I'm posting this eulogy for everyone who knew Bobby and couldn't be at the service. Total numbers for people at the memorial service and funeral were nearly 400. It was an amazing experience and I was totally humbled to be able to take part in it.
There are some people that you encounter in life who infect you. And I know that infect is a strong word, but it’s the best word for what happens. We get infected with their germs. With their bad attitudes. We get infected with other people’s anger. With their bitterness and with all their junk.
Have you been there? Do you know what I mean?
But then, every once in awhile, we cross paths with someone who is simply the antidote to all that crap. Every so often – most of the time when we’re not looking, or we least expect it – we come across someone who infects us with joy.
Bobby did that for me. And I suspect that he did that for a lot of us here this morning. When you looked into Bobby’s eyes and encountered one of his smiles, I could swear that they were magnetic. There was some kind of spark inside of him that radiated this gentle energy and love. Some of you are smiling and nodding right now – poking the person next to you and sharing memories of that same thing.
Bobby radiated joy. And in turn, he infected a lot of folks along his road through life.
Bobby did not have an easy life. He was born 26 years ago with a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome. For his own health and safety, Bobby was removed from the custody of his birth mother and put up for adoption. The fetal alcohol syndrome made caring for Bobby difficult. He was adopted three times before finally finding Beth and June when he was 16.
What wasn’t known as he was entering his teen years was that he was beginning to struggle with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. This made caring for Bobby so hard and made those already unpredictable, rollercoaster teenaged years that much more frustrating and difficult.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Bobby’s physical heart only functioned at 30% of it’s capacity. 30 percent. . .
I had the privilege of being Bobby’s pastor for about three years. Right along about the second year I had known him, Bobby asked me to baptize him. We sat down to talk one night after church and I asked him why he wanted to be baptized. There weren’t any right or wrong answers to that question. I was just curious about his desire. I thought it might be that he wanted to become a member – you know. . . fit in and be part of an organization. I also thought that perhaps he had seen someone being baptized and wondered what it felt like or wondered if it was something he was supposed to do.
His answer to my question surprised me. I don’t know why it did. Bobby was always surprising me. . .
During every service we had a time for the children to come forward and have their own story and Bible lesson. The kids let’s just say tolerated it, but there were a whole lot of adults who got more out of the children’s sermon than anything else that ever came out of my mouth!
When I invited the kids down front everyone in the congregation would sing “Jesus Loves Me.” Bobby loved that song. (sing a little bit of it - encourage everyone to join in) When he would arrive for the service, after giving me a hug his next question was always, “Are we going to sing Jesus Loves Me tonight?”
So that night, sitting in a quiet sanctuary in the first pew, when I asked him why he wanted to be baptized his answer was this: “We always sing that Jesus Loves Me. I think he really loves me too.”
Stuff like that came right out of Bobby’s heart. And his heart amazed me.
His heart, his soul and his joy were evident in his actions. That mischievous twinkle in his eyes. The smile that wanted nothing more than just a smile in return. The ability that he had to bring people together.
Bobby was a busy guy – Special Olympics. Bowling. Track. Softball. How many of you participated in Special Olympics with Bobby? Who here has seen his medals? He had every right to be proud of his accomplishments!
Bobby loved animals and the outdoors. He was part of the Ohio Horseman’s Council and had his own horse. Does anyone know his horse’s name? Big Mama. He volunteered at the Humane Society because he had a heart for animals without a home. He loved to camp. I’m sure that there are other things you could add about the things that he loved but the point I’m trying to make is this – Bobby’s heart was full of energy.
I asked Beth and June for their favorite memories and their stories made me smile. His nickname was “Boo” and they told me that Boo thought he could dance, but in reality, he was “rhythmically challenged.” Bobby thought he could sing – but
unfortunately, he was also “tonally challenged.”
Beth said that, hands down, what she loved most about Boo was that it didn’t matter what she did, what she said, how she looked or what her attitude was – Bobby was never embarrassed by her. He might have been born with a few struggles, but he was definitely born without the terrible burden of always having the pass judgment on others.
This last week Bobby and his family were on their annual cruise in the Carribean. It was something he looked forward to all year long. Every night they got dressed up and ate in the formal dining room. On his last night, Bobby ate a wonderful meal and when it was over he volunteered to help out anyone in his group who needed to use the restroom or needed help going to their next destination.
After helping everyone who needed it, Bobby took himself to the Habana Bar for a secret smoke. He found a comfortable chair and within a second he was gone. His huge, loving, joy-filled heart, that only functioned at 30% just simply stopped. There was no pain, no fear and no anxiety.
I’m also quite certain that Bobby left with no regrets.
Of course you know that Bobby isn’t really gone.
What he taught each of us in this room will live on in us, if we allow it.
We can re-learn to experience joy. We can remember to practice gentleness with ourselves and with others. We can make space for effortless laughter and push ugly, judgmental thoughts away. We can honor Bobby’s memory by picking up where his heart left off – and making every day the best day we’ve ever had.
Since learning of Bobby’s death early this week I’ve been thinking a lot about what he taught me. This is what I’ve come up with – The people who affect us in the crazy, wonderful, magical way that Bobby had are almost always the most unexpected. The people who bring magic into our lives might not look, or talk, or think the way we do. They might have different colored skin. They might roll through life in a wheelchair or they might walk with assistance. They might love in a way that makes us uncomfortable or they might not have all the things we have been taught to strive so hard for – money, power or prestige.
What these remarkable individuals who touch our lives so deeply do have is the most powerful thing out there – they have love.
My favorite Bible verse comes from the New Testament book of Romans. The apostle Paul writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I would be bold enough to add that nothing – not hearts that only function at 30% capacity, not developmental disability, not a physical challenge . . .that nothing will separate us from God’s love.
And all that’s just a fancy way of saying (singing softly), “Jesus loves me, this I know. . ."