June 7th, 2011
After Kirk’s funeral in India, family and friends gathered in Phoenix for a memorial service where Kirk’s sister, Maris, delivered this eulogy:
First of all, on behalf of Kirk’s family, we’d like to thank you all for coming. It is wonderful to see so many people here who cared about Kirk, and it means a great deal to our family that you are sharing this day with us. I’d also like to very sincerely thank the Bowne family for all the support and care you have offered us during this difficult time, especially Mr. Frank Schnepp. I know the phone call you made to Minnesota that Monday morning had to be the hardest call you’ve ever had to place, and more than you’ll ever know, I appreciate your kindness.
I think I speak for everyone here today when I say that Kirk’s death has left us all asking the question “Why?” We cannot understand, nor did we see in its entirety, the incredible sadness that must have existed in his soul, otherwise we would have realized that his burden was overwhelming him. We all feel a huge loss that Kirk did not let any of us know what was in his heart. Unfortunately, it is a one-sided conversation, because the only person who can give us the answers to our many questions isn’t here. So, we’re left with many puzzle pieces that don’t fit together to create a whole picture. We have a story with no ending, and that’s a hard thing for us to accept.
I’m sure you can understand when I tell you I’ve spent countless hours in the past weeks trying to figure out what went wrong, when it went wrong, and why it went wrong, because I know many of you have done the same. We’ve struggled to make sense of this, and also to come to terms with it, but it’s almost impossible to do, as the pain is still so fresh. We’ve thought about what we did or didn’t do, and what we could or couldn’t have done to help him. We’ve thought about what we would do if we had it all to do over again, and I came up with two options:
1. Do everything differently.
2. Do nothing different at all.
If I had it to do over again, which would I choose? Of course I’d do everything differently: I’d call more, write more, share more, demand he share more, visit more, talk more, listen more (or perhaps listen better), so many things. Would that change the outcome? Unfortunately, I’ll never have the opportunity to know. But what I do know, is that while all of us here have our own list of things we might have done differently, most of us are probably struggling in some way with guilt over what could have been.
In keeping with Kirk’s life, this is a very complicated situation, and I don’t believe any one of us on our own could have prevented what happened, nor could we have caused it. We’ll never understand the devastation of it all. It just simply isn’t to be. So in the end, we are forced to find a way to reconcile ourselves to this loss. How do we do this? Well, I suppose we’ll all take a slightly different path in our healing process. Some of us will mourn what we are missing by not having Kirk in our lives, and some of us will focus more on what he gave up. Some of us experience intense anger at Kirk, because he obviously wasn’t able to understand how valuable he was to those who loved him, and we are angry at him for leaving us with this gaping hole in our hearts. Some of us will find comfort in a belief that perhaps now he is at peace, and many of us will experience most or all of these emotions and feelings at one time or another, and, in fact, we probably already have, to some degree.
So what do we do now to begin healing? A friend of mine reminded me that when a child skins his knee and it bleeds, you put a band-aid on it to help it heal, and really, this is no different. We have to find band-aids for our hearts. My band-aid is the belief that even in our grief, we are left with choices. I can choose to be angry at Kirk for not staying here with us and have that cloud my memory of him, or I can choose to look at this as an opportunity to do something different. I can focus on my memories of Kirk: the great times, the special relationship we had, and yes, even when life was difficult for us, because those of you who knew Kirk best know how difficult he could be at times. I can also create an opportunity to learn and grow as a person by examining Kirk’s life. I can learn to stop once in a while and reaffirm what is important in life, both by reflecting on how he treated those he loved, with kindness, generosity, loyalty and acceptance, and also by learning from the things he struggled with, forgiveness being at the top of the list: Forgiveness of others, as well as himself. Most of you know that Kirk was extremely hard on himself, and he was his own worst critic.
While I could share so many memories with you today, I’ve chosen one in particular that stands out in my mind. I must have been about six years old, and Kirk would have been ten. My mother and I were participating in a Mother-Daughter charity fashion show. While all the clothes were quite nice, there was one dress that I instantly fell in love with. It was a long dress, in the softest shade of pink chiffon, with frilly white lace around the cuffs and the hem. It was one of those fu-fu-ie things that only a six-year old could love. It had multiple layers, and although at that age I usually walked around looking as much like a boy as my brothers did (or even more so), it was like magic. Even in the store with my socks and ratty tennis shoes on underneath, I felt like a princess. I wore it for the fashion show, and I can’t tell you how much I wanted that dress. Now, I’m the first to admit that a six year old girl living out in the country in Western Montana really didn’t have much use for such a frilly thing, but because the dress made me feel so good, I would have worn it to pick rocks. The summer passed, and when my birthday came, there was Kirk with my beautiful pink dress all wrapped up for me. He had put it on layaway and paid it off over the summer, just so I could have it.
I wore that dress to school that day (and many days after, if you must know the truth) and the fact that the kids laughed at such a sight didn’t bother me one bit. I felt so special, so loved, and so cherished, nothing anyone could have said would have been able to spoil that, and I had my darling brother to thank for it. That was Kirk. That’s who Kirk was to the people he loved. He loved giving to others, sharing what he had, and that’s why it’s so hard to understand why he wouldn’t let us love him back.
For years I have kept that dress, hanging in the closet in our spare bedroom. It became old, stained and just worn out, but it still brought back those wonderful feelings whenever I looked at it.
When I was growing up, many was the time that Kirk bought my school clothes, packed my lunch, made me do my homework, made me practice my flute. He was determined that I was going to succeed and make something of myself, and he was a child doing a very adult thing by trying to create a better experience for me than he felt he had growing up. Sometimes he was quite hard on me, but I understood then and I understand now that he had a vested interest in me, and wanted only good things to come my way. His experience in high school was not very rewarding to say the least, and in fairness, I must say that this was in part due to his perceptions of himself and others, not entirely because of how he was treated by others. However, it was his goal that my experience would be different, and he laid a foundation for me that has stayed with me my entire life, and for that, I will always be grateful.
I’m quite clear, from the stories many of you have shared with me, as well as the people from India who grew to love Kirk as much as we did, that Kirk gave many of you your own pink dress over the years. He was always there, very loyal, very giving and very generous with his time and his possessions with those he cared about. I hope that our family gets a chance to visit with you today and hear some of those wonderful stories, as this is what today is all about.
Since today is about sharing Kirk’s life, I’d like to tell you a little bit about his life in India. As many of you know, after Kirk passed away, I was able to travel to New Delhi with Frank Schnepp as a guest of Bowne to not only handle the necessary affairs there, but also to meet the people and world Kirk was sharing his life with. It was a very difficult trip, but one I am most grateful to have made. I saw threads of his life there that were woven together in the same way as they were here, and he was probably never able to fully understand that. His co-workers absolutely adored him, and they too, are heartbroken. He worked long hours there like he did here, but he always had time to share a meal with friends, go visiting new places, and just spend time amongst the people he had bonded with.
Kirk did love India, and I loved seeing glimpses of his life, and here are a few of the things I learned about him while I was there:
1. He had become a complete vegetarian –- For those who ever saw Kirk devour chicken wings (and I’m sure many of you did) you can recognize that this was quite a sacrifice – -Debbie and Freddy, you know what I’m talking about! Kirk could clean a platter of chicken wings faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. His devourment ratio was about 4 to 1 to anyone else at the table.
2. I always knew Kirk loved being waited on, so India was probably his dream in that regard. He had a driver, a housekeeper, a yoga instructor and a friend’s wife who cooked him lunch every day. Obviously the economy is very different there and so all of these “niceties” were had at a very low cost, but I can see him enjoying being pampered!
3. Kirk twice traveled to the very remote village of Gorakh Pur. It is a village in Uttar Pradesh State. It is a 10 hour train ride from Delhi, and to-date, Kirk Andrew Murphy is the only American to ever have stepped foot in this village. He still had pictures of his last trip on his digital camera, and they show the true India that Kirk wanted to be a part of. The simple life, without running water, electricity and with minimal shelter, and Kirk loved being there. Who would have thought! I wonder if he brought his various facial creams with him when he visited?
4. He went white-water rafting in Rishikesh, to the Taj Mahal, camping at Dum Dum Lake, and spent many holidays, evenings and special days at the homes of his friends and his friends’ families.
5. Kirk was learning to not only speak, but also to write Hindi. He had hired a teacher to work with him weekly, and amongst his things were journals where he practiced writing the intricate characters and their meanings. His best friend there, Lalit is his name, shared a desk with him, and laughingly showed me some Hindi children’s books that Kirk had. They thought it was so funny that he would use books like these to teach himself to read in their language, but they were also very flattered that he would try, and they were amazed at how quickly he caught on. After only being there for six months, he could speak in complete sentences and would cheerfully insist that conversations be conducted in Hindi, although I was led to believe that they usually reverted to English very quickly, also at Kirk’s insistence. I’m not sure who he practiced saying the things he was writing about to, but here is a sampling of what he had written:
“Have you heard this with your own ears?”
“What do you do with your ears?”
“I listen with my ears.”
And this one really makes me wonder:
“How many ears do you have? I have two ears.”
“My ears are very sharp, because I hear things very quickly.”
And he also practiced writing and saying things he could use in the streets:
“Why is the child weeping?”
“This money is for you.”
“Are you playing ball?”
“This is for the children.”
“Here is a treat for you.”
“This is a good dog.”
6. Kirk had a hard time with the social structure in India. The caste system is very important there, and one does not regularly socialize outside of their class. Kirk was not able to reconcile himself to this, and made friends amongst all of them. The people of the lower classes whom I had a chance to visit with were astounded by his generosity, his kindness and his acceptance of them.
7. Kirk immersed himself in the Indian culture and cuisine –- his friends there were delighted that he loved the ethnic cuisine as much as he did. They showed us a couple of his favorite restaurants, and one in particular he would drag co-workers to on a regular basis. They joked that he liked Indian cuisine more than they did!
8. Kirk had really come out of his shell in a way –- He participated in all sorts of events with his co-workers and friends, like “Blue Jeans Day”, “Favorite Hat Day”, and all sorts of activities that his co-workers enjoyed doing, including their Annual Sports Day, shortly before he died.
9. The fireball legend continued in India. I had no idea that Kirk had such a passion for fireballs (apparently he even had to have emergency dental work done after enjoying a particularly tasty one), but some co-workers from Phoenix had sent him a big bin of them to India. He decided to play a joke on his co-workers at Techbooks, and had them gather together. He gave them each one, told them they were really quite good, and then counted down so they could put them in their mouths at the same time. As soon as they realized they had been tricked, and how awful they were, he told them that whoever kept it in their mouth the longest would win lunch bought by Kirk. Needless to say, it became a somewhat regular activity, where they would say “Kirk, bring us the fireballs!” I’m quite sure it was the free lunch and not the actual fireballs themselves that motivated them.
The people Kirk met in India loved him as much as we did, and because he was so far away from home and in their country, they showered him with affection and respect. Again, the tragedy here is that Kirk could not see what he truly meant to people, and how loved he truly was.
As we celebrate Kirk’s life today, and for the rest of our lives, I’d like to leave you with these thoughts:
Do everything in your life differently, so that when you look back, you won’t want to change a thing.
Find the pink dresses of those you love. Know that pink dresses aren’t necessarily found in stores. They are simply doing things or giving of yourself so that the people you care about feel special, loved and cherished.
We have a responsibility to Kirk to enjoy life like we never have before, because he is no longer here to enjoy his.
Forgiveness is an art, one that should be practiced daily, and the most precious gift we can give one another. We all have people in our lives we need to forgive and ask forgiveness from. Please don’t take this lightly, but reconcile these relationships, as you never know when a casual goodbye will be your last.
Pastor Wishon shared a Hindu Proverb with me yesterday that says it all: The past is over. Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past.
At Kirk’s funeral in India, the Hindu Priest had me take a teracotta pot of holy water and walk around Kirk’s body, pouring the water onto the ground in a circle around him. When I completed the circle, I smashed the pot onto the ground. It symbolized that his life was over, and all is forgiven: by Kirk, by others, and most importantly, by God.
Carry that message with you today, and let Kirk’s lessons of forgiveness and love carry you forward as you heal.