Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shiny Clean Dance

What would you do if you were an avid Rock Band aficionado, used to jamming out to the likes of Wheezer, The Killers, The Ramones, and Cheap Trick, but forced to perform in a kindergarten music program and sing the Shiny Clean Dance in front of a crowd of Ooohers and Aaahers?

Well, if you were Luke, you'd plaster on a look of contemptuous tolerance and rock out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Life of Brian

I wanted to share John's heartrending and spot-on eulogy that he gave on Saturday for his best friend, Brian. Many of my family and John's family have known Brian for years through us and did not get to attend the services. I thought you might like to read what John had to say. Although we did have a signal so that I could come up and finish the speech for him if necessary ("When I turn into a bubbling mush of goo."), that was not necessary and his delivery of the speech I'm sure made Brian proud.

Brian O’Neill had a wonderful, yet terribly warped sense of humor. A sense of humor that often had him laughing hysterically at movies that very few on this planet could possibly enjoy. I think the only argument we never settled was when he kept insisting that the movie “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” was funny. I look forward to the day when we can pick that argument back up again.

Brian’s particular brand of humor also resulted in him being a fan of Monty Python. Whether or not Monty Python’s brand of humor was funny was a point we never argued. One of their movies is entitled “Life of Brian”. It was advertised as “A Motion Picture destined to offend nearly two thirds of the civilized world. And severely annoy the other third.”

The life of our Brian, Brian Edward O’Neill, is a much more complex story. What does one say when called upon to talk about the life of Brian? Almost twelve years ago, when I first heard of Brian’s diagnosis……. of Brian’s prognosis, my thoughts involuntarily took me there. What would I say, how would I summarize this man’s life? At different points during his fight I would ask myself the same thing. Each time I was at a loss for what I would say. Up until yesterday, it was not something I could put down on paper. I think that was for a couple of very good reasons.

First of all, Brian is not the kind of man you can neatly summarize. Earlier this week, one of Angie’s friends asked me for a good story about Brian. A very good question, but one that I found difficult to answer. Partly because discretion immediately eliminates a lot of the good ones, but mostly because being a part of Brian’s life was not so much a series of good stories but more a culmination of countless subtle moments. More of a “Brian Experience”.

Secondly, his story wasn’t ready to be written. So much of Brian’s story is still not ready to be written. Right now the character we know as Brian will no longer appear in the story, but his true character will be felt throughout the rest of its pages. It will affect the upcoming chapters in the story of his family, as we anxiously turn the pages on the next great adventures of Angie, Gavin and Grant. Brian’s character will be ever evident in those he has left behind. Brian’s character will be a part of countless other stories yet to be written, life stories of people who are here today or people around the world who have never met Brian but know of his qualities, of his strength.

The final chapter will be withheld from all of us, until we stand beside him in Heaven. Only then will the true meaning of his story, of his family’s story, be revealed to us.

But Brian would want his life to have affected you most in those not so serious moments. I have heard my friend talking to me this week in some of those moments. Mostly through music. In the minutes and hours after his death, I was continually amazed at the songs he shuffled in on “BOZOs play list”. Some of them appropriate, some of them woefully inappropriate. Just the way Brian would have wanted it.

Just listen for him.

The next time you are looking for an MP3 player. You may be looking at the 8 or 16 GB models. When you feel an invisible hand shove you hard to the right and you find yourself seriously considering the 160 GB model, that’s Brian.

The next time you are about to order a Bud Light and find yourself moments later with a tall glass of Old Rasputin in front of you, that’s Brian.

It may even be during a game of Euchre, when you don’t have squat in your hand and you feel an urge to tell the dealer to “Pick it up”. That’s Brian.

In fact, the game of Euchre and the way Brian played it have a lot of parallels with the way Brian approached life. Many times I have heard his partner in life (and euchre) scream out to Brian, “How could you possibly win with that hand?” after he had done just that.

Perhaps that is why Brian was given this lot in life. God knew that if Brian was sitting at a table and these were the cards he was dealt, that nobody but Brian could turn it into a winning hand. So listen for Brian the next time life deals you a bad hand.

“Pick it up, win with it and amaze your partner while doing it.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

What Do You Do?

What do you do when your five almost six year old asks if a girl from his class, that you know he has a crush on, can come over and play?

What do you do when he asks this after watching one of those Disney shows where the poor kids have signed a perpetual contract and we all have to watch them go through puberty, and on this particular show the boy has found the girl of his dreams and kissed her?

What do you do when, after you say yes we'll invite her over, he asks if they can play inside not outside?

What do you do when he asks if the air bed he got to sleep on as a special Spring Break treat can stay inflated while she is over?

Well, first you s*** your pants. Then you remember who you're dealing with and breathe a sigh of relief when you realize that he wants to impress her with his ability to jump from the back of the couch to the couch cushions and then propel himself into the air and do a flip and land on the air bed.

So, you don't have to worry that the parents of this girl will think you are breeding a sexual deviant. You just have to worry that your son's flailing limbs will knock her for a loop while she stands in awe of his circus-like abilities.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Some days we are faced with reminders of our mortality and the fragility of these bodies we are given; our life here on Earth is only temporary. What we do with those reminders …

Our reminder came twelve years ago when our dear friend, Brian, was diagnosed with an aggressive, malignant brain tumor. Brian was in his early twenties, healthy, smart, athletic, a newlywed with a lifetime of dreams ahead of him. For the next twelve years Brian would vigorously fight back the cancer. With his wife Angie, he would live a life of incorrigible hope and faith, never feeling sorry for himself or falling into despair. He would unknowingly bring hope and restore the faith of untold others that passed through his life. He would do this humbly, never feeling special or out of the ordinary for what became his lot in life.

I am devastated and heartbroken to say that Brian lost his battle with cancer on this day. The world is darker today, but anyone that says Heaven cannot be improved upon is wrong because I know, with Brian there, it just got a whole lot better.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Keep Believing Event

Check out the Keep Believing Fund blog for details on the upcoming Keep Believing Event.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Next Generation Misbehavers

John has a group of friends from childhood that he has stayed close with into adulthood. These cronies were partners in crime with him through harmless fun when they were little, and the more serious type of "adventures" that teenage boys with imagination and boredom tend to get into. John looked forward to the day his kids would create adventures with his buddies' kids. And when I say "looked forward to," I think he did this with excited anticipation but also a sense of dread now being on the other end of the spectrum and remembering the stress and worry that a group of boys can cause their parents.

One of these buddies lives just a few houses away from John's parents. This is a Norman Rockwell-esque neighborhood. It is the type of neighborhood where you can let your kids out to play without constantly supervising them. It is the type of neighborhood where everyone knows everyone and you can count on your neighbors to look out for each other. It is the type of neighborhood surrounded by woods and creeks and areas screaming to be explored with an adventure waiting around every corner.

So while visiting last weekend, we let our boy out to play checking occasionally to make sure he was unharmed. We didn't stand over him, but called out to confirm he was still within earshot, playing nicely, and not doing anything that would cause severe bodily injury or property damage. After about an hour, we lost track of him. We called and called but got no response. We started to worry. We ran around the yard and woods in the immediate area of the house and saw no sign of him. We started to REALLY worry. We called John's buddy. His girl was missing too. We figured they were playing together, but neither was answering to the calls.

John hopped in the car and started the search. He ran into his friend who was also driving around searching. John stayed in the neighborhood, searching around the woods and creek, while his buddy said he'd go look at nearby apartments where his girl sometimes went to play by the lake. John had no luck so left the neighborhood to go out on the road and head toward the apartments. He passed his buddy on the road, who had the angry and relieved look of a person who had a weight of worry lifted. His buddy pointed to the back seat indicating he had the misbehavers and was bringing them back home.

John followed his buddy back to his house, ready to read them the riot act. He would put on a good show of it. They were safe, and hadn't he done many of the same things when he was a boy? Hadn't he put his father through worry after worry? Looks like payback time had begun, maybe a little earlier than he was expecting.

When he opened the door to the back seat, there they sat, soaking wet and looking very guilty. But they also looked happy as heck and loyal to the end, neither blaming the other for trouble they were in.

I wonder who was the instigator, and if we are going to have to forbid them from playing together in the future.