On Saturday, July 26th, Ralph Burgess left this world to live in his heavenly home. Shirley asked me and 2 others to speak at Ralph's funeral. While thinking about what I wanted to say, I decided to focus on the things I learned from Ralph.
Ralph loved his family and his Lord and although you may not have known him, I believe we could all learn a few things from Ralph and his many years of wisdom.
Below is a copy of my words.
I have known Ralph and Shirley for about 5 years, but for the last 18 months, I stayed with Ralph for 3 hours every Monday so Shirley could run errands, grocery shop or have lunch with friends.
It was during those 3-hour visits I really got to know Ralph. When he wasn’t napping, he was quite the conversationalist. We discussed events from his childhood, the Marine Corps, his working days and many other subjects. Between us, we remembered all the state capitals. One Monday, I made a list of the 12 things I learned from Ralph and I think we can all apply them to our lives.
- Independence: Ralph didn’t give up. Even though he couldn’t see well, he continued with his daily routine. It would have been easy to say, “I can’t do it.” But he didn’t.
- Eat a variety of foods. No matter what I fixed him for lunch, he ate it. I’m sure there were some things he didn’t care for, but he was a ‘clean-plater.’
- Keep your memories alive. Not all of his memories were pleasant ones, but he still remembered the events and feelings and the lessons learned from some of those experiences.
- Recall childhood. We should all remember to tell our children, grandchildren some stories from our childhood. What better way to know someone? I loved the stories about riding his pony to school and growing up in So. Dakota. He told me there were only 4 students at the school but then a family with 4 children moved in and the student body doubled overnight.
- It’s okay to shed a tear or two about some memories. Ralph would tell the story and perhaps cry a bit but then move on to something else.
- Be appreciative. He appreciated the things people did for him. I can’t tell you how many times, he said, “I don’t know what I’d do without Shirley” Sometimes we forget to tell people how much we appreciate them.
- He listened to good music. The radio was always on with no commercials or loud noises. Some days, we would discuss the song or the singer. He could name many of them.
- Have a few regrets. I don’t think we should dwell on regrets and Ralph didn’t, but occasionally he would mention something he regretted doing or saying. That’s okay; how else do we learn?
- Keep your sense of humor. He would be talking about FDR and would ask me what I thought of his presidency. I would give him a hard time telling him FDR died before I was born! He always laughed and would say, “Oh yeah, I forget you’re not as old as me.” I’m pretty sure he did it on purpose but I told him I forgave him because he couldn’t see so well.
- Routine: Life seems to function a bit better if we have a routine and stick to it. Ralph ate lunch at 1pm. Even if he slept in and ate breakfast at 11:30 when I arrived, he was ready for lunch at 1.
- Take naps. Ralph did take many naps but I think the world would be a better place if we all took a few minutes for a nap each day.
- Tuck the blanket around your legs. Ralph had a blue blanket and when he sat down in his recliner, he wasn’t comfortable until he had the blanket tucked in tight around his legs. We may not have a blanket, but if we tuck God’s love around us tightly, no evil or distress can get in.
It was my pleasure to know Ralph and my honor to speak about him today