My family was so touched by what Josh wrote on the comments here the other day that they asked him to speak at my Uncle Bill's funeral today, but compared to the following tribute he wrote in some personal e-mail... well, I wanted to share it here. Josh has a combination of an truly open heart and adeptness with words that's all too uncommon these days...
You are right. He would never have wanted to live incapacitated after the stroke. He would have hated being dependent on others to take care of him. He always insisted on being independent--to go where and when he wanted to, to choose his own activities, and I think even more importantly to read what and when he wanted to. According to what I read in the emails, he would have lost all or most of his autonomy, at least in the short term, after the stroke and that would have made him unhappy.
As for the Alzheimer's, I saw that in March when I visited. He had forgotten how much time he and I had spent together talking about books and politics, going to the movies and dinner, and going to the bookstore. I had to remind him of these things, and I had to tell him, not that I minded, how much I love and admire him. He seemed surprised to hear that, but I know that before I moved to Japan in 2004, he knew that because we spent a lot of time together. It was almost like he forgot that when his mother died, he called me to go out for dinner and to a movie (this was before I moved in), and that when I lived there we spent hours together talking about literature and history and politics and watched a few PBS series together. I am glad that I saw him in March and that I got the chance to remind him of all that he meant to me and that he showed me how to be a great husband and friend.
When I think of the definition of a spiritual, religious, and righteous man, it is always Bill that comes to mind right away. If I were asked to name whom I think lived by Christian ideals, as I said to Susan a number of years ago, Bill is that person.
You are so fortunate to have had him as your uncle and to have spent your life with him. He's such a fount of love, knowledge, enthusiasm, and devotion. One of things that I noticed about you is how much of Bill is in you. When you and I hung out in Japan, I really was reminded of Bill in many ways. Of course, you are a wonderful guy and wholly by your own individuality, but I really felt that you had internalized Bill's quests for knowledge and his devotion to family and friends. I know that talking with him all those years ago,he really loves and admires you. He really looked up to you and admired everything that you have become.
I am sure that for the rest of my life, whenever you and I meet, I will be searching for Bill in you. Amber is really lucky to have you because you have inherited Bill's capacity for love and devotion. I am lucky, too, for your friendship.
Bill's legacy will live on through you, Kirk, and you should know that you are worthy of it and that you have become an amazing person in all aspects of your life. I am sure that Susan, too, sees how much you take after Bill and that you're being so close to her will comfort her and be a constant reminder of how good of man Bill was and you have become.