Giving Thanks for a Man I Never Met

4 Min read

On love and Thanksgiving

Three rules for life

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I did not know the deceased. Garrett gave the eulogy on Friday* which was hard to listen to, hard to hear his voice quaver, to see him fight for composure.

Death is a surprise. Even when we expect it.

What stuck with me is what I learned about love. Garrett knows how to give a speech, to make us laugh, to share the very thing we need to hear.

His father packed Garrett’s lunch with a note to do your best, penned on the napkin. He believed in his son, made everyone he met feel like they were the most important person in the room. A father’s wisdom:

He knew more about what was going on in your life than you did. In a good way.

A big part of life is just showing up.

I was glad to be there, in St. Mary’s Nativity to remember a man I didn’t know. Why? Because my family loves this man’s son. We got to know more about Garrett and what makes him Garrett. People were filling into the massive wood pews spanning the width of the church, the soaring blue stain glass behind the altar.

You could hear sniffles and crying from behind, to the left and to the right, ahead of us. Garrett spoke, paused to clear his throat. He thanked his mother who revived his dad when he suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on the kitchen floor. He thanked her for giving them 14 more years.

*

Three Rules for Life

Garrett shared his dad’s three rules for life.

  1. Be patient.
  2. Do what you dig. That’s right, dig is the word. It is oh-so-appropriate because Garrett and his wife started a volleyball club. This is a world that involves hitting, blocking and yes, DIG-ging. DIG. Pretty crazy and fun, and who gets to do that? Live what they love?
  3. Do your best. Napkin wisdom from Garrett’s lunchbox.

Yes, I heard versions of these rules, the first and last most often. I might have benefited in my youth if I’d been told number two. I am listening now.

The nephews escorted the coffin on its wheeled stretcher down the nave of the church. We stood in the pews, filing out of the service, each row on row. Outside I hugged Garrett. Could sense a tremble in his normally sturdy demeanor. He’s been a mentor and coach to my children.

As my husband and I walked to the car, I felt lifted up by Garrett’s father, the man who had dozens telling Garrett he was their best friend. And, as Garret had said, they were right.

*

Love After Death

I’m not sure what makes such a rich and lasting love. I’ve read books on love, from authors Thich Nhat Hanh to Erich Fromm. I’ve weighed and measured precious and fleeting moments of the sublime; but analysis distracts from the joy of loving. Reading a thing and doing a thing are vastly different. When I feel I am beginning to understand the slightest idea of what it is, love shifts and ebbs, leaving only a trace as proof.

My friend lost her husband abruptly one year ago. I reached out to her today and she wrote.

Time has a different quality now, like air passing through my fingers.

This stunned me, stopping me on the page. I’ve been thinking of it all day. The excruciating pain that follows a life-changing event. The death of a spouse. Of a beloved father. Of a child.

Time changes.

A friend lost her son in a helicopter crash* last week. Is life ever the same? Is time ever the same?

How then do we love? Garrett’s father loved others, deeply. He was curious to know what was happening and why. He did what he digged as a personal trainer, building relationships with others, curating extensive and lasting friendships.

He cared deeply, he was present in a way I did not know of while he lived, but most certainly learned of after he died. Such a love lives on in those he cherished.

If I learn anything from this man I never met, it is to cultivate a deep and abiding love for others, an interest in who they are, what they care about, why they wake each day. And, if even for a moment, to make them know that they are most precious and cherished.

*

To readers, friends, and family, thank you for reading the THL. Thank you for your encouragement and support. Wishing you and yours a memorable holiday weekend, filled with gratitude and love.

*

FOOTNOTES

*The service was held Friday at Mary’s Nativity – St. Ann Parish for Patrick J. Carroll (1963 to 2023), whose son Garrett gave the eulogy.

*‘Promise to never forget them’: Pentagon identifies 5 soldiers killed in Mediterranean Sea helicopter crash, (USA Today, November 14, 2023). Helicopter crash which claimed the lives of 5 soldiers who were part of 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell.

Nov 21, 2023

2 Comments

  1. Mark

    Excellent piece MyLinh! We could all aspire to live up to such a eulogy.

    • mylinhshattan

      True! Thank you for reading THL and taking time to write. Happy Thanksgiving.

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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