With love for the Dancing Bear

Published 5:00 am Thursday, February 28, 2019

How will we be remembered when they gather to bid us a final farewell? I know all of us have pondered the question at some point in our lives and like most, we think about it for a moment and then go eat ice cream or watch TV. We don’t enjoy contemplating our mortality or the legacy we leave because much of the time our brains assure us, we will live forever.

I am just a columnist with no authority on the subject, but I am pretty sure none of us will be alive at our own funeral. What will others say about my life? My version of my eulogy is somewhere along these lines, “She once decorated houses, wrote a bunch of sentences, was a decent mama, loved her grandbabies and could fry up a tasty chicken.” Not too bad I believed until I attended a friend’s memorial service.

Ron died last week. He lived two doors down and had battled illness for a few years, although one wouldn’t know that fact unless they were told. I met Ron and his wife 13 years ago and always noticed that no matter how Ron felt, he still sported a boyish smile which brightened your day. Ron was known as the “Dancing Bear” because he could cut a rug and spin a room like no other. He loved to crack a joke, swing a golf club or a tennis racket and adored his wife. Everyone knew Ron was a good guy, but his obituary and memorial service told the whole story of what a life living in goodness means.

I didn’t know Ron was his high school’s valedictorian or a merit scholar who earned his education at the University of Nebraska. I never heard that after receiving his degree in Civil Engineering he served as a lieutenant in the Air Force before continuing his education to obtain his MBA. I wasn’t sure how long he and Judy were married but was amazed it was 59 years. So much I didn’t know of the man who always waved or stopped for a chat when he saw all those he knew. Until his last days, he stayed active and lived life to the fullest without a complaint.

The service Sunday afternoon was filled with friends and family there to honor Ron and support his lovely wife. By the time the eulogies were spoken, and the stories told, I realized so many of us missed an opportunity to learn more about living from the life of the bear who lived just two doors down.

Ron had two girls who married fine men. I don’t believe he let them leave to another man’s arms without doing a bit of his own investigating. As a good father, he took protecting his family seriously. 

Each son in law began their eulogies with strong voices and ended their stories with sob choked words and falling tears. They were not related to the Dancing Bear by blood but tied to him by deep respect and love. Their grief was intense and raw.

A friend proclaimed life wouldn’t be the same without the gift of the companionship Ron provided him over the years. Other friends with tears brimming realized their roaring bear had been silenced. 

The grandchildren spoke of the man who wouldn’t miss their games, events, or a chance to hug and tell each one they were his favorite. Through tears, each grandchild stood with trembling knees to proclaim Ron the greatest of grandfathers and the amazing blessing he was in their lives. Their love spilled through the church as an emotional wave crashing into the hearts of those who listened.

By the time it was over, there wasn’t a dry eye among those attending. The deep love so many had for this man was the greatest measure of his life.

I learned a lot sitting in the church pew last Sunday. I know that a good life is measured when we put love above all else in the years we live. In doing so, we leave a legacy that will continue long after we return to dust.

The degrees we earn, the money we make, and the good deeds we do, don’t hold a candle to the love we spread to those cherished souls who accompany us through life. When the battles become difficult for each of us will we still “be there” for others?

Will we be remembered as one who danced to life, waved at the world, walked with God and left cherished memories?

Ron loved the Lord, so there is no question he is dancing in Heaven, but we sure will miss the lovely music the Dancing Bear provided many while living just two doors down.