Monday, March 21, 2011

Eulogy For My Uncle Mike

I don't know why, but I am feeling the need to post the Eulogy that I gave for my uncle Mike Smith. I am hoping, by putting the words down on this blog, that it will help me in achieving some measure of closure with his tragic death at the age of 42. At the same time, I hope to pay tribute to the man, at least as best as I can.

Here is my eulogy from his funeral on March 12, 2011:

If you look at the genealogy of our family, as far as the family tree, Mike was my uncle. But in my heart, he was always my brother.

Mike and I were born only five months apart. Growing up, he was the very first friend that I ever knew. Being so close in age, we were going through a lot of the same things together at the same time.

I remember that, as kids, we were always amazed that every Christmas Santa seemed to bring us the exact same toys. We figured he must have know that we were going to call each other and compare notes. ("Did you get an action figure? I did too!") Again, it was just like we were brothers - Santa didn't want to make either of us jealous.

One of the toys that we got one year was a tape recorder. Back then, we thought that was the greatest invention of all time. We would stay up, sometimes late at night, recording all kinds of crazy stuff. Funny songs, silly jokes, anything we could think of. As we became teens, some of the jokes that made it on to the tape recorder would probably not have met with parental approval. Which, of course, just made it that much more hilarious to us.

One of the great things about Mike is that he had this wonderful, infectious laugh. Any of you who have ever heard him when he got really tickled about something know what I'm talking about. When you heard that laugh, you just couldn't help but smile and laugh along with him. There was so much joy in it. I used to do and say the goofiest things just to hear that laugh.

Sometimes Mike and I would get in trouble together. One summer, when we were about eight years old, we were in the parking lot of what was then called Legion Road Elementary School. His older brothers, Jeff and Ricky, were playing with us on the outside basketball court. I guess Mike and I weren't challenging enough for them, because all I remember is that we just ended up watching the two of them play each other. After a while, we got bored with that. We started walking around the school, which of course was closed and locked up for the summer. As we walked, we noticed that the sky was getting cloudy, and were afraid that it was about to rain. What could we do? Well, maybe one of the doors to the school would be unlocked, we thought. So, we went around to each door, pushing and pulling on them, trying our best to get them open.

When you're eight years old, you don't think about things like security systems. I mean...what kid would try to break INTO school?

After a few minutes, I said to Mike "Did you just see a police car drive by?" Nah, couldn't be. We kept walking. A few seconds later, we both see a police car...slowing driving about 100 feet in front of us. Mike was such a cute kid back then, and his eyes grew about ten times their size. "It IS the police!" he yelled, then took off running. I, on the other hand, was frozen in fear, and started calling out "Mike, come back!" Just that moment, I feel the hand of a huge policeman on my shoulder.

Oh, boy, we are really going to get it, I thought.

In a matter of seconds, I see another policeman, sort of perp-walking Mike back to me. Poor Mike - he couldn't have looked more guilty if he had been in handcuffs! We hadn't really done anything that terribly wrong, but when you're a kid in trouble, you always think it is the deepest trouble that anyone has ever been in. The policeman ended up just giving us a stern warning about not trying to gain entry into locked public buildings. Therefore, I don't think it went on either one of our permanent records. If it did, though, I would be proud just to have one more shared experience with Mike.

If I were to describe Mike in just one word, it would have to be "humble". He had this beautiful, rare humility of spirit. He never wanted a big fuss to be made over him - he probably wouldn't like the fact that we are talking so much about him today. But we love him too much not to.

If I were to pick one other word to describe Mike, it would be "caring". But again, he was caring in a very humble way. He didn't blow a trumpet to show he cared. He didn't so much talk about how much he cared...he showed it through his actions. You always knew that if you were in trouble, Mike would be there to help if he could.

When grandma got really sick for the last few months, we all saw Mike's caring heart come shining through. Nothing in the world was more important to him than taking care of her. We all now know that his own health was much worse than we thought at the time. But he put his own needs on the back burner, and did everything he could to take care of his mama. I think that just goes to show what a great job she did in raising him.

There were times when the strain of his health, and all of the other pressures of life, showed on Mike. When grandma's health first took a turn for the worse, Mike posted on his Facebook page "When you feel alone, look around, because you are". I can see how Mike might have felt that way at times. Only he could go through the health struggles he had to go through - no one could do it for him. And to have the stress of caring and worrying about his mother thrown on top of that...I can see where he might have felt alone for a minute. But as the family joined together to help take care of her, I think that really touched his heart. In fact, I know it did, because a couple of weeks later, he put another post on Facebook that said: "My family has shown me we can be strong together and I am very proud to be a part of this wonderful family."

Two weeks after grandma passed away, Mike posted his last message on Facebook. He said "Yes, heaven will be sweet again. First my dad, then my brother, and now my mom. Heaven is sweet again." I thought it was a beautiful sentiment, and I told him so. We had no way of knowing that, eleven days later, Mike would also leave us - and heaven would become an even sweeter place.

If I could talk to him right now, I'd say "Mike, there's a part of me that's very selfish. Because I want you here with us. I want you in THIS world, to help make it a sweeter place. Because lord knows we need it - this crazy world can use all of the sweetness it can get. I wish you were here so I could take you to that Cincinnati Reds game like I always promised you I would. I need you, and the family needs you."

But I guess God needed him more. And when I stop being selfish, it comforts me to know that he's not in pain anymore. He's not restricted by his physical body anymore. He's up in heaven with grandma, grandpa, and Jeff. They're having a great time and hearing him laugh that great laugh. And he is happy. And when I think of it that way, I am happy too.

When we were putting together the slide-show for Mike, we were trying to think of what song to put on there. So we thought - what would Mike like? Mike was a big fan of Michael Jackson, so the song we chose was "You Are Not Alone". It's a pretty song, and I think the lyrics are very appropriate. It's almost like a message to Mike: for all the struggles he had to endure, for all of the suffering he had in his life, he was never, ever alone. He was a Smith. And he was deeply loved by his family. He knew that, especially at the end, and if he could see us all today he would have no doubt how much we all love him.

But I think the song also has a message for us. Our family is hurting right now. To lose grandma, and now Mike, so close's very hard for us to bear. And its hard not to think about how unfair it all is. But the message of the song is - life isn't fair. But God is good. And he gives us the strength to go on by keeping Mike alive in our hearts. And as long as we keep his spirit alive - his spirit of humility, his spirit of caring, his love of his family - Mike will always be with us. And we are not alone.

We love you, Mike.

- Paul Burch, March 2011

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Football Miracle I Will Never Forget

It's an old expression that the Lord moves in mysterious ways. Some of His ways we never understand. Some we don't understand until many years later. This little story is an example of the latter.

It was December, 1980. I was twelve years old and living in Hope Mills, North Carolina. For reasons that many of my friends never understood, I was already a huge Minnesota Vikings fan. I had never set foot in the state (In fact, I wouldn't cross the Minnesota boarder until 28 years later), but I rooted for them with a fervency that many save for their hometown favorites. Why? Probably a couple of reasons. One, my father was a big fan, and he rooted with such a passion that I couldn't help but join in. Two, once I start rooting for something, I am loyal to a fault. When friends would mock me for being a Vikings fan, it would make me dig in my heels even more. In a town full of fans of the Redskins and Cowboys, I heard a lot about how the Vikings sucked, how they never won a Super Bowl, etc, etc. But I kept the faith that one day they would justify my love for them.

I had a feeling that this 14th day of December was going to be something special. The first indication was that the Vikings were actually on television. This was a rarity among rarities in North Carolina, where those 'Skins and 'Boys dominated the airwaves. It was also special because it was a huge game for my Vikes. If they win this game, they win the NFC Central division...

But the first 55 minutes or so of the game sucked. Despite the Vikings (at least to my biased, 12-year-old eyes) seemingly dominating the game, they kept having trouble getting in the end zone. So the 4th quarter was winding down, and the Vikings were losing 23-9. Tommy Kramer and his receivers, led by Ahmad Rashad, made a desperate attempt to come back. But, despite scoring two touchdowns in the last five minutes, a high snap caused them to miss an extra point and they were still losing 23-22. The Browns punted the ball back to Minnesota, who had it on their own 20, with 14 seconds remaining and no timeouts. I went into the next room alone and, for the first and only time in my life, prayed for my team to win a football game. I knew I was praying for a miracle.

And then....the miracle happened...

My Dad and I jumped off of the couch and screamed. It was unbelievable! I have never seen such an amazing ending to a football game - before or since. The next day, my friends tried to tell me that my team was "lucky". But I knew the truth - it wasn't luck, it was truly a miraculous gift from God.

I recently told this story to a friend, and they had an interesting view. They said that God allowed this miracle to occur to me, at the age of 12, to strengthen my faith, and to help me believe in other, more important miracles.

They may very well be right. I have never again prayed for my team to win a football game, because I feel that God has more important things to attend to than football.

However, if the Vikings ever make it to the Super Bowl again....I might have to re-think my position on that!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So.....why did Letterman do away with Presidential bloopers again?

When Barack Obama took over as President, David Letterman said he was ending his "Great Moments In Presidential Speeches" segment. This segment had been very popular for almost three years, and was mostly used as a way to poke fun at George Bush. Here is the "farewell" to the segment:

While the segment was undoubtedly funny, Letterman is selling himself short by stopping it just because Obama has taken office. Below are just a few examples of how much material Obama (and his "brilliant" VP, Joe Biden) might give Letterman, if he'd reconsider.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Meaning of Life, etc., etc.

Man is the only animal smart enough
To search for the meaning of life
And the only one dumb enough
Not to see it right in front of him

We spend our days searching for the sunshine
Inside our little houses
While the sun blares down
Upon our too-sturdy roofs

We spend so much time
Making a living
That we forget to
Make a life

I remember the story about the artist
Who spent every waking hour consumed with his craft
He wanted to make the ultimate gift for his son
To show how much he loved him.

He was so obsessed, he ended up spending no time with him
His son died
The painting was burned up in a fire
And he was left to wonder why
He didn't simply just say "I Love You"?

Why do we complicate everything?

Nothing stops us in life more than our own self-doubt.

I remember this part of a poem:

"So, the deadliest of men is not he with a gun,
But the one who tells you "It can't be done!"
For that taken by burglars can be gotten again.
But, what can replace your will to win?"

Sometimes, the thing that stops us is the well-meaning (or not so well-meaning)
And sometimes it is he who is in the mirror
That is both our greatest asset
And our greatest enemy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tomorrow: (The Apocalyptic Version)

(Sung to the tune of the song "Tomorrow" from the Broadway musical "Annie")

The sun’ll blow up
It’ll swallow the Milky Way
There’ll be sun!

Just thinkin’ about
Makes me wanna
Hang my head in sorrow
We’re all done!

The glaciers will melt
And result in flooding, death
And horror!
Judgment Day.

The Global’ll get warm
And there’ll be no
Safe place
For your harbor
Come what may.

And then all of our days
Will be gray
And Lonely
And we’ll lower our chins
And cringe
And say….

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I dread ya
And you’re only a day a-way.

Our sufferin’ will end
And we’ll see our lives
Were vain and hollow

We’ll draw our last breaths
And then stand in judgment
‘Fore our Father
He’ll be pissed!

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I dread ya
And you’re only a day a-way.

Yes, you’re only a day a-way….

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The New Michael Jackson - Paul McCartney Duet

(Background info: In the 1980s, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney recorded two top 10 hit duets, “Say, Say, Say” and “The Girl Is Mine”. It was during these sessions that McCartney (who had purchased the publishing rights to the songs of Buddy Holly and others) told Jackson that he should invest in music publishing – there was a lot of money to be made, he advised the younger superstar. The next day, Jackson came into their recording session and said “Yeah, Paul, I’m going to take your advice. I’m gonna buy your songs.” McCartney laughed, thinking Jackson was joking.

A month later, as the publishing rights to the songs of the Beatles became available, McCartney was attempting to buy back the songs he had lost (due to bad management) years ago. McCartney and John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, put in a decent-sized bid together – only to learn that they had been outdone by Jackson. McCartney was so hurt and angry that he and Jackson haven’t spoken since.

This song is an example of what a duet between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney would be like if they did it today. It is sung to the tune of “The Girl Is Mine”)


(Jackson): Every time you hear a Beatle song
If it’s taped or if it’s live
I receive a big, fat bonus check
Just like with the Jackson Five.
The songs are mine
The doggoned songs are mine.
They’re mine
The doggoned songs are mine.

(McCartney): I don’t understand the way you think
Saying that they’re yours not mine
John and I would stay up late at night
Writing each and every line
The songs are mine.
The doggoned songs are mine.
Don’t waste your time
The doggoned songs are mine.

(Jackson): I don’t wanna hear you bitch and moan
‘Cause I bought them fair and square
In a package deal from Northern Songs
‘Long with some locks of Ringo’s hair
The songs are mine.
The doggoned songs are mine.

(McCartney): I sung them more than he
(Cheesy Back-up Singers): Sung them everywhere
(Jackson): But I’ll make the royalties
(Cheesy Back-up Singers): He ain’t gonna share

(Together): Our portfolios grow with ease….
But we
Both cannot profit
So one
Of us must drop it
And when
You finally stop it.
You’ll see they’re…
My songs…mine mine mine.

(Jackson): Will you stop singing Yesterday
And admit that now they're mine?
(McCartney): I went down this Long And Winding Road
Was the Thriller of my time
The songs are mine
The doggoned songs are mine
(Jackson): They’re mine
The doggoned songs are mine.

(Spoken Section)

(McCartney) Michael, we’re not going to fight about this, okay?
(Jackson) Paul, I think I told you…I let my lawyers do my
(McCartney) Yeah, kind of like that thing with the kid, huh
(Jackson) (gasps) That’s below the belt, Paul.
(McCartney) Yeah, that's what I heard, Michael.
(Jackson) I am innocent of any wrongdoing.
(McCartney) I don’t belieeeeeeve it…..

(Cheesy back-up singers): Mine, mine…the songs are mine….

(fade out)

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Farewell Letter To George W. Bush

George W. Bush
c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

January 19, 2009

Dear President Bush,

As we begin the process of inauguration for a new President, and you prepare to leave office, I wanted to take a moment to personally thank you for your eight years of service to our country.

Most of all, I wanted to thank you for keeping us safe in the seven years after the horrible terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001. I heard your recent speech where you said that most American's lives returned to normal shortly after the attacks…but that yours never did. This is one of the things that I admire most about you. While we all felt the sense of anger, determination, and resolve in the days following 9/11, many of us allowed ourselves to fall back on old comforts, forgetting the dangers and focusing on other things in our lives. But you never did. I read that every morning, you were given an intelligence briefing regarding our enemy, and every day you made decisions about how to keep our country safe.

You succeeded.

A lesser man would have stopped after the war in Afghanistan, keeping his eye on polls and doing the easy thing to remain popular. After all, your approval ratings were in the 90s at this point. If you were truly only a political animal, you would have done exactly that. But you are a man of character – you never forgot the lessons of 9/11, no matter how fickle (or in some cases, how hostile) others became. History will show that your having the backbone to stay firm and suggest the surge in Iraq was the turning point – not only in that war, but in the history of the Middle East. While keeping us safe, you also liberated 50 million people who had previously only known tyranny and oppression. Now, those same people can proudly vote for their own leaders – a right that we all but take for granted in our country.

Throughout your eight years, you have remained humble and kind. While others insulted you and falsely accused you time after time of horrible things, you never acted in kind. You remained a gentleman. Sometimes I would get angry at your opponents and want you to fight back, to get down on their level. But I am so proud of you that you did not. You were truly an example of someone who stuck to their principles and didn’t allow the culture of Washington D.C. to change them.

I don’t know what your future plans are, but I hope you can relax and reflect on the impact you have had on our country, and our world. I know I speak for millions when I say that your service, and your courage, did not go unnoticed.

May God Bless you and your wonderful family. And May God continue to bless America.


Paul Burch