I’ll write more about my experience with writing this, but for now here is what I wrote and read today. Also a poem by Baxter Black and I had my cousin read.
Red Bretz. My grandfather is gone. We are heartbroken from the loss of this man who meant so much to so many. And although I know he is at peace now, I find that my own steps seem to be faltering a bit without him here. I know we are here to celebrate his life, but I am still mourning his death. I realize, though, that if he were here right now, he would tell me to be true to myself because that is the only way to be truly honest to others.
Red loved people. He loved to connect with people and weave his stories in with their own. Red had stories because he had life, an exuberant amount of life. And for someone who was not unfamiliar with the idea of death being close at hand, I think he really knew how to appreciate what he had, and knew how to value the people he met on his journey.
If you knew Red, perhaps you knew that he had health problems for most of his life and that on some level, this day was expected. But maybe you didn’t know how hard he fought to live his life to the fullest. He was told not to play sports, but he played basketball, softball, and fell in love with handball. He loved to ride horses, and as my uncle Dale said so perfectly, he was not just an equestrian, but a true horseman. He was an active member of the Jefferson County Mounted Posse and volunteered his time to Westernaires, an equestrian group for youth. He started a business which his family still owns and runs today, and he was the best horseshow husband that any wife could ask for. He did all of this even as he was in and out of hospitals for most of his life.
Red was a lover and collector of art, often sponsoring artists who were just starting out. And I will always think of him when I see turquoise stones. His collection of turquoise was vast and unique. The stone is representative of wisdom, support, learning to speak your truth, and confidence. These are all things that come to mind when I think of what made up the core of his personality.
My grandfather was someone to look up to, someone to listen to when he spoke. He was someone to laugh with, and someone that you could lean on for support. Red was the kind of person who would look you in the eye and tell you that you were wrong, but boy did he love you anyway. I never saw him angry. He loved openly, without hesitation, and didn’t condemn people for their mistakes.
I found myself trying to capture what he meant to us all, as if I was trying to crack the code of his life story. What a daunting task I had before me. How I could do his story justice? How do you capture a man like Red in such a short amount of time? But I really think that underneath it all, there is simplicity. These are the lessons he left behind for us: responsibility, respect, honesty, bravery, laughter, and compassion. His love of life was his greatest gift.
After my family shared their own memories, I realized that he meant something different to every one of us. We all have a different story of who he was in our lives: a son, a brother, a father, a grandfather, a husband, an advisor, a smile, a laugh, a shoulder to lean on, a companion and partner…a friend. He left a piece of himself with every person he met. I think he knew that one day we would need those pieces to help guide our feet back to stable ground when he left this earth to be with his Heavenly Father.
And because he left a piece of himself within us all, I ask you all to join me in this eulogy by sharing a piece of who he was to you in your life. Share a memory, share a laugh, share a tear.