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When You're Thankful at a Eulogy

Funerals bring out the best in people, especially when congregants heed a life lesson.

My uncle's memorial service was held this week. He was 83, a high school and community college math teacher, and something of a comedian, which probably comes as a surprise to people who have ever met a math teacher.

He was a good man, my mother's closest brother, and while he and I didn't agree on how to run the government, his grandson, my first cousin's son, gave some remarks that pleased me greatly. The best part of them, to me, is the takeaway (learned by at least one Millennial) that intolerance goes both ways in political debate, and that it's up to us all to show respect for those with disagree with, or don't even know, as much as to those with whom we agree on everything.

My cousin's eulogy is published below with his permission.

I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with my grandfather over the years, and I learned a lot in those times together. Much was factual information about classical music, calculus, or philosophy. However, the most important things he taught me were intangible qualities of the human personality: especially tolerance and inclusiveness.

We would have many conversations about current events and how people were treated throughout the world. I always found in talking to him that it was inconceivable that one individual should be treated differently by something such as race, religion, or creed.

We have a tendency as humans to group people who we can’t find physically or ideologically similar to us. We may call them terrorists, fascists, tree-huggers, or some other term that implies they adhere to a specific set of values. We have trouble believing that each individual has a personal doctrine of beliefs and he or she or whatever you want to be may be striving for the same thing.

Happiness, companionship, and a life uninhibited by someone else’s persuasion that you are living incorrectly. I saw many people in my life that looked different or scary from what I was used to, and my grandfather would talk to them and show how that person was so very similar. That person smiles just like you and me at whatever silly joke he told. That person only wishes to go about life and make a decent wage so they can get home to friends and family.

What I learned from my grandfather, and you should too, is to not be afraid to talk to someone who is different. Do not exclude someone because they do not look or act like you. Do not call someone a disparaging name because you don’t agree with them.

We are all working towards the same goals we just have different approaches to getting there. Likewise, if someone says something demeaning towards you, don’t hold a grudge. Let the small stuff pass, enjoy the good of each individual and enjoy that person’s idiosyncrasies. I choose to remember the good moments in people just as my grandfather did. When you focus on that, the bad memories can easily fade away.

I don’t mourn Baba’s death today because he will be with me throughout the rest of my life. Not in spirit or as a ghost in my dreams but in my daily routine. ... I enjoyed every moment I spent with him and am elated to see how many people felt the same.