In Loving Memory
Even though I’ve posted this blog previously, I thought it deserved another home. Originally posted on October 20, 2009 on MySpace.
For the past 9 months, since losing our dear friend, we have been waiting for the closure that was very much needed. Unfortunately, his only remaining family couldn’t make it to the area until this week, due to heart surgery and knee replacements, and relocating from Hawaii to Florida.
Finally, on Saturday, they flew into the area, and we were able to get things accomplished that we’d all waited for a very long time to happen. We all braved the monsoon-ish rain and freezing temperatures so we could finally meet in person over dinner. Before now, we’d only talked by phone, and although that was great, it wasn’t a face-to-face visit. We exchanged pictures and stories and memories. Afterward, we went shopping for things for the Celebration of Life service; a whiteboard and tape to make a collage of pictures, and a stop at the photo department for some pictures that had been printed out.
Sunday, we gathered at the Strasburg Railroad to take a ride on the train. Our group consisted of myself, my Husband, my Son, our friend’s ex-wife (with whom he remained close), the cousins (Husband and Wife) from Florida, and the funeral director and his wife. The train left the station at 3pm on the dot, and for the next 20 minutes, we traveled from Strasburg to Paradise. It was our friend’s last ride on a train that he loved so much. On the return trip, his ashes were scattered along the tracks amongst the country fields that he also loved. Afterward, we went to an early dinner, then back to our place. For the next couple of hours, we sorted through old photo albums that we’d salvaged from our friend’s apartment, as well as other items that we managed to save that we thought held some importance or memory. After the cousins left for their hotel, I started arranging the photos for the collage.
On Monday, the cousins and my Husband spent the morning running errands – closing bank accounts, making final arrangements, and purchasing food for the service, while I finished the collage at home, and took care of a sick child, while trying to tie up other loose ends. Monday evening, we gathered, along with the members of the Amish community that our friend provided transportation for (taxi service). There was plenty of food, friendship, laughter, tears and memories. Almost everyone there stood to speak about some special way our friend had touched their lives. It was the closure that everyone so desperately needed. We all had a chance to finally say goodbye to our dear friend.
Out of respect and remembrance, I am posting my eulogy to our dear friend.
Emory J. Zimmerman
April 3, 1940 – January 14, 2009
When we first moved into the apartment above Emory’s in 2007, we were told that he was “just a grumpy old man who hated life and everyone in it”. It took us less than a day to realize that that statement couldn’t have been further from the truth. Over the next year and a half that we had the pleasure of knowing Emory, we found out first-hand who Emory was. The truth was that Emory was all of these things and more:
To anyone who took the time to get to know Emory, they found these things to be true. I’m glad we took the time, or we may have missed out on someone who was a great friend, a confidant, and an all around wonderful person. He treated everyone with respect and kindness.
Emory went out of his way to help people. On several occasions, when we needed an item, or something had broken that needed replaced, he was always ready, willing and eager to help. Usually this consisted of him searching through his garage for items he already had from his contracting business. I can’t begin to say how many times we’d be heading out to the store, and Emory would stop us and say, “Don’t go spending your money on something I have that I’m not using anyway!”. Then he’d drag us deep into his maze of unused things – hefting boxes, rearranging shelves, wiping off dust and cobwebs and finally exclaiming, “There it is! I knew I had one!”. He was like a kid in a candy shop in his own garage. We finally learned that before we went anywhere else, we’d always stop in at “Emory’s General Store” and see what he had available. And he seemed genuinely pleased to be able to help us out. He was like that with everybody.
One night, I happened to be looking out the window, and I saw Emory get into his van, start it up, and pull out of the driveway. That wasn’t too unusual; he would occasionally make a late night run to the store. What surprised and confused me was that instead of driving down the road, he pulled back into the driveway, into my Husband’s parking spot. At first, I thought maybe he was trying to play a practical joke on my Husband, so I opened the window to ask him what on Earth he was doing. He said he was protecting my rose bush from the brutal wind that night, since he knew I’d just planted it and it was still a fledgling. That simple act of kindness brought tears to my eyes, and still does to this day, every time I think about it.
Almost every day, we would have some sort of conversation with Emory. Sometimes they were short conversations, but most times we would end up sitting for hours, discussing everything possible under the sun. We learned a lot about his life, and how he became the person he was. We got to know the dreams and goals he had for himself. We listened as he told us stories about his childhood, his marriages, the things he did for fun and the things he absolutely hated doing. When the weather was warm enough, we’d sit out in the driveway, or in his garage, or on our stairs and have long talks about current events. This was something we jokingly referred to as “Friday Night Politics”, even when it didn’t happen on Fridays. When a member of our family would disappear, the first place we knew to check was Emory’s, because what may have been intended as a 2 minute stop-over would usually end up as a 2 hour visit.
We treasured our friendship with Emory, and we believe that he treasured his friendship with us as well. He became like a second father to us, and like a grandfather to my Son. He shared many common interests with my Son – computers, trains, camera and video equipment, electronics, but most of all they shared a love of ideas. They, too, would sit in the driveway and exchange ideas for hours. Emory was very impressed with my Son’s intelligence, and told me so frequently. The most heartfelt compliment I’ve ever received about my Son came from Emory. It’s rare to find that kind of friendship between an old man and a young boy. In fact, my Son was the only person allowed to take a recent picture of Emory – anyone else would have been denied that privilege.
I wish we’d had time to give back to Emory all that he’d given to us. We certainly tried, that’s for sure! But he wouldn’t hear of it. He was a giver, not a taker! And he reminded us of that quite frequently. In his last couple of months, when his health was failing him, we did everything we could to make sure that he knew what he meant to us. We’re confident that he took with him our love, caring and gratitude. He’s left us with a hole in our hearts that can never be filled, but with memories that will last a lifetime.