Like a lot of people who say things at funerals, I guess I wanted to do this so that I could tell Bob some of the things I should have told him when he was alive, but never got a chance to say. Somehow it never seemed like the right time, and now it’s too late. I should have made more of an effort, but I thought that I had plenty of time, and of course I was wrong.
I remember talking with Bob years ago, around the time he retired, and he was sort of looking back on his life and his career, and he seemed to feel that he hadn’t accomplished as much as he should have. I think he felt that he could have provided more for his family, that he and Edie weren’t able to go on as many trips as they wanted to, and that sort of thing. In other words, he seemed to be questioning whether he had been a success or not.
This is what I should have said to him: Bob, that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. You are as successful a man as I have ever met. You have been a wonderful husband and a terrific father and a great friend to so many people, me included. You have raised three wonderful children, who in turn have gone on to become wonderful husbands and wives, parents and friends. If that isn’t success, then I don’t know what is.
In school, we learn about so-called “great men” like George Washington and Winston Churchill, men who founded countries or fought great wars. Bob didn’t start a country or fight a war, but I would argue that he was still a great man, in the sense that he was a great human being. He was as faithful a friend as anyone could have wanted, and he was a great father — generous and kind, firm when he needed to be but also forgiving.
More than anything else, Bob was the kind of man who enjoyed people and enjoyed life, regardless of what it brought. Even during his final moments, you could tell he was happy to be with Edie and Becky and Barb and Dave, despite the fact that he was in the hospital hooked up to all kinds of tubes.
And so I think that Bob left this earth a happy and successful man. In other words, a great man.