Rob did an amazing job both writing this and reading it (while maintaining his composure) at the funeral today. I thought you might like to read it. There was not a dry eye in the house.
I awoke unexpectedly at 4 am Tuesday Morning just as I did the night before at 1 am on Monday Morning….shortly after Bears incident. Why, I haven’t the slightest idea……as this was very odd for me…..for of the things I do well…….sleep was one of them. I was like Bear in many ways and in many ways I was not. I lay in bed amidst the darkness of my cold bedroom wondering why I was awake at this bewitching hour. I poured out of my bed and sat before my computer and with heavy eyes and a broken heart I wrote the following to which I will read:
You see even as his cousin I always only knew him as Bear! I remember the first time up until recently that I remembered Bear actually had a real name. One year near Halloween I received an email from some strange man named James Sparks wanting to borrow my firefighting gear for a Halloween Costume contest. Almost freaked out and ready to call the police to inquire who was this strange man, instead I quickly phoned my sister and read the email aloud to which she replied, “James was Bear”. I laughed out loud….it was a miracle….Bear did have a real name….which was a wonderful thing because throughout my childhood I had grown up thinking I was related to a grizzly type creature who had somehow found his way into my family. Strange as it was, he in some ways was almost like a bear; but one that would never hibernate. He was Big and Burley and sometimes feared by man. He was soft and cuddly and often times you could find him walking quietly behind Bailey through every step as if guarding his cub. He frolicked in the grass and tried his best to install values and teach necessity. He was the teacher of man and of this man was his son. He was more than a Bear he was a Father, a Son, a Brother, a Cousin, and a dearest friend to many…..he was James Sparks!!!
He was the guy who brought groceries to my house (In Laymen’s terms this was BEER) on those lonely nights when nothing was going on and when there was just nothing to do. We’d often talk about life, where it has been, where it was going, and how we were going to get Della Mae and Bobbi off our tails about finding the right woman and settling down and then we’d wonder if it was even ever possible. We’d laugh, we’d cry, I’d share some of my music with him but most importantly…..we had fun anytime we were together.
I remembered I could always make him laugh….on several occasions he would laugh so hard he was crying….that was my gift and so was my ability to be a good Firefighter/Paramedic. I have always found making calm of chaos an easy task and caring for others with my skilled hands second nature. I have always been a skeptic of faith and fate as do most in my profession. It usually takes a severe incident in our lives for us to make the connection with a higher power and through Bears death I feel myself a step closer. You see in many ways I was to be there that night but for some reason I had avoided this fate not once; but twice. I am a Flight Paramedic for Hermann Life Flight and the helicopter that picked Bear up was the one I was assigned to that evening. I was originally scheduled off Sunday night but had switched with another co-worker on Saturday evening. The craziest thing is that I had become severely ill just 5 hours prior to my shift and had to call off at the last minute…..so here it was twice that I was set up to be a part of this and twice I was released of my obligation….talk about fate. Someone was watching over me and knew that this incident could have been detrimental to my abilities, my well being, my future, and most importantly my gift. I have buried many friends and co-workers throughout my career and always wondered if I would ever be up there giving that speech…..yet here I am. I remember how James used to love riding along with me at work to see how we did what we do and to get a perspective on the reality of life. My last night at Life Flight was Thursday evening and I arrived in an early fashion as I always do. I checked out and prepared for duty the very same Helicopter that flew James in just four evenings before. As I stared into the Sunset that evening I was at peace knowing that on my last shift James was riding the skies of Houston with me, together one last time.
Bear was always a joy to be around; I can never recall anytime that I had seen him mad or angry. Bear loved life and loved his friends, loved his family, and loved Bailey. It just wasn’t a social setting with out Bear there. Bear worked hard and played just as hard! This was more than a motto…..it was an understanding…….for I am the same way. Although he was only 37 Bear had done more than most his age….he didn’t have much but what he lacked he made up in personality and love. Bear worked hard for everything he had and he gave everything his all. If Bear told you something…well….he meant it. It was always before spring he would start his “Slim Downs” and sure enough he would return 20 pounds lighter. If Bear said, “Tron (that’s what he called me) we gonna tear it up this weekend”, well believe you me we tore it up! Of all the things Bear said and did the worst one was that bike. I cringed when he told me he was saving up to get that thing. I have never like bikes because I have seen first hand what they can really do to a man. Be that as it may, Bear loved that thing; he was always taking her out, dressing her up, and keeping her clean. If it was sunny and clear or just a borderline nice day he would always be out riding. Bear was a bull of a man with an angels touch and he enjoyed every minute of it. I can see him already sitting outside of Della Mae’s house talking with Kenneth and Grandpa Kerber over a Bud Light awaiting a bowl of the infamous Shrimp Creole that everybody enjoyed.
They say death is many things and to many things it is not. For me Death is a Celebration, a time to remember, reflect, and to cherish the joy of that person in your life. It is the inspiration to go on living even when the days tell you not to, and the courage to spread the knowledge, wisdom, and love of this life to others….for this is our greatest deed and to one which no one can judge.
Some say death is uncommon and those in my profession would disagree wholeheartedly. We see it almost day in and day out; we often wonder why and how and try to make it right within ourselves. We struggle to justify the lives we lead….perhaps this is our greatest flaw and just as no one is perfect, neither are the lives we lead. There is only one thing that’s perfect and guaranteed in the end and that is eternal ever lasting life. Bailey, Alison, Susie, Sandy, Joe Dan, Julie, and Bobbi….this day will end like many before it and tomorrow the sun will rise again to face a new day, it is in these days that you must live out your purpose be that as it may and to live each of those days knowing you were the best Son, Sister, Aunt, Mother, Father, Step Mother, and Grandmother that Bear could ever have had and that he loved you all more than life itself……just as he did his friends.
The Hour of our departure has neared and we must go our separate ways, I to die and you to live, for which is better?? Only God knows!