On October 4, 1997, friends and family gathered into a church for the funeral. The tiny white casket, hardly bigger than a breadbox, sat on a small silver stand in front of the altar.
I stood at the lecturn and delivered a eulogy for my son, something I'd composed the night before. I'm reprinting it here, in its entirety, with editing.
I want to thank you all today for coming here to be with us on this occasion, for your love and support, for your comfort and aid in our time of need. Both X and I are truly blessed to have all of you in our lives.
As I look out among you all, I see good people of diverse backgrounds and faith. In a world wounded with racial and religious hatred, it gladdens my heart to know that we can all gather together to share our love freely, unconditionally, without thought about our differences. I ask that we take a moment now and turn to those around you, introduce yourself if you don’t know the person next you, behind you, or in front of you.
Thank you. I hope that you have not only met someone new but that your life is richer for the new acquaintance. Because I have recently learned just how precious we all are to each other, how really connected we are, no matter how far apart we seem, no matter how different we appear to each other, no matter how we feel about one another. This knowledge was given to me by Noble, my beloved son.
Just about a week ago, I stood in the delivery room, elated with anticipation of Noble’s birth, just another proud father-to-be with a video camera and box of cigars. Poor X was laid out on the operating table, anxious and fearful, apprehensive at the caesarian-section being performed on her, unable to move or make sense of the activity surrounding her. Yet we were both certain that we would soon be holding a howling and healthy infant. We believed that all was well with the world.
As they took Noble from X’s open belly, my spirits soared at the miracle I beheld; I felt like the most important man in the world and at the same time, the most insignificant speck before the awesome process of the universe.
Then, suddenly my world collapsed around me. Noble was silent, no wailing at his first breath. His body was purple and lifeless. As the nurses feverishly worked to get his lungs to work, I was overwhelmed with dread, devastated by my absolute powerlessness. My elation immediately turned into anger.
As I watched my beautiful son in the ICU, his unmoving body wired with tubes and probes, my anger became rage. I could not understand what God meant by doing this. What was the purpose? Why had he done this? I hated God, I hated the doctors, I hated, I hated.
I looked for reason and only found confusion. I looked for comfort and only found blame. I looked for hope and only found despair. I looked for life and only found death. I looked for love and only found hate.
My search to know God’s purpose seemed futile. Mine was a soul without faith or direction. I thought there was nothing in the world to keep me alive. In the selfishness of my pain and grief, I had forgotten about my baby son. It was the last time I will ever forget him.
For though he made no sound, Noble began to teach me. His voice, so quiet and sweet, opened my eyes to the beauty and wonder that, in my anger, I had shut out from my view. At first I did not hear him, his voice lost in the resentment that consumed me. But little by little his words became clear, his message more urgent. Let me share what he has taught me so far.
Noble taught me that I am arrogant to think that I should know God’s will. The beauty and wonder that had so exhilarated me during the birth continues to unfold. It is a process that I can no longer afford to ignore. Noble teaches me that I need to put aside my petty concerns and cherish the splendor revealed to us every day.
Noble taught me that time is nothing but a measure. In his brief lifetime, less than a day, Noble gave to me what had taken more than thirty-six years for me to acquire. This was proven to me because the love and support that was given to X and I was timeless. Noble taught me that time is irrelevant in the context of eternity.
Noble taught me that prejudice is stupidity. When the doctors gave me a certain appraisal, based on the activity of brain waves, Noble was given no hope for ever living life as we know it. Yet, as I have explained here today, his wisdom humbles me.
Noble gives me the light.
Finally, as I stated at the beginning we are all connected. We are threads creating an intricate and complex weave that makes up the fabric of the universe. If we look close enough or far enough, we will find that there is no person or no thing that does not touch us. Noble teaches me that when I blame or hate, it must come back to me, for we are all but parts of the same patchwork.
Therefore, Noble teaches me that there is nothing in our life that is more important than love. Ultimately, it is all we have. And the gift of love that Noble has given me is eternal.
So today we say goodbye to this dear and special angel. And we share this deep and terrible grief because, as Noble has shown and, in essence, he is our son, a child to each and every one of us. And if we are silent, we will hear Noble, speaking to us, from eternity and for eternity, that’s God’s plan, the fabric of the universe, continues to unfold, a thing of immense and immeasurable beauty. And for that we should not grieve, but only love, appreciate each other and each moment on this awesome and endless journey.
Goodbye my precious son, my inspiration, my teacher. There is no way I can repay you for these gifts, this wisdom, this knowledge, this love. But when we meet again, I hope that you will be proud of me, as a father is proud of a son, at what I have done with what you have given me.
Goodbye beloved Noble, goodbye and thank you.