S COLLAPSE JUST AS MY WIFE AND I WERE GETTING READY TO TAKE OUR NEW DAUGHTER HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL.

I ALMOST DIDN’T BELIEVE TOMMY. HOW IN THE WORLD COULD WHAT HE WAS SAYING BE POSSIBLE? BUT, IT WAS MORE THAN POSSIBLE. IT WAS TRUE.

AS WE LEARNED MORE ABOUT TIM’S CONDITION, ONE OF MY THOUGHTS WENT TO MY NEW DAUGHTER, ERIN.

I WAS ALREADY FEELING JEALOUSY FOR HER TOWARD HER LESS THAN YEAR OLD COUSIN, LAUREN, MY SISTER LYNN’S DAUGHTER.

YOU SEE, LAUREN DOESN’T KNOW IT YET, BUT SHE IS A VERY LUCKY GIRL. EVERY TIME TIM WAS ANYWHERE NEAR LAUREN, HE HAD TO HOLD HER AND PLAY WITH HER.

IT WAS ALWAYS FUN TO SEE BECAUSE THAT WAS A SIDE OF TIM I HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE. AND I REALLY NEVER GAVE IT SOME THOUGHT – UNTIL I REALIZED THAT MY DAUGHTER WILL NEVER GET TO PLAY WITH HER UNCLE TIM.

WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT SIDES. AND IT’S RARE THAT ONE PERSON SEES ALL SIDES OF ANOTHER PERSON. EVEN TIM’S WIFE SUE WILL LEARN MORE ABOUT HER HUSBAND AS YOU SHARE YOUR STORIES WITH HER.

BUT WHATEVER SIDE YOU SAW OF TIM – THE STOIC, THE RESERVED, OR, OK, EVEN THE DYNAMIC – HOLD THOSE MEMORIES CLOSE. DON’T LET THEM GO. DON’T LET HIM GO.

REMEMBER MY BIG BROTHER AS YOU KNEW HIM – A CHILDHOOD FRIEND, A COLLEAGUE, A FAMILY MEMBER – WHATEVER HE WAS TO YOU..

BECAUSE I KNOW, HE’S WATCHING US RIGHT NOW. HE AND MY DAD. I KNOW THEY ARE WATCHING. AND I KNOW THEY ARE LISTENING.

SO, TIM, IT MAY BE THIRTEEN YEARS LATER, BUT JUST AS YOU SAID TO ME, I SAY TO YOU NOW – I’M PROUD OF YOU.


10 Comments on “The Funeral”

  1. christine b says:

    i haven’t seen everything you’ve ever written, but it’s definitely the best of your work i’ve ever read. i’m crying with you, and praying that my boys will have the same kind of brotherhood that you had with tim.

  2. molly says:

    Thank you for sharing all of this. (I had to get up and get a tissue!) I completely agree…this is your best stuff. How lucky Tim was to have you. How lucky you were to have him.

  3. Anna says:

    Crying too–you said it all, and you know that everyone there will be replaying this in their minds as they think of the memories that they hold close about Tim.

  4. Anonymous says:

    With death comes new life!

  5. bp says:

    I could barely finish reading it…what great writing! You were right..some of the best stuff I have ever read from you. You are lucky to have such wonderful family memories… I know Tim was listening..

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Beautifully written. Perfectly stated. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  7. loretta~ says:

    what a wonderful to write something so loving and from the heart for your brother..you cant say…you got nothin’ cause sir..you really got somethin’….thank you

  8. Michelle says:

    Mike, I am a friend of JC’s and he said to leave you a comment. I don’t even know you, and I shed some tears. I don’t cry very often, so please know this was definately a touching story. You had me at the Cheeseburger Casserole. This was so sweet for you to share the entire gamut of emotions that you went through, and your honesty was so heartfelt. I completely lost it when I got to the part of how you lost it during the funeral, and I could really feel for you.

    Michelle

  9. ford cawlins says:

    Mike-
    Finally got around to catching up. I was ready. It was great. You captured the emotions that we all have, but cannot seem to put adequately into words. Very moving. You did your brother proud…again. Kenny

  10. milwaukeebuckeye says:

    I am finally getting a chance to go through your archives. I started at the beginning and have been crying through this entire “series.”

    Things work in weird ways. A birth followed by a death. I have no idea how you got through this as you have (I think I’d still be in a ball doing nothing), but your words are very beautiful.


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