Eulogy for my father, Richard Lee Brindle 1925-2002
I want to thank all of you who came today from the bottom of my heart. In particular I want to thank Chris for reading this on my behalf. I know that my father was respected and loved by an awful lot of people, and I think that he would be gratified to see the outpouring of sympathy with which you have blessed the family who loved him most. A number of you did not even know my father, but you are here to support me, and my sister, and my mother in our hour of grief, because we are his family, and today we mourn his passing.
As many of you know, I am a Freemason. My father was not. But the support we have received from friends and relatives, starting not half an hour after he passed, is, in a word, Masonic in its scope. We have been offered so much, with no expectation of payment or reward, simply because the people who knew my father in life wish to honor him in death. For that, and on behalf of our little family, I am more grateful than words can express.
My father was, I believe, not only a wonderful husband and father and uncle and cousin, but also a great American, in the sense that all those who personify the values of our Founding Fathers seem to have greatness thrust upon them, rather than being born to it, as is the custom in so many other countries. It is somehow unique to our country's experience that true greatness begins in small settings, and in small ways, and has nothing to do with the conditions of one's birth. It comes as no surprise to most people who have encountered my father to discover that Abraham Lincoln was his favorite president. We all know the story of Lincoln; how he had a backwoods boyhood in Kentucky and Indiana, and grew to manhood in Illinois; how he was self-actuated, and, I believe as a result, self-educated and at least moderately successful at his chosen profession in the law. Lincoln's greatness was not inborn, but was thrust upon him, and was earned at a terrible price. That a man of such simple origins could rise to such a high level of greatness did, I believe, always hold a fascination for my father, and certainly he emulated Lincoln's honesty and forthrightness all the days of his life.
My father served his country with honor in the Second World War, as an infantryman and a squad leader in the 66th Division, which fought in France and Germany. He was, as you see, a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal, for bravery under fire. He would have you believe that he was just a young and stupid PFC who went out to fix a phone line to an observation post in the middle of a firefight because it had to be done, without really thinking about the possible consequences of his action. Yet he was pardonably proud of that medal, even though for many years it rested in a drawer in our china hutch at home. For his birthday some 10 or 15 years ago we pulled it and the citation out and had them framed. I think that made him happy, but he would still dismiss what he did; somebody had to go out and fix that phone line, and he did it, and that was that.
When we spoke of him to Cantor Roger on the night of his death, and I mentioned that he had been at Dachau after the liberation, she said: "He was a liberator, then." I said, no, he had not been there when the liberation took place, but had passed through the area later. On reflection over the next couple of days, though, I realized that he really was a liberator, as were all of the Allied troops in Europe in those years. Not only were thousands of Jews and others liberated from concentration camps, but so were millions of regular citizens of every walk of life who were ground under the heel of Nazi oppression. Every town taken, every tank destroyed, every German soldier killed or taken prisoner were acts of liberation. I am proud to be the son of a man called, "liberator".
In the short period of time we have it is impossible to tell you all of the stories I know about this wonderful, loving man who was father, teacher, sage, and hero to my sister and myself. Those of you who knew him knew that he was interested in so many different things, a true polymath, or what we might term a Renaissance man. He knew history and literature, he knew calculus, he knew chemistry and physics. He never stopped learning. He encouraged us to open our minds widely to the world, to drink deeply at the font of knowledge, and to live as upright citizens and human beings. Perhaps this explains why my sister and I are so different, and yet, at the same time, can often be of one thought. We have simply taken different paths through that wide world to which our father -- and in fairness, our mother also -- provided an opening.
I must tell you that on the day he died, he had what we think was a relatively good day. We took him to a doctor that morning, and I remember Mom saying that the sun coming through the car window was hot. He said, "It feels good," and smiled--something Dad didn't do much in the last few months. After we brought him home, he sat at the kitchen table while Mom made him some lunch. We were discussing his medication, trying to decide what the difference was between what the doctor had given him and what the ER had given him the day before. I went to the bedroom to get his Physician's Desk Reference and found the references for him, and he read them, and figured out what the differences were without any trouble (one was pure, the other was a mixture). I said to Mom later that he was sharp as a tack that afternoon.
Mom called me a couple of hours later and said, "Go to Florida. You won't believe it, but he ate all of his soup and sandwich, and then he asked for more soup." So we were all relieved, it looked like he had turned a corner. Later, Mom told me he also enjoyed a cigarette.
At around 5:30 apparently he got up and used the bathroom and the toilet stopped up. Typically, instead of leaving it and having Mom call me to come over and clean things up, he laid towels down to soak up the water and apparently plunged the toilet out. I honestly believe at that point God came to him and said, "Dick, how was your day today?" And Dad said, "Oh, not too bad, all things considered." And God said, "That's good, because I need you to come up and fix a couple of things for Me." So he went. And I have no doubt that we'll see him one of these days in Heaven, fixing the occasional light bulb and adjusting the air conditioning. But in the meantime, I know one thing: God had better watch out on the golf course, because I think He's going to have some pretty stiff competition.
I wish I could say that I come today only to praise my father, and not to bury him. But the record of his thoughts and actions as we remember them will stand forever as the greatest and best memorial that we can erect. Now, as Stanton said of Lincoln, we may truly say of him that he belongs to the ages. Thank you all for coming and for helping us remember the great and wonderful man whom, with love and appreciation, today we lay to rest.
- Nathan C. Brindle