Before I begin, I wanted to, on behalf of Dan's family, thank all of those that helped us take care of Dan over the last several months. I hesitate to list names because I know I will forget quite a few. Members from his high school class, bowling league, his friends and neighbors who loved Dan were there when the help was needed. I know there was Beth, Shirley, Kay, Rick , Dan, Carol, Becky, Crash and Julie and many many more. Friends from the northwest flew to Kansas city to help ease the stress and to take care of Dan. Chris, Sharon and Rogers, Carol, Pam, Sandi and Mooch and Brian. The people at the hospice house were extremely sensitive and helpful during those final days and hours as well. And then there was Dr. Lee. He especially was grateful to Dr. Lee for taking the time to discuss things with him and for knowing that he could always count on her being a straight shooter with him, and that he truly appreciated.
This has been a rather emotional weekend for the Hill family. Yesterday we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of my grandmother, Dan's mother. Dan was looking forward to that day and had planned most of the celebration before going into hospice. And now,today, we look back and remember the life of Dan, a great brother and a great Uncle. The thing that really ties these two events together, is that Dan passed on grandma's 100th birthday, May the 6th.
Dan had some prerequisites for his death as he did for everything. We were instructed not to let him die unless it was raining outside, he loved the rain so very much. Pete and I had told him not to worry, if it wasn't raining, we would get a couple of hoses and spray the windows with water to simulate rain. THAT, Dan said, would not be good enough. After Dan died that night, I went outside to clear my head and get my thoughts about Dan's death together and you know what? It was raining.
A few weeks before he entered hospice, we were talking late one night and I asked him, "you know how at memorial services they just always say the good things about people and not the negative? he said yes. I asked him what he thought if I were to list the bad things about him as well as the good. He answered "sure, and after a short pause, "if you can find any."
Well, Dan did have some characteristics that some might think are not so good. He was stubborn,inflexible and very opinionated. But as we all know, everyone has small faults like that and as I recalled the Dan that I knew, the good characteristics far outweighed any that might be considered not so admirable. Besides, If I told dan he was inflexible, he would turn it around with his mastery of the English language and his special brand of logic so that by the time he was done, you would think he was the most flexible person in the world.
He use to say that he was one of the few people who were qualified to criticize parents on the raising of their children because he didn't have any thing to fog his objectivity on the matter. That was Dan. Logical to a fault.
As I thought about Dan and all the things he was to so many people, one characteristic kept coming to the forefront. Dan was a passionate man. He was passionate about everything he saw, said, thought or did. There is no way we have time to cover all the things he was passionate about today but I would like to touch on a few of the things that Dan was truly passionate about that helped make him who he was.
First off, Dan was passionate about football. Now a lot of you may think this to be a minor thing to be passionate about, but Dan loved the game. College or pro, it didn't matter. He would follow Mizzou and be giddy when they won and keep an eye on Kansas and be giddy when KU lost. He rooted for the Chiefs and the Seahawks and always kept a close eye on how the Rams were doing. If the Rams were having a particularly bad day, Dan would laugh and clap his hands once or twice and then think aloud, I wonder what kind of day Jack is having??
Dan was passionate about the theatre. He loved thought provoking plays as well as strange strange plays. Very off the wall strange plays. He enjoyed Musicals and the music from them. Often You would hear him singing tunes from them while showering in the morning or while he was walking around the house attending to his chores.. A trip to the theatre was more than just going to the theatre. It was an event with an agenda that had to be followed closely. First, you go out to dinner and have a good meal and socializing. After an hour and half of that, it was off to the theatre for a play that would often last a couple of hours. After the play was over, it was off to have coffee and pie at a local resteraunt AND discuss the play in detail, all the different twists, what the author was trying to get across, how the actors did and share a few favorite parts of the play. By the time the evening was over, you had spent anywhere from 6 to 8 hours with Dan on a good theatre night. And it was fun!
He was passionate about his art. He wanted to try everything from water color to pastels and acrylic and then into sculpture with any kind of medium he could. Some of his art is on display here and if you didn't get a chance to see them before, I encourage you to take time to see them afterwards. He was a perfectionist with his art and every piece he did, whether it was a painting or a sculpture, he had a reasoning behind it, a message he was trying to get across. He never thought he was very good at it, but I disagree with that. I think he got his messages across very well. He use to say "it is art if the artist says it is art." and he was right. And these pieces up here on display, are Art and not just because Dan said they were.
He was passionate about life. He had to be. This man, who lived to the age of 73, had diphtheria when he was 3, polio when he was 18, and in the early 80's, he contracted hiv/aids. When he contracted the virus, the average survival time of those infected with it was a little more than 2 years. He fought it and he won. Aids never got him. Cancer did. But he did not succumb to cancer easily. He fought it as long as he could and then chose quality of life over treatment and he took advantage of every second of life that was given to him.
And finally, Dan was passionate about family. Dan had a different definition of family than most people. I remember Dr Lee visiting Dan at the hospice house and as I was walking her to the door she said something about not wanting to interfere with the family time with Dan. I remember saying, "Sharon, ( I know I should have been more respectful and addressed her as doctor but I was tired) I said Sharon, you have to understand what family was to Dan. Family was blood relatives of course but it went far beyond that. His friends, his close friends, he considered family. People he could trust were family. People who accepted Dan for Dan was family. I said Sharon, you ARE a part of that family. We are all glad you came to visit him."
Dan had a blood family. Dan had a Chicago family. Dan had a pacific northwest family, Dan had a bowling family, Dan had a high school class family, and Dan had the clinic family. Dan was extremely passionate and caring about all of these families and towards the end of his life, he managed to pull all of these families together, to meet each other and to join in that family experience with him.
Dan lived life as well as he could til the end. He was able to see some of his artwork on public display at the clinic, which really thrilled him. He was able to go and see one last play. The night of that last play as we sat waiting for it to begin, I asked him how it felt to be back in the theatre once again. after looking around the Unicorn Theatre, he said "it feels sad".
Christmas was a strange time for Dan. Bill had been a lover of Christmas, celebrating it to its fullest extent. After Bill died, Christmas just wasn't the same for Dan. He would take some copper tubing, twist it around in to a strange shape so it looked like a little copper two foot tall charlie brown Christmas tree. He would hang a couple of those ornaments he sold for the clinic on it and he would call that his Christmas tree. That was the only decorating he did for Christmas.
On this past Christmas though, he did it up right. I believe he was sensing it was to be his last Christmas and he caught the old desire that bill use to have at Christmas. He actually went out and bought a Christmas tree. We had a Christmas tree trimming party which rick and dan catered food in for. He pulled out all of the old Christmas ornaments and decorations and had the house looking like a home where Christmas was truly celebrated. And Christmas was truly celebrated in that home this last Christmas. Dan loved every second of it.
I know some of you are thinking, "what about his passion for politics?" Well, Dan did have a great passion for politics and loved to discuss the topic. The only trouble was he thought, for some reason that I was wrong a lot of the time when in reality, it was him who wasn't seeing things clearly. Of course that is my own observation. One night we got into a rather spirited debate and then and there, we decided that our friendship that had developed was far more important than anything political. We decided to stop discussing politics because it wasn't worth it. And so now, I continue with that agreement and let his passion for politics slide on by.
Dan was a complicated man with many complicated thoughts. Philosophy was often the subject of our talks and they were very interesting moments. I, of course, would explain the philosophy of George Carlin to him and he seemed to enjoy that a lot. We did discuss classical philosophies at times but a lot of the time was discussing song lyrics. We both agreed that the songwriters over the last 50 years were the new philosophers and we use to share lyrics with each other and discuss them and their meaning. One of those songwriting philosophers was a man named Harry Chapin. Long ago, before Chapin died in a car accident in the early 80's, Harry gave an interview on the tonight show. During that interview, Chapin gave this story about his grandfather and I wanted to share it with you today.
Chapin said, "My grandfather was a painter. He died at age 88. He illustrated Robert Frost's first two books of poetry.
And he was looking at me and he said, "Harry, there's two kinds of tired. There's good tired and there's bad tired. He said, Ironically enough bad tired can be a day that you won. But you Won other people's battles, you lived other peoples days,other people's agendas, other peoples dreams, and when it was all over, there was very little you in there and when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn, you don't settle easy.
He said, "Good tired, ironically enough can be a day that you lost. But you don't even have to tell yourself because you knew you fought your battles, You chased your dreams, you lived your days. And when you hit the hay at night you settle easy, you sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say 'take me away.'
He said, "Harry, all my life I wanted to be a painter and I painted. God I would have loved have been more successful, but I painted and I painted and I am good tired and they can take me away."
As I think of that story, I remember Dan's finals hours. How he finally calmed down and began to breathe easier. I remember how he rested and passed on calmly in a quiet darkened room in the middle of a rainy night in Kansas City.
I think if Dan could have talked during those final hours, he might have said, I am good tired, take me away.
Finally , I wanted to share these words that were some of the last that Dan wrote in his life. They reflect very well how he felt about all of us, his big family in his final months.
He wrote: "This undoubtedly will be the last you hear from me. I thank you for all the kindnesses and love you have shown. They have been among the bright spots of my life. I love you very much.
Do not grieve overly. I have lived a long life, with much happiness. I have done pretty much what I wanted to do. And at the risk of sounding like Sinatra, I did most of it the way I wanted to. There are few regrets. The major one being that Bill did not live as long as I did, so that we could have those years together. Overall, it has been good, and I am glad I was here!!"