I want to tell you about The American Dream: I don’t believe in it.
I don’t really think I’ve ever had the chance to believe in it, and neither have most of my peers from Generation X or the Millenials (I was born right in-between).
We younger people have seen so many great institutions crumble and cower,
that there has never really been the opportunity for most of us to buy in.
I have not grown up in a world where you leave a family farm to serve in the military,
you go to war but come back in one piece,
you marry your sweetheart, you spend your entire life working for one company;
you save your money, buy a car, build a home, buy a nicer car, put a little something back,
and then you retire, you get a cat, and you start wearing clothes that even you admit are “kind-y loud”.
There is no evidence whatsoever that the American Dream is real,
— I DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE AMERICAN DREAM —
but I believe in Ed Hodson.
And the greatest thing about Ed Hodson was how he could make you believe in yourself, too.
I think every person here knows that it would be impossible for me
to stand up here and talk about how great Ed was,
how generous and patient, how good-humored and impossible to anger,
it would be impossible to talk about how great Ed was without talking a lot about myself.
Our fates have been closely linked since long before I served as his caregiver for, oh,
5 years, 12 weeks, 5 days, and, let’s say one hour…
or even longer than the nine and a half years we lived together after E passed away…
You ask me to tell you what all I think Ed has accomplished?
I may as well just print my resume in your programs!
(That’s J-E-F-F-R-E-Y… yes, R-E-Y. Not E-R-Y.)
I’m going to try very hard to ignore the obvious and talk about the truths underneath.
That way, you don’t have to make sense of any of the weird things I do,
you only have to see the ways Ed has acted the same toward you.
I think we can all agree he was just about the nicest person we’ve ever met.
He wasn’t perfect, but he was calm and he was giving — and he was these things all the time.
Did you ever meet someone so reliable?
He worked hard, and he wasn’t afraid to learn something new.
He accumulated an impressive nest egg and then he
SPENT IT ON EVERY PERSON WHO WALKED THROUGH HIS DOOR.
He was shrewd yet he was humble.
He didn’t have a thousand talents, but whatever he had to do, he did it well.
If you proved him wrong about something, get this, he’d admit it!
He wanted your best because he wanted everyone’s best.
He might ask questions, but he didn’t talk down to you
and he genuinely seemed to have your best interest at heart.
(I’m told the guys at GM used to say Ed was the only person who could chew your ass out and you’d thank him for it.)
I never saw him raise his voice at anyone,
except during E’s last days.
Sleep-deprived and miserable, but still utterly devoted to her,
I heard them snap at each other the way some couples say hello,
but I knew it was fatigue and grief talking.
It wasn’t really Ed,
because I believe in Ed Hodson.
Over twenty years ago, I gave my mom some random questionnaire
(how well you know each other or something)
and it asked who your hero was.
I didn’t even have an answer, really, but Mom came back with “Ed”
and it was obvious she was right.
I scored her double on that one.
But ever since that day, I’ve been trying to pin down exactly what it was that has made Ed my hero.
Was it because he was so good to me?
because he was so good to everyone?
Or was it just that he made it all look
I learned one of his secret weapons over the last 5-10 years,
but it isn’t any secret at all.
Behind the scenes, there was always E.
You may have heard of “devotion” in marriage, but no one did it like Ed.
E was the decider for most of their marriage, and he followed her instructions faithfully.
And I mean, like, it didn’t matter if he gave you a twenty-dollar bill and told you
it was just between the two of you,
you can guarantee E had put it in his hand.
But I don’t just mean that E was the brains behind the operation.
I mean that Ed was able to be calm and generous because he was so deeply,
so comfortably, so securely
There are a thousand ways that we’ve all seen someone — maybe even ourselves —
say that everything would be perfect if only this
or if I could just that,
or if those people over there would stop doing whatever,
but deep down some part of us fears that we don’t deserve it
so we shouldn’t try quite as hard.
We all know someone — or have been someone —
who thinks we deserve something so much,
that we are so talented and lovable and clever,
that we may as well not even try, because that thing we want is just going to fall in our lap
so we shouldn’t try quite as hard.
Ed led the charmed life of never thinking too little or too much of himself and doing
EVERYTHING HE WANTED with it.
All he wanted was The American Dream: wife, home, career
— and the part they don’t tell you about the American dream —
to do it all while staying friendly
Friendly and effective.
That’s the dream of America, isn’t it? Not just having it all, but having it all and remaining humble.
When we think the best of our country,
we want to believe that we deserve it because we are friendly and we are effective.
Well, I’ve already told you I don’t believe in the American Dream,
but I believe in Ed Hodson!
Do you know what Millenials call a straight-A student? The kind of kid who carries around a lot of books and studies all the time and is in a thousand clubs and never sits still?
Like that’s a bad thing. Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s the opposite of a back-handed compliment,
an open fist or something?
Well I tell you that Ed didn’t have to try hard at everything
(Ed didn’t have to try hard to love E and devote himself to her, for example),
but when he did try hard, he succeeded.
And when he succeeded, he kept on trying
and he encouraged others to do the same.
Maybe Ed was the original Try-hard.
Ed only ever had two regrets in his life. I say two regrets, but it was more like one regret
and one mystery.
The first regret was that he never used his G.I. Bill to get a college education.
It wasn’t a sad regret, like he was secretly building a time machine to go back and fix something,
just one of those lessons you learn the hard way and pass on so you can spare others.
Still, he gladly took every training GM ever sent him on (or the Navy before that),
he worked his way up the ladder until there was no room for him to grow
not without a college degree.
So that was his big regret, that he never got his college diploma.
The original try-hard wanted to TRY HARDER.
(Same, to be honest.)
(I believe in Ed Hodson.)
Ed’s other regret, that one great mystery out of life, was after E passed away when he’d say,
“I don’t understand why the good Lord would take away one spouse
and leave the other one behind.”
Ed Hodson, the original Try-hard, was sixty years into a relationship
— and six years into day-and-night caregiving —
and he wanted to TRY HARDER.
He didn’t think he could take her pain away, and he didn’t sit around waiting for a miracle or for someone else to do it. He just gave everything he had
because he believed in E
and he believed he was better with her.
Imagine living life so well
that you already knew when the best part was over.
If I were to write a book on how to live, it would be called “The Book of Ed.”
I have no idea what I’d say in it, but there’s probably be a chapter on loving people completely, and being open-minded about people (even people you don’t like), and there’d have to be one about how to eat all that sugar without gaining weight or becoming diabetic.
(I believe Ed Hodson had an excellent metabolism.)
Here’s something I said at E’s funeral.
It still fits.
In E’s final hour, Ed turned to us, tears in his eyes, E’s hand in his, and said, “I hope you all are lucky enough to have a 60-year love.” And I know E would agree.
For theirs was a love for sharing,
a love that cannot help but spread beyond the two people who build it,
a love that has lived and will continue to live within each of us who has been touched by it.
It has traveled with us to corners of the world where neither Ed nor E ever set foot.
It touches and soothes people whom Ed and E never met.
But we are not burying that love here, today. When generations have passed and Ed and E are ancient figures, possibly forgotten altogether, their love will still touch people, as it has for 60
years, through our actions and the actions of the people we meet, and those they meet, and so on.
So whatever your odds are for finding a 60-year love, remember, that you’ve already been a part of something that grand, and that it is yet a part of you. E
[and Ed] would be proud to know that this is [their] finest legacy,
to spread joy and love for having known someone so rare that you can’t help being changed forever.
And so here, today, 2017, I’d like to leave you with something Ed would say to me in his “Golden moments” over the last fifteen months. There were days when I left Ed and I was almost in tears, but there were days when I just felt invincible, and it was because of these words.
When he had a pretty good sense of what was going on,
and a pretty good sense what I was doing, he’d take my hand
and grip it tight,
and Ed would tell me, “Don’t you worry about me. I’ll be alright. You go live your life.”
I believe in Ed Hodson,
and Ed Hodson believed that we shouldn’t worry about him and that we
— you, me, the old, the young —
“You go live your life.”