Don’s Words for Eric’s Memorial Service—July 2012
Nikki and I want to Thank You All for Coming Today from Far (London, Toronto, Washington, DC., the West Coast) and near to this Celebration of Eric’s Life on this hot summer day.
Eric would love this type of day; he loved just about every type of day. He might grouse about the heat or the bitter cold, but he would find someway to embrace the Day! He would do something, talk to someone, laugh together with people, or work hard in a cool library, or grab a beer and watch a sports event or a movie, to make this---a Special Day.
Our son: Eric Nicholas Fedele Chase
Please say his name out loud with me:
Eric had blossomed over the last few years with maturity, wisdom, poise, self-confidence, and size!
6 foot 4 inches tall
In high school, to many of you, he was affectionately known as: Lil Chase in deference to his wonderful Big brother—Matt. And more recently at the University of Vermont Eric became: Big Sexy then, Slim Sexy
Hey Big Sexy; Shout it out loud with me: Hey Big Sexy!! We are here with you to honor you and how you brought light and joy and good times into our lives for the past 21 years.
We often think of people in terms of their accomplishments; success in sports, music, academics, a career---and Eric had these types of successes. Eric was a senior in the Honors College at the University of Vermont with a double major in chemistry and math. But, what I am most in awe of was Eric’s character--his ability to be genuinely interested in other people and his pleasure in bringing joy and laughter to others. This was not self-less on Eric’s part; he just got a lot from giving to others. He was fiercely independent, but he was able to listen to others and accept ideas, perspectives, and support from others. Eric communicated with people, both listening and sharing.
Some of the nurses and staff from the Brigham & Women’s hospital are here with us today and I want to thank them not just for taking care of Eric over the past few months, but for being open to getting to know him and love him. I want to share a few words sent to me by his oncologist, Dr. Vincent Ho, of the Dana Farber:
“He always had the knack for bringing out the best in every person that he met. I know just from talking to the burn ICU nurses. I have never seen them love a patient as they have with Eric. It was truly very special.
Alas, as I looked over Frenchman's harbor where the fog was setting in earlier tonight, a surreal sensation came over me that I am so far from the hustle and bustle of the Brigham, but yet my heart is still so close to you and Eric. This beautiful land must be God's haven, and Eric might be here himself, guiding his boat with confidence as in the photo!”
The nurses witnessed many features of Eric's character, but they may have missed some of his mischief. On the back of the memorial program is one of Eric’s favorite sayings: “I don’t make plans; plans make me.” Eric had dreams and self-discipline, but he was also open to the mischief of life. Within the last few days I saw a picture of Eric that captures some of his whimsy, irreverence and independence. In all of his hospital rooms there was a lift suspended from the ceiling to help patients be lifted from their beds. In this picture, it must be from January when he was having his initial chemotherapy, Eric, with his IV lines attached, was hanging by his knees upside down from the bars of the lift.
The only way I know about this incident is because of his friends’ courage to be with Eric throughout his terrible ordeal with leukemia. So many of you here today had the love and commitment to be with Big Sexy during his illness. Friends brought him Legal Seafood Clam Chowder, or wings, or a 42-inch flat screen TV to play video games on. This New Years Eve 8 to 10 of Eric’s friends gave up there first legal New Years eve to go to visit Eric in the hospital at midnight and watch the fireworks from the 16th floor. Wow!!
On the back of the memorial program there is a picture of Eric with the wind in his hair steering our boat across Lac Oureau in Canada. What you cannot really see is that I am, for the first time in 30 years, on water skis behind the boat. Eric is pulling me along through life. You also cannot see Nikki, who is in the front of the boat as a proud cheerleader, keeping a watchful eye on everyone, and capturing the moment for all of us to enjoy. Eric and Matt, through their love and personalities, have helped Nikki and I grow up to be better people.
But, being a parent is not for Sissys!!! I want to share one other recent story to capture another aspect of Eric’s character and personal qualities. This story requires me to bring you into some of Eric’s recent suffering and for this I am sorry. Eric was diagnosed with leukemia in mid-December and with intensive chemotherapy he got into initial remission. He lost 45 lbs. and he was bald, but with his determination he regained his strength and vibrancy. He went skiing in Vermont and on a lovely trip to Florida with his good friend Matt. In mid-March Eric had a stem cell transplant with a 10 out of 10 bone marrow donor. He recovered, but in mid-April he developed serious complications of the transplant. For Nikki and I the last few months have been an intense combination of witnessing both beauty and suffering. There is the beauty of each day whether that is on our walks at Heard Pond here in Wayland, or some small or large human kindness. There is the beauty of the Wayland community, our neighbors, professional colleagues, and our families’ incredible support for us in this time of anguish and sadness. Embracing the beauty is something Eric always challenged us to do. It is not that he did not see the pain or ugliness in life, he was not a Pollyanna, but he looked for the beauty in the surrounding world and in other people. And because he looked, more often than not, Eric found the beauty. But, Eric also knew suffering. As a consequence of his cancer treatment, Eric lost all of his skin. The nurses on the Burn ICU took the tenderest care of him each and everyday. As his skin healed, he was wrapped in bandages from his head to his toes. One day in May, I was with Eric for a few hours trying to help him in little ways and then Nikki was coming in to take over. We were a tag team, so one of us was with Eric for most of the day. Beside his bed Nikki and I needed to talk for a minute about some logistics. Eric heard us talking and he must of thought there was some tension—Kids have such ears for their parents!—He turned his head so slightly towards us and said:
"Mom and Dad I know how much you Love me; I want you to Love each other as much as you Love me!"
And this will be our greatest challenge, for all of us: