Friday, July 10, 2009

Saying Goodbye to the Old War Horse

As most of you probably know, I recently lost my grandfather. I was very close to him and this week has been particularly hard on my family and I. Today we buried him and I volunteered to deliver his eulogy.

My grandfather had always talked about his time as a Toastmaster and I felt like I owed it to him to give it my best shot and toast this great man to the assembled crowd. I'm no public speaker, so this was a pretty big challenge. I think I did OK and I hope that he was proud of my effort.

For those interested, this is what I came up with.

Edward Cyril Kohoskie

October 13, 1921 – July 7, 2009

On April 23, 1910 in an address at the Sorbonne in Paris, Theodore Roosevelt said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

I think these words typify my grandfather Edward Kohoskie for two reasons. First, it’s as long-winded as Pop was, and second, it seems as though the sentiment is tailor-made for him. Edward Kohoskie was not one of those cold and timid souls on the sideline knowing neither victory nor defeat.

He was the man in the arena striving valiantly, winning great victories and sometimes failing fantastically. He was the man with knowledge of great enthusiasms and great devotions and knew what it meant to toil for a worthy cause.

Pop started out simply enough in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, the son of a coal miner and the youngest of five children. After attending Coal Township High School and meeting his bride-to-be Marie Whary, he struck out into the world thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps and had many adventures, while seeing a great many things. Later he settled in the Baltimore area before heading off to do his part as a member of the “Greatest Generation” in World War II. After all that messy business, he returned to his new home to get down to what mattered most to him, raising a family and collecting a large group of friends and admirers.

To his credit, Edward was the progenitor of four wonderful children, Stephen a.k.a. Butch, Joe, Debbie and Cindy; seven grandchildren, Kim, Dawn Cary, Judy, myself , Joey and Kendra; and 10 great-grandchildren, Connor, Audra, Billy, Nick, Molly, Jack, Haley, Anabel, Will and Kristofer.

While this is well and important, timelines, dates and names don’t really cut to the heart of the man. I think that each person in this crowd today would deliver a very different eulogy and share a very different impression of Edward if given the chance. I can only speak from my heart and my experiences. So here is what my Pop was to me.

He was a bright man, interested in a great many subjects. His thirst for knowledge knew no bounds and I am proud to say that this is something he instilled in me. As children, my sister and I spent many afternoons with Grandma and Pop at the Zoo or Aquarium, feeding our brains, when we could have wasted our time at the mall or movies. He was always willing to share his knowledge with our hungry young minds, be it through recollections from his life or tidbits he had read about. Pop also liked to challenge us, testing our knowledge and ability to think on our feet, through quick quizzes and bags full of coins for us to count.

He was a teller of tales. Pop would spend hours telling me stories in a vain attempt to get me to fall sleep. He took me to such far-off lands as the dark jungles of Sumatra, where the wind bellowed like a deep train whistle, and to places close by like his backyard, where Squiggly Wiggly, his earthworm friend, shared his saga of high adventure battling the elements and invading birds.

He was a man of great humor, quick with a joke or funny story, even if we already knew all of the punch lines. He would not hesitate to whip his “Pride and Joy” out of his wallet and spoke at length about the “Kohoskie Curse.” Most importantly, he was not afraid to laugh at himself. He found humor in his faults and was always gracious. Pop also told me one of my very first dirty jokes, which remains a favorite to this day.

Most importantly, Pop was a mentor. He didn’t teach me a skill or trade, but rather showed me the kind of man I wanted to be. He taught me what was most important in his life and gave me a blueprint for the life I wanted to have. From him I learned to value family and friends above all else in the world, because they would be the ones that stood with you in good times and bad. From him I learned what true love really meant.

Some people measure a man by the deeds he has done in life. I think a greater measure of a man is the company he kept, the people he surrounded himself with. Edward Kohoskie was in no shortage of good company, as evidenced by the loved ones present today. A great man who touched a great many people, he was far more than just a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend. He was so much more than could ever be expressed by these simple words that I speak and he will be greatly missed.

I will end today with a phrase borrowed from the man we honor and remember. “And then the bridge bended and the story ended.” But to me this seems inaccurate. In life, our stories never end. Rather they live on in the tellings and retellings of our friends and family. These stories carry on through the achievements and failures of our kin.

So long as we share the great adventure that he called life, so long as we strive in the arena marred by dust and sweat and blood, Edward Kohoskie’s story will never end.

2 comments:

  1. Don't cut your short yourself. you did a great job yesterday.

    ReplyDelete