My beloved husband, friend, and rock, passed away suddenly last Monday. We planned a tribute for him that we hoped would reach out and touch every single person in attendance. I think we did it. In fact, many have asked me for my speech. So I have posted it here. Feel free to quote, copy, link, and reflect.
Welcome to all and thank you for coming to share this day with us.
First of all, I would like to take a moment to thank all of you for the most incredible tidal wave of support, love, and compassion this past week. Your posts, cards, gifts, hugs, and tears have given us so much strength. We have been able to get through this very public tragedy, with dignity and peace, only because all of Paul’s friends, students and family have taken the love they have for him, and showered it all over us.
Our strength has allowed us to focus on you. We have had the privilege of sharing so much with you and are actually enjoying this Christmas season in the hustle and bustle of being with you. I’m sure that sounds backwards. But I’m also sure that the reality hasn’t hit us yet.
There will be time for that later. – Sooner -than later. And we will take the time to work through our grief, knowing that we have the love and support we need.
In the meantime, we tried to make all of this, about ALL OF US. We ALL lost a great man this week.
I have had the remarkable experience over the past two days to meet so many of you.
You came out in the rain, and the cold, and the traffic. Many of you waited in line for up to two hours to speak with me. And every one of you shared your feelings and stories about Paul with me.
I, too, was able to share many anecdotes and memories with you. I was able to offer some support, and I tried to share some memory that I had either of, or about, every one of you.
I went into what I expected to be two long, grueling days of socializing on Paul’s behalf, only to find that I ended up spending countless hours, more connected to the world around me, than I have ever felt in my life.
It is now obvious to me how Paul was able to be in that constant state of enthusiastic energy. He caught it from all of you!
I have sat in my thoughts all week, trying to figure out what to say here. How could I ever possibly begin to share with you a man’s entire life in just a few minutes?
How could I possibly tell you the stories, the loving, the caring, the funny, the memorable?
How on earth was I going to write something EPIC in four days?
But as you all shared your stories with me, I began to realize, that I didn’t have to do that. You ALL already know Paul. I don’t have to tell any of you about him.
The husband that you imagine him to be, was better.
The father that you thought he was, didn’t come close to the dad he actually is.
But there is a message that I would like to leave you – the biggest thing that Paul taught me.
There is something oddly unbelievable when I think that something so incredibly small could take down someone so great. Something we saw no risk of, couldn’t see coming, and had no way of stopping, caused all of this.
And we’re left with so many questions.
There’s that gigantic two-letter word, “IF.”
What if I had…
If only I had told him…
I have learned to take the past tense of IF out of my life. Paul taught us to only use IF in the future. “If I do this, then that will happen.”
We never think, back, “what if.”
That gets easy to do when you live every day “AS IF” it were actually the last.
Our family, our kids, are so lucky to be here today, with no regrets.
Yes, there were hard spots, and harsh words, and sore feelings. Yes, there was a time there for Paul and I, when the going got so tough, we weren’t sure we would make it through together. But THAT’S LIFE.
If it was all good times, well, that’d be like having ice cream for supper every day.
It’s how – not whether – you come through the hard times that determines the happiness. And we always came through the hard times together. We never gave up on each other. And through that commitment to each other, the love was understood. It was obvious. To us and to everyone around us.
In the beginning, I used to ask him if he loved me. He would laugh and simply say, “I’m still here, aren’t I?”
When we hit the hard times, and he was still there, still hanging in, still trying, every moment simply screamed, I LOVE YOU.
They’re not words. They’re actions.
Words will leave uncertainty.
Actions leave no doubt.
And getting through our new normal will be an awful lot easier without the burden of “What if’s” and “If only’s” on our shoulders.
There is also a lesson that you have all learned from him. Something you might not have realized or understood yet.
Many of you used that phrase, that – regret – that it’s too bad it takes something like this to get us all together.
I heard that so many times that I began to understand the problem.
We think we have to bend over backwards trying to arrange dinners and parties and get-togethers. We think we have to juggle everything to squeeze in what will surely be a two-hour phone call. We wonder if it’s okay to send a shout out to someone we haven’t seen in years, just because we’re thinking about them. Will they remember me? Will they want to hear from me? Should I say hi to that person I see over there who said a kind word to me five – ten – twenty years ago in highschool?
Every one of you is here, not because I managed to finally get you over for a visit, or was able to squeeze in a coffee with you, but because you were given just a few hours, minutes, – a moment – of Paul’s time, attention, and love.
We don’t have to change our busy crazy lives for each other.
We just have to slow down. Notice each other. And reach out.
According to Paul, it’s that simple.
It’s that simple to create a life that leaves not a single regret.
There will be time to share the stories. You will recognize me at the grocery store. And knowing that I’m really bad with faces and don’t recognize you, you’ll introduce yourself, and we’ll talk as Paul would have done. You will recognize each other, and reach out as he would have done. And he will live on.
His students… You will remember him. You will continue to learn from his example:
Do him proud.
Stay in school.
Stay out of trouble.
Follow your dreams.
He’ll be watching.
Don’t just let life happen to you.
Make. Life. Happen.
Just like Paul would.
Out of tradition, or habit, or reflex, we all say, “Rest in Peace.”
I don’t think that applies to Mr. Brown.
There WILL be peace for him.
He was MADE of peace.
But there will be no rest.
And there will be no rest for anyone else where he is. He will already have them smiling and energized to do something amazing.
Think about it. The world was supposed end yesterday.
I was afraid it would. Paul laughed at me.
“You’re crazy,” he said. “Not if I have anything to do with it.” And he hugged me.
I’ll close with this.
Ben shared something with me just a few weeks ago.
He said, “Everyone dies twice. Once when they pass on. And the second and final time, when someone speaks his name for the last time.”
Looking out at all of you, Paul Brown is going to be around for a long, long time.