By Eric Valentine | Read at my father’s funeral in January 2015
My father was the most honest man I will ever know. And in a few moments my brother Kirk—his eldest son—will eulogize him, reminiscing for those of us who knew him long and well, shedding light for those of us who were newer to his life.
My hope today is that when you hear of these wonderful anecdotes and accomplishments of Helmut Leins, you take them away with two things in heart and mind:
1. That my father accomplished all this with integrity. He never cut a corner or took advantage of anyone to get ahead. Water and humans take the path of least resistance, Helmut Leins and his carpentry saws measured twice and cut once, straight through.
2. That my father did not do these things for himself. Whether it was grow a cherry tree from an abandoned twig or use expendable income to donate to charity, he did them for things larger than himself. He did them for his family, his church, his community and both his countries. Because he understood viscerally that life on this planet does not revolve around just you, but that it involves all of us.
Let’s realize today is not just about the celebration of Helmut’s life. It’s also about celebrating the love he was shown by his wife. Mignon was Helmut’s sole caregiver for nearly 20 years, and when you’re talking about multiple strokes and Parkinson’s, that doesn’t mean she just pushed his wheelchair and combed his hair.
She did everything for him, literally breaking her back in the process. Let it be prayed loud and clear, her days in purgatory should be counted down to none. May God give her the keys to Heaven when her journey is done; St. Peter gets no questions asked.
My mother has many good years ahead of her, and it’s incumbent upon us to help her realize this. And I don’t mean she doesn’t know this already. What I’m talking about is helping her make the prospect of that good life, a reality in the next months and years of her life, wherever and however she decides to go from here.
She deserves the love, the understanding, the respect and the support she’ll need to cope with the empty home, the bare side of the bed, the random thought inside her heart and head, “Oh how funny, I have to go tell Helmut …” and then remembering he’s not there.
My father was the most honest man I will ever know. So I’m not going to stand here at his funeral today and claim this will just get easier. There will be dark days. Some moments will get more surreal. And there will be a part of you, Mom, that doesn’t ever really want to heal.
But the good news is this: It’s normal, and—more importantly—it’s not what’s eternal. These are temporary emotions put into motion by the only great thing on Earth, love.
Mom, you and Dad had the greatest love I have ever known. Romeo and Juliet have nothing on you, they took the easy way out. But Helmut and Mignon loved and suffered together for more than 50 years. That is what lasts forever, and I submit that is how you will connect with Dad in an even deeper way than ever before.
May joy fill the vast majority of your future days, and in your grayest, saddest moments grab tightly somehow, to let your soul turn on this: That death opens—and never shuts—love’s many doors.