Friday, December 27, 2013

Ryan's eulogy for his grandfather.

Shared with his permission, Ryan’s eulogy for Papa. 

I don’t know where to start. For such a simple man, there were so many amazing things about him. Whether it be his actions, attributes, or way of living, my papa was truly incredible, and he left such an extraordinary legacy for my family. 

Papa may be the most special and unique person I have ever known. And I’m really gonna miss him. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit angry. Papa was supposed to live past 100. In years past, his health showed that this idea was entirely possible. But as we all know, that didn’t happen. His life was cut short. It’s been a hard couple of days, and I know it’s only going to get harder as we learn to adjust without him.

A friend of ours lost her husband in a car accident a few years ago on Christmas Eve. A few hours after Papa died, she messaged me saying to focus on the memories. They will give me peace and joy. And boy, have they.

As I walked through the garage to go inside my Nana’s house yesterday, I saw all the bicycles and tools that Papa had. I immediately thought of when I helped Nana and Papa clean out their garage a few years back, and how much Papa and I talked, whether it be about school, the tools we were moving, or whether or not certain spray cans were still usable or not. You could say these were little conversations, but how special they were to me.

When my dad gave me allowance this morning, I remembered the “Papa dollars” Papa would give my sister and I during trips to Marshall and McGregor.

As I was riding one of Papa’s bikes Thursday morning, I remembered my friends at school talking about someone on Eden Rd called “the Bike Man” who would fix their bikes at an extremely low price.

When my mom, sister, and I went to McDonald’s a couple of days ago, I thought of Papa taking me and two of my cousins, Adam and Chris, to McDonald’s around Christmastime while the girl cousins would have a sleepover at Nana’s.

Even when I logged onto Facebook this morning, I thought of how excited Papa was when he first got an account. He would always call it “Facemask.” A couple of days ago I went back on my “Timeline” to when Papa first got his “Facemask” and would post on my wall once every week or so. Some of his posts would say “Hello, Ryan, how is school going? Going well here, watching the Rangers losing.” There were short ones like “see you at the game” and “great teeth.” How special these posts were to me.

Papa did so much for us grandkids. All those band concerts, sports games, baptisms, birthday parties, Papa was there. I think my favorite thing about Papa was that I never had a doubt in my mind that he loved us grandkids. I just always knew. His attendance at the functions mentioned above, his wall posts on Facebook, his bragging about us at his 50th wedding anniversary, his saying “Papa loves you” as we would say goodbye. Truly special.

Shifting back to this past week. It’s been one of the toughest weeks of my life. Our whole family was pretty much camped out at my Nana’s all week as we prepared to say goodbye to Papa. He was becoming pretty unresponsive and by Tuesday he was pretty still, despite the occasional moving his hand to feel his head since he had a headache. However, something happened that night that was quite possibly the most special moment of my entire life. Our family was gathered around him, singing songs for about an hour. You could tell he enjoyed it, and every once in a while you could see him attempting to sing along with us. Eventually it was time to go home. It was time to say goodbye to Papa. Many of us thought that would be his last night. When it was my turn to say goodbye, I walked over to him and told him I loved him and how much he meant to me. As he lay there fairly unresponsive, I leaned over and gave him a hug. Then something truly incredible happened. He hugged me back. What a special moment that was, and a true testament of how much he loved me.

Ever since Papa passed away, all I’ve really been thinking about are these special memories. Looking back at them, I do feel a lot of sadness. I think to myself, he shouldn’t have gone so soon. I wasn’t ready. I want to see him again. I want to create more memories. Why did I ever say “no” to my dad asking me if I wanted to go visit him?

At the end of the day, however, I do feel some peace. I do feel some joy. Because quite frankly, I am SO blessed to have any memories at all. I’ve had friends whose grandparents live far away. I’ve had friends who don’t remember their grandparents. I’ve had friends who have had bad experiences with their grandparents to the point where they can’t see them anymore. I never had to worry about any of that with Papa. He was always there for me. That is truly special. I love you, Papa, and I am so thankful for all that you’ve done for us.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Brett's eulogy for his dad.

I'm still struggling to find my words, so here are Brett's. He, Ryan and the other family members who spoke at the service did a wonderful job describing their dad and papa.

My Dad 

When I was a kid, Dad rarely told us what he was thinking. He just wasn’t that expressive with his words. He joked with us and told stories about his childhood, but he wasn’t one to wear his emotions on his sleeve.

His actions, however, spoke louder than any words ever could. Dad’s work ethic is legendary, but he always had time for his family. Dad loved watching sports on TV, but he enjoyed playing them even more.

The storage room in our garage was filled with bats, balls, gloves, and other sports equipment, all of which got used on a regular basis. I remember neighborhood baseball games in the field behind our house, football in the front yard, and basketball in the driveway.

When my friends or Scott’s friends would come over to play basketball, Dad would always fill in if there were an odd number of people, and he could definitely hold his own—he was big and strong and a good athlete. Every evening after dinner, Scott, Dad, and I would kick the football up and down our long driveway, kicking it as high and as far as possible. We would also throw the Frisbee and play HORSE.

When we kids were younger, Dad tucked us into bed every night—he must’ve read Three Billy Goats Gruff to me a thousand times. Regardless of our age, he always told us he loved us: “Dad loves you,” he would say. And, later on, he would always tell his grandkids, “Papa loves you.”

Throughout the years, Dad was a solid, steady, constant presence in our lives. He was always there, whether it was mealtime, TV time, or whatever. He rarely did the outwardly spectacular—there were no ocean cruises, no trips to Disney World, no European vacations—but every year he would take the family on one of our infamous vacations, whether it was to go look at the Grand Canyon for a few minutes or drive through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Dad also grilled hamburgers for our birthdays, took us out to eat every Friday night, took us to countless Rangers games, rode bikes with us, and drove us to Harrington’s on Saturdays to buy candy with our allowance. He gave us allowance each week, but not a penny more. If I saw a car model at K-Mart that I wanted, I couldn’t get it if I hadn’t saved up enough money. In short, he taught us hard work and to appreciate the value of a dollar.

It was obvious Dad loved us, but since he was so quiet and undemonstrative, I often wondered exactly what was going on inside his head. Was he happy to be a husband to my mom? Did he enjoy being a father to us kids? He always had a calm, cool exterior and an unflappable disposition, but did he ever fantasize about having a more glamorous, more exciting life?

When we were younger, Scott and I used to joke about Dad—What was he? He wasn’t a hunter or a fisherman or a cowboy. He had a garden, but he wasn’t a farmer. He worked on cars and seemed to like them, but he wasn’t into hot rods or racing. He liked sports, but he didn’t have season tickets or wear the colors. He was a company man, but he had no interest in climbing the corporate ladder. He was a churchgoer, but didn’t seem especially religious. What was my dad?

Although it should have been patently obvious from the beginning, I didn’t get to the core of what Dad was all about until I was in my late 20s. During the third year of our marriage, Charis and I were having marital difficulties, and Mom and Dad came to our house to talk things over and find out what they could do to help.

Throughout the tearful conversation, Dad was his usual stoic self, looking dour and concerned but relatively unfazed. After Charis, Mom, and I had drilled the subject into the ground, and after the tears were beginning to dry, Dad—who shed no tears, naturally—finally spoke up. He looked me in the eye, put his hand on my shoulder, and said: “Keep your family together.”

It hit me at that moment like an anvil to the head who Dad truly was: a Family Man with a capital F. Through love, hard work, sensible living, and steadfast dedication, Dad had kept his family together, and he expected no less of me. Every day I’m thankful I followed his advice and his example.

If Dad were an overly talkative man, the phrase “keep your family together” would have been a quickly forgotten cliché amidst all the drama. However, coming from Dad, the importance of those words wrapped themselves around my cerebral cortex like a python and have echoed through my thoughts ever since.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

My dad did lead a quiet life, but it wasn’t one of desperation or regret, and the song is not still with him. The song lives on in all the loved ones he left behind. The song lives on in everyone here today.


Perry Gene “Papa” Weiss died Thursday, Dec. 19, at home after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. He leaves a legacy of Christ-centered service, commitment and strength. Funeral: 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, at Bluebonnet Hills Funeral Home. Visitation: 3-6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Bluebonnet Chapel.

Perry was born Jan. 19, 1932, in Osage, Texas, to Bennie and Edna Weiss. A graduate of Oglesby High School, he attended Baylor University and Tarrant County College and served in the U.S. Army.

He married Joan (Jo) Hicks on July 13, 1958, and they raised their children in Marshall and North Richland Hills. He retired in 2001 after 35 years of service at Bell Helicopter, where his work ethic was legendary. He rarely missed a day of work, and his quiet leadership was an inspiration to his co-workers. Perry was a member of The Hills Southlake Church.

He was known all over Tarrant County as “The Bike Man.” For 30 years he supplied and repaired bicycles for countless children, many of whom returned as customers when their own children were old enough to ride. Through his “bicycle ministry,” he also refurbished bicycles to donate to families in need.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holy ground.

As we pulled into the driveway, Katie noticed all the cars.

“It seems like this should be a happy occasion,” she said.

True. Just about any other day, if you saw a bunch of cars at Nana and Papa’s house, you would expect to find a holiday or birthday celebration. And while we still found music, plenty of food, and the ever-present boisterous (read: LOUD) conversations, this was a different kind of celebration.

Today, we gathered to honor Papa, Brett's dad. His battle with pancreatic cancer is nearing its end, and we know it won't be long before he passes from this life. In-home hospice care started Friday, and today, his condition took a turn. We all came together, afraid to miss our last chance to say goodbye.

It's a wonder that I was free to join them there. For once, I'm thankful that I woke up with an upset stomach! This morning, after showering and getting dressed, I realized I was in no condition to teach. I requested a sub, grabbed the saltines, and headed to school to get some materials together. Ryan also woke up sick, so he missed school today, too. After some antacids and a good, long nap, I felt much better and Ryan was managing, so we headed to Nana and Papa's for a visit.

We were about 5 minutes away when Brett texted us to let us know Papa's condition had changed. Our planned stop at Sonic could wait; we made a bee-line to their house. When we arrived, the living room was awash in love. Around Papa's hospital bed were Nana and all three of his children. Our niece from Austin was there with her little boy, too. We took turns holding Papa's hands, hugging and kissing him, telling him how much we love him.

A little later, scared to wait too long, I picked Katie up from school an hour early. By the time we got to Nana and Papa's, the driveway was full and the house was bustling. We quickly learned that Papa was rallying, opening his eyes more and talking a little bit. The frantic "This is it" gave way, and our calmer vigil resumed.

Still, we know it won't be long. This isn't the end of Papa's story, but here in this space where life yields to death, we cling to our memories, tell the old stories, and shower Papa with love. As Kelly said in an email to family, this is holy ground. We are honored to share these moments, to participate in this ritual, as Papa finishes his race.

And we are blessed beyond measure by this amazing man's life and legacy.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Four glorious days.

We had plenty of warning. For days, our friendly neighborhood meteorologists had been telling us about the extreme cold and freezing rain we could expect at the end of the week. But we'd heard it all before; just a week ago, we'd gotten our hopes up, and all that we got was this:

Yep. That was our "winter weather event."

So this time around, we took the necessary precautions, but we weren't quite buying what the weather guys were selling. Sure, it COULD be a real deep freeze (that would "entomb" the Metroplex, as one prognosticator put it), but it could also be one big ratings ploy.

But Thursday afternoon, the temps started dropping and wet stuff was falling. Surprisingly, our school districts didn't even need to wait until morning to call off school for Friday. Turns out, that was a smart move. Around 3:30 Friday morning, I looked out our front door to see this:

Everything was covered in at least half an inch of ice.

And just like in 2011, it was like we'd pressed PAUSE right in the middle of our busy lives. No school. No alarm clocks. That bowling tournament in Huntsville? Nope. The SAT Ryan was scheduled to take Saturday morning? Postponed. All our plans were put on hold. On Sunday, I even had the day off from the job I do for free. Dangerous driving conditions extended our mini-vacay through today (Monday), too.

So what did we do? Lots of things! We had chili, cinnamon rolls, enchiladas, lots of coffee/hot chocolate, and cozy time spent by the fire:

And we ventured outside a time or two:

One of our neighbors has a sled that he was kind enough to let us use:

And of course, we just enjoyed our icy world:

Inside, we kept our pups warm:

We also paid bills, cleaned house, decorated three out of our four Christmas trees, and watched movies and football. (I also spent plenty of time on a heating pad since my lower back is NOT a fan of the cold.)

Throughout these four days, I've noticed that there are basically two kinds of people: those who relish cocooning in their homes and those who just HAVE to get out. All weekend I was stunned to see my Facebook friends talking about their various excursions into the frozen tundra just for grins: trips to the movies, shopping excursions, dinners out on the town. I was already worried sick about my friends who had to travel for work. I couldn't handle the stress of knowing others were "slip-slidin' away" by choice! But you know, some folks just have to get out of the house. Now if you recall my ever-present wanderlust, you'd think I'd fall in that category. But when the travel is treacherous, I'm the homebodiest homebody you've ever seen! Besides, I have so much respect for the first-responders who have to be on the roads, rescuing the stranded. The best way I can convey that respect is by not being someone in need of rescue.

So tomorrow we will finally push PLAY, and all our busy-ness will resume. But what a great four days we've had! And hey, it's not even winter yet. Maybe we'll have a few more ice days before spring? (Please?!)