Today I gave my brother’s eulogy. I’ve included the text I spoke from below and the video of the entire service. (My part starts at about the 18:45 mark.) It’s been an exhausting, yet wondrous, day.
Bob was full of surprises. I had given up hope of another sibling just around the time my parents announced a baby on the way. Around the dining room table that night, we laughed and talked and cried with joy. Though we didn’t ask at the time, my parents had been as surprised as we were. Mom asked me to share this from her journal:
Sept. 25, 1991
Another marker on the road to baby: sonogram today. We saw the little guy yawn, saw his hand up above his head, saw his heart beat at 139 beats a minute, saw all four chambers and his kidneys, his diaphram, his stomach. I am not sure I saw, but the technician pointed out his fingernails—we saw his nose, his mouth, his beautiful hand, even a tiny foot.
We need to get busy—shellac the bassinet, paint Doug’s room, paint the changing table, buy a car seat, a back pack, a front pack! We need to buy diapers, a few basic clothes, hunt up the snow suit—or get a new one.
We need to choose a name!
Robert Christopher? Norman, Leif, Joel, James, Michael, Joshua, Jacob, Charles Robin?, Gregory.
This, I think, goes to show: Mom’s first instincts are best.
Another surprise when he was born: Dad expected me to call all the relatives with details. I didn’t know it at the time, but 10 lbs. 4.8 oz must have surprised many of them; Robert Kristoffer was a large baby. But he was little to us boys. We nicknamed him Bob because Robert seemed too formal and Roberto didn’t fit him. Soon we were learning valuable fatherhood skills: changing diapers, holding the head steady, rocking to sleep, and giving a crying infant to Mom. In a way, Bob had 4 father-figures, not just one.
But soon we left the house to start our own lives; every four years like clockwork. And Bob became something of an only child. I do not think those years were so difficult since he was loved deeply and richly by Mom and Dad. Each summer and Christmas we brothers caught up with his growth. Faults and failings were part of his growing pains. One summer he ate nothing but white things: rice, bread, pasta. But he surprised us with new passions and talents: fencing, airsoft, board games, card games, video games, reading, football, rowing, Scouting, the outdoors, the environment, guitar, a capella, mission trips, South Africa, girls. This Christmas, my wife and I knew that Stephanie had become part of our family; only the formalities were missing. The baby of the family became a man and I hardly noticed until too late.
For every story about Bob you have heard this week, my parents were co-authors. God had given them a final chance to perfect the craft of parenting, and they excelled. We saw in their relationship with Bob a model of how to raise a Godly man prepared to leave and become a father himself. I thought at times that they had spoiled the boy… and I was wrong.
My own son surprises us often too. But it was no shock to learn that he loved Bob the best of his uncles. With a rich legacy of fathering, Bob himself cared for Joshua and always had time for him. He loved my children and Dave’s children and Doug’s children. He taught them how to light fires and put them out, to carry a loaded pack and set up a tent, to read stories and to wrestle, to work hard and to play harder. Bob demonstrated patience with my children that I often lack.
Just as we were not prepared for his birth, death took us by surprise. Who can doubt that it had a purpose? Who can deny that this life, this boy, this man was given to us for a reason? Bob’s life offers wisdom:
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
I will not accept that Bob’s life was a tragedy. Good Friday had tragic consequences this year, but it will only become a tragedy if our sorrow fails to bring us to the creator of the places and people Bob loved so well. By all means, let us cry rivers for a lost child. But let us also tap into the wellspring of life that flowed through him.