Ian’s parents have given me permission to share this eulogy I delivered at the memorial service for my nephew, Ian, a few weeks ago.
I want to tell you some of the things I loved about Ian. First of all, I remember the way he hugged me when we said good-bye to each other and I told him I loved him. And the way when he got older he’d say, “Love you too” in that deep voice.
I loved his smile. He had this infectious smile. We have a picture of him holding his son Aiden when Aiden was just a few months old. Ian had that infectious smile on his face and all you can see of Aiden is the top of a little head in the crook of Ian’s arm—but the pride Ian felt in being the father of this little baby is written all over his face.
I loved the way Ian was a friend to my son. Ian was a year older, so he always seemed to be looking out for Daniel. And when his other cousins came into our lives, I remember Ian wrestling with them in the front yard of our house. Back then, Ian was the biggest of all of them, but even when all of them attacked him at once he put them all down in the grass very gently—probably because the adults were watching. But still.
Another thing I loved about Ian was his sense of humor. But sometimes he was a little mischievous. I remember when we had this big family gathering in Missouri. I think Ian was around ten or eleven years old. We had aunts, uncles, first, second, third cousins—whole generations of people, and we tried to take a picture of about 57 of us in one shot. You know how hard it is to get a good picture of that many people at once, even when everyone’s trying to help. So we took a whole bunch of pictures. Well, in every single one of them, Ian was making a face. He was either sticking his tongue out or crossing his eyes or something. To get a decent picture my cousin had to Photoshop Ian’s head out and paste one in where he had the smile we wanted.
Then there were his impersonations. He could do just about all the characters from Napoleon Dynamite. He had Kip down especially, which I think sort of bothered his dad. And he had this great Chris Farley impression. If you never saw Ian do that bit about “living in a van down by the river,” let me tell you, you really missed something. He used to make me laugh so hard I was in tears. And he knew it. That was one of his talents, and another thing I loved about him. He seemed to know what people liked. He could be the most charming guy you’d want to be around.
And I loved seeing the joy Ian brought to his parents and his grandparents. He was the oldest grandson my mom and dad had, and I know he loved spending time with them, and how much they loved him. A few years ago, Ian was with his grandparents in France to attend a wedding. You all know Ian didn’t speak French, right? But at one point during the festivities, there was laughter coming from the corner of the room where Ian was with his French cousins. Ian had them all cracking up with an Elvis impression. Now that’s a gift, when you can make people happy even though you don’t speak their language.
Everyone in this room knows that Ian had plenty of struggles when he got older. More than his fair share. When he was away at the Heritage School in Utah a few years ago I went and spent a couple hours with him. We talked about God and how Jesus Christ has the power to turn lives around, and what the Apostle Paul wrote about laying down bad things and taking up good things in their place. We talked about what Ian wanted for his life—what his plans were. And they had nothing to do with what’s brought us together here today.
Who knows what kind of life he would’ve had if he’d never been exposed to drugs? We’ll never know. Because he was exposed to drugs. If he had a weakness for them, the fact is, someone gave them to him.
A lot of us are angry today because Ian’s life ended too soon. I know I am. But if you’re angry, direct it at those who sell drugs, especially those who sell drugs to kids. And see if you can help anyone who’s fighting addiction, or fighting the drug trade.
But when we think of Ian, let’s try not to dwell on all that. Because Ian was so much more than that. Let’s remember how good a friend he was. How he wrestled with his cousins gently and made sure none of them got hurt. How good a nephew he was, the kind of son and grandson and father he was. Let’s remember the good days. How much he loved all of us, whether the days were good or bad. Let’s remember his laughter. The infectious smile. Even the way he ruined pictures with funny faces, and the way he made us laugh with his impersonations. Those are the things about Ian that deserve to be remembered. The things he would want us to remember.
He didn’t even live 21 years. But as long as I live, I’ll never forget the good days with him, and I’ll always love him. And I’ll never forget the way his deep voice said, “Love you too.” I hope you’ll remember that about him. That he loved you too.
If you’d like to make a donation to a fund we’ve established for care and education of Ian’s 18 month old son, Aiden, you can do that here.