My husband is much better with words than I could ever be. I was suprised when he said he wanted to eulogize Noah at the memorial. I know I could never do it. I think he did a wonderful job talking about our son, and I wanted to share it here.
That said, the only emotion greater than that of loss and grief is the love and support we have felt from those here and from afar. Your words, prayers, and presence here today have eased our suffering and are something for which we will always be grateful.
I would like to start by saying a little something about this special place. If you are wondering if we could have found a location more difficult to reach, the answer is no. Fresno itself is tough to get to and no place to visit in the summer, but Shaver Lake is a special to us. This beautiful small mountain town is where Noah spent most of his summers and holidays. If you drove up from Clovis this morning you passed the hospital where he was born. He swam in the lake, hiked in the forests, and snowboarded on the mountain here. This place was his escape and his sanctuary. And it is fitting that this is where we gather to celebrate his life.
And what a life it was. If you are here today you had an impact on Noah. Your connection to him and our family is something that helped guide his life and was the foundation upon which his relationships and experiences were based.
He was your big brother, cousin, nephew, grandson, friend or bandmate – and you are the threads that created the fabric of his life. A wonderful life filled with laughter, joy, love, support, and encouragement.
As most of you know Noah was a pleasant but unexpected surprise for Cassie and I a little less than 18 years ago. His impending arrival in the summer of 1998 gave us the direction and purpose we had been looking for and his birth set us on a path that we continue to travel. Noah was the foundation for our family and the love that brought us together.
It is important then to acknowledge that Noah has once again brought us together. Seventeen years since his birth we are a much larger circle of friends and family. Yet in death as in life, Noah has been a critical part of the force that binds us to each other.
Noah was the first born grandchild on both sides of our family, and as such he was a pioneer as well as the test subject for an experiment in parenting. He was the first of the next generation, and thus more than a few of you here today played with him, changed his diaper, pushed him in a stroller, or unsuccessfully tried to get him to take a nap. He was in the middle of everything and always underfoot as friends and family alike got married and started families of their own.
A typical toddler who was never without his beloved teddy bear, Maggie, he was joined in quick succession by his brother Gavin and cousins Hailee and Megan. The four of them together, separated by only a few years, were the epitome of the joys of childhood. Even as teenagers they could be counted on to be up to something during our visits and could always be found sleeping in front of the fireplace at grandpa’s house once they had exhausted themselves.
One of the things I wanted to ensure that I did today was to be honest about Noah and convey the true sense of his personality. It was fitting that he was a drummer, because he definitely marched to his own beat. He had an unnerving disregard for time and place, and could be counted on to thoroughly embarrassed those around him. A favorite story we like to tell of “Noah being Noah” is from my sister Mary’s wedding reception when Noah was eight. Everyone was seated in a beautiful reception hall and the room was quiet with anticipation as we awaited the arrival of the wedding party. Suddenly, Noah lets out the loudest and longest belch you could imagine. We were mortified as everyone stared at the little boy in his Sunday best – beaming like he had justwon the lottery, completely unfazed.
Noah was also very much a teenager and every bit of 17. He hated to comb his hair, clean his room, or get out of bed before noon on the weekends. As I believe most teenagers are, Noah could be sarcastic, opinionated, and intolerant. His ability to torment his little brother was spectacular and as the boys got older, this resulted in increased collateral damage to whatever house we happened to be living in.
Yet through it all it was always clear that Noah loved Gavin more than anyone else. This was never more evident than when we received orders and it was time to move. Seven times in the last 15 years, and each time Noah was there for Gavin. Every time there was a new neighborhood or classroom to conquer, they did so together, strengthening their reliance on each other and forging a bond that will never be broken.
This reliance extends to Noah’s relationship with Cassie as well. Growing stronger through the years the connection between mother and son was obviously fundamental. Having Noah early in life allowed us to grow up together, often experiencing things for the first time as a family instead of practiced adults.
Cassie was omnipresent in Noah’s early years and was thus the guiding force in his first steps and first words. She was there to teach him, correct him, and wipe away his tears. I would come home from work and hear about the adventures they had during the day – play group, swim lessons, or time at the park. Even as he got older the bond between them was evident despite the frustration of adolescence. We would joke that Noah was Cassie’s clone they are so similar, right down to the goofy clumsiness and tendency to procrastinate. Yet their relationship was more than that. It was more than genetic and was a relationship that only a mother and her son could share.
As the boys grew older and their lives filled with school, practice, and friends we made every effort to come together each night for dinner as a family. While this often meant leftovers after 9 p.m., it offered us some time to catch up. The conversation was mostly dominated by a debate overwhich of the boys was going to do the dishes followed by Cassie issuing coordinating instructions for the next day – who had practice and needed to be picked up when, permission slips, homework review, etc.
It was our time together in the midst of our busy lives, and while nothing significant ever came of them, it was in these moments that we were a family, the four of us against the world. I fear it is in these moments that we will miss Noah the most; waking him up in the morning, watching a game on the couch, eating dinner, or the quick hug goodnight.
I feel that the last year was probably one of the best of Noah’s life. We had the sense that he was growing both emotionally and physically by the day and had achieved a certain momentum that was undoubtedly going to carry him into adulthood. One of his favorite activities in recent months was to see if he was taller than me and on Mother’s Day of this year I was forced to admit defeat.
His emotional maturity was also something that could not be missed. As he completed his junior year, he doggedly achieved goal after goal. He had a summer job, had taken the SATs, purchased his first car, as most importantly to him, he had been selected to be the center snare drummer for the next year’s marching band. Despite the mid-year move to a new school, Noah had made friendships and set goals that filled him with excitement for this summer and beyond.
As part of this increasing maturity, Noah also began to set the direction for his adult life. He knew what he wanted and developed a laser-like focus on achieving his goals. This focus was never more evident than in his love for drumming. Having played multiple instruments growing up it was obvious that his shift to the drums was different. As his father, I was a little more than relieved when he traded in his clarinet for a drum set and became more Tommy Lee than Kenny G.
He had found his passion and pursued it with a drive that surprised us. Teaching himself how to play over the summer before his sophomore year after a season of indoor percussion, Noah was fully invested in developing his talent. This focus spilled over into other aspects of his life and was an obvious sign that he had taken a significant step to adulthood. One of the ultimate tragedies of his death is that we will never know what type of man, husband, and father Noah would have become. Yet I believe that had he followed the trajectory he had set for himself he was destined to be significant and was going to be amazing.
We may never understand why Noah was taken from us. His death has fundamentally altered the course of the lives of those that loved him. Yet I am comforted in the belief that Noah was at his best. He was happy, he was strong, and he was confident. He died knowing he was loved, that we were proud of him, and that he was a cherished part of our lives. His impact on each of us was not just measured in significant events but also by the small daily interactions and the consistency of his presence and affection. As we grieve for his loss and the things he will not have the opportunity to experience, we also celebrate the precious time we had with him and be thankful for every second he was with us.
The name Noah, taken from the Old Testament, means “comfort.”
In this time of grief, we take comfort in knowing that Noah is with us in spirit.
We take comfort in the confidence that he will always be with us.
We take comfort in our faith in the Lord, and we take comfort in our belief that Noah is by his side.
May we all take comfort in the wonderful life of Noah. May he and God be with you on this day and forever.”