My Dad passed away this Labor Day after a long battle with prostate cancer. My stepmom, Diane, asked me to give his eulogy and as I reflected on what to say, I realized that my Dad was one of my biggest cheerleaders in life. I think we all can use more cheerleaders in our corner, and probably be a better cheerleader for others (I know I can!). My siblings, daughters and many of my cousins asked that I share my Dad’s eulogy with them and I thought I’d share it with you, too, hoping we can find ways to be better cheerleaders for others and appreciate those who are our biggest advocates and cheerleaders (while they are still here to do so!):
“I read a book many, many years ago called Balcony People. Balcony people are those people who are there to cheer you on, ALWAYS, unconditionally. Dad was my balcony person and I know he was that for my brothers and sisters and our kids and Diane and many of you.
That’s who a Beauchane is – we’re balcony people. My mother-in-law passed away 11 years ago, and Dad and Diane were out of state. I was reading a scripture and looked up in this small country church that was overflowing with people. Up in the balcony were all my Beauchane aunts and uncles who had only met Phyllis once at my wedding. They came to grieve with us and celebrate my husband’s mama. And that’s why you’re all here – to celebrate Dad, or Papa, or your brother or cousin or friend. You’re all balcony people – the Beauchane’s, the Hagemann’s, the Loerzel’s, and all our friends and family here.
And, Diane, these people are your balcony people, too. There was nothing more important to Dad than family. And Dad knows that you not only have us kids and grandkids, but that all these people are your family, too – especially the Beauchane’s. Whether you are born a Beauchane, marry into the Beauchane’s or are simply associated with a Beauchane, you are family. That’s just how it is and no matter how hard you try, you can’t shake them. It’s much better to just embrace them – quirks and all – and let them do what we do best – love you and be there and share good food and give you a ride if you need one, sit by your side in the hospital, celebrate holidays with you, and even give unsolicited advice from time to time…
And Dad was good at that, too. That’s one of the ways we knew he loved us – the free-flowing advice and opinions whether it was about taking care of your car, the person you were dating or about to marry, or the college or degree you chose. I know first-hand how his questions and opinions could sometimes come across harsher than we may have liked, but Dad wanted to protect us. And, let’s be clear, no one had better ever hurt his kids or grandkids – and he didn’t want us to hurt ourselves by making the wrong choice or decision! I know I learned to just tip my head and let him ask the questions he needed to ask and give the opinions he need to give – and sometimes as I listened I knew he was right. And sometimes, I just left scratching my head like when I called him when I was 40 years old and said I had some news. He asked, “What, are you pregnant?” and I said, “Yes, actually I am.” His response was, “What were you thinking? I thought out of all the kids you knew better!” What?!…. I’m still scratching my head.
So, if anyone is left with a memory that makes you scratch your head or you wonder why Papa had to butt in and ask a bunch of nosy questions, especially you grandkids, just know that it was only because he loved you so much and he wanted the absolute best for you. He wanted you to be safe and loved. He worried about Jenna in Malaysia, and that Jess and Kayla’s “guys” better be good to them, and Madison and Joey and Ian going off to college. He wanted all you grandkids to do well in school, make good choices with your friends, be good to each other and not to spend so much time on your phones. All because he loved you.
And, I hope you treasure all the many wonderful memories we have of Papa - or your brother, or cousin or your friend - and that you share them with each other. Those memories bring so much joy and laughter. You’ll see many memories on the picture boards we put together – how much he loved to dance – especially at weddings; how he loved his babies and used any excuse to take a nap and sleep with his grandbabies; and the simple things, like feeding the ducks and geese in Vegas, swimming in the pool, and taking evening walks. And Dad loved family get-togethers and holidays – especially Christmas. So much so that Santa came to Nana and Papa’s house and left fun little things like mini-ketchup bottles and Tabasco sauce bottles, boxes of life savers and matchbox cars. And, I know we will miss him singing happy birthday to us on our birthdays most.
It really is all those simple things that are so special about you, Dad. We love you and we couldn’t have asked for anyone better than you to cheer us on in life, or a better family to be part of. We’ll see you again and we know you are with us always in your new balcony seat – free from pain and worry and filled with wisdom and peace -- in heaven. We love you, Dad!”
Many balcony people showed up during my dad’s illness, in his last few weeks and for his funeral – his oncologist, hospice nurse, Father Bill and the people at church, my aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters… the list goes on. My partner, Jennifer wrote about these Everyday Heroes recently that are just naturally balcony people and lift people up and affirm others. Life is short and precious. Being a balcony person - and surrounding ourselves with balcony people - makes our journey here on earth a little like heaven. And, who couldn’t use that to make the journey lighter and more uplifting? Thanks, Dad, for giving me a little glimpse of heaven here on earth! And thank you for the silent energy I continue to get knowing you are with me in spirit still today. Who are the people in your balcony who lift you up and cheer you on? How do they do so? What would you tell others that you cherish and appreciate about them? Have you told them and affirmed them?
Who are you being a balcony person for now? Who can you start being a balcony person for going forward – perhaps in your everyday interactions or those you may have been reluctant to – and cheer on and help win in life? I’d love to hear your stories!