Sunday, January 5, 2014

Compassion Is More Than a Feeling

Neil Roger Beidler
When Daddy died on December 22, 2013, , I went into a tailspin. There were details to be managed, and arrangements to be made.   How fast could I get there?  What about Christmas?  How was I going to afford this?  Could someone pick me up at the airport, and save me the cost of a rental car?  Where would I stay? 

Worrying is so wasteful of our life’s precious moments.  I should’ve known things would work out for us all.  So many details fell into place as family friends stepped up to offer assistance.  I learned so much from them about compassionate service. Compassion is more than a feeling; it is a selfless act of service.
How many times have I offered a sincere “if you need ANYTHING…” to those who have lost a loved one?  I have been at a loss sometimes as to what to do, and I do hope they will ask for my help, but now that we’ve experienced being on the receiving end of compassion, I realize how awkward the asking can be.  Offering a general availability is nice, but offering a solid, concrete act of service means even more.  And that is just what our dearest friends did for us.  They saw a need, and they met that need with graciousness, and love.

“Where are you flying into, and when can I pick you up?” (A dear high school girlfriend.)
Thank you all for being there for me...the ride from the airport, the Saturday morning diversion, the lovely accommodations...All of it touched me more than you can know.

“My home is open to you, if you need a place to stay.” (My favorite teacher offered her master bedroom to us, and a friend of Daddy's offered her home to my brother's family)

 “Your daddy’s church is quite small.  Please feel free to use the Catholic Church, it will accommodate the crowd that is sure to come to his funeral.” (Daddy’s neighbors)
Thank you for adopting our dad as your own father and grandfather.  You were so important to him. I heard about you and your selfless acts of service nearly every time I called home.  We love you for loving Daddy the way you did.
"Don't worry about a thing.  We'll take care of the luncheon."  (Wonderful friends from Dad's and Jackie's churches, and from the community.)
We are all so grateful for your friendship, and your tireless efforts to support us.

"What can we do to help?  We'll help you get things ready for your Daddy's service." (Our lifelong friends, the Jennings, who also invited us over the day after the Dad's celebration of life to enjoy looking at their photo albums that are full of pictures of our dad and us.)
Daddy would be so grateful for your service to us at this time.

“We’re going for a bike ride tomorrow.  Meet us at 8:30 at the trail head; we’ll bring a bike, a helmet, and a water bottle for you.” (My best friend since junior high, who understood how much I needed a break from the crying)
I have learned so much from you, Sweet Friend.  Your friendship has sustained me through some of my darkest hours.
People came out of the woodwork, with trays and trays of food.  There were homemade ham biscuits a-plenty, fruit trays, meat and cheese platters, homemade quick breads, paper products so we wouldn’t have to wash dishes, coffee, creamer, sugar.  We would not go hungry, or be bothered with the worry of what to fix for our family.  

I wish I had a picture of the Kilgores, but I will settle for the cake June so lovingly prepared for us. Paul was the first responder on the scene.  Although he is my age, he and Daddy have been colleagues for years. He is the mayor of the town of Amherst, a position Dad held twice.  We thank June and Paul for the huge support they have been.
The “I’m so sorry”s and the sweet words of comfort joined together in my heart to make a resounding a cappella choir singing sweet words of peace that soothed my troubled thoughts.  If I have learned anything from our friends during this, it is that we should always take the time to express our sympathies, for one small voice may not make that big of a difference, but when one voice joins the others, the song builds, and swells, and provides solace where before there was only emptiness and pain.
Natalie's godparents, the Thomases, were some of the first people to extend a hand of fellowship.  Bill's tribute to Daddy extolled his public virtues, and exposed his sense of humor and human side.
People came from everywhere.  People from town.  The mayor.  The sheriff.  The members of the churches.  Old friends.  Daddy's high school classmates.  My bus driver from when I was in fourth grade (who turned out to be Natalie's bus driver many years later). My kindergarten teacher. My junior high teachers.  And the one that affected us the most:  our dad's high school teacher, Miss Orlich, also known as Diamond Lil. She is 85 years old, and still working to this day, now as a guidance counselor at a high school in Manassas.
What a tribute to our dad to have his high school teacher Miss Orlich attend his memorial service.

If I had all of the addresses, if I could remember every single solitary thing each of you did for us, I would write you a heartfelt note of gratitude.  I hope you will accept this as my thank you.  We will always be grateful for the prayers offered on our behalf, and the expressions of love that came to us in the form of whispered words of encouragement, messages on Facebook, cards that came in the mail, and the floral arrangements that brightened our home.  I had always thought I would feel crazy from the grief of losing a parent, but I learned that with the support of so many loved ones, the pain is tempered, and the burden is lifted, so that what I actually experienced were peace, and the bittersweet joy of remembering Daddy with fondness.  
Thank you.  Reliving the memories kept me feeling sane.

Mrs. Farris, I can still pick you up!!!  My kindergarten teacher.  And yes, I carried her around the room when she told me I couldn't pick her up.

Mrs. Weimer instilled in me a love for words and their meaning.

High school classmates, Martha and Mable, brought Dad's high school teacher to the celebration.  Look at the twinkle in those eyes!

I loved seeing the smile of recognition in Mrs. Hughes' face.  She was not only
MY bus driver, but Natalie's as well, many years later.

Our M & Ms.  Miss Marsha Honey and Miss Martha.  My favorite teacher with the wife of my dad's best friend.

Eric HAD to have a picture with Diamond Lil.

Father Poff offered such comfort in his well-chosen words, and positive outlook.

Dad's life partner and business partner console each other.

The friend who has known me longest...Karen.


  1. Dear Denise, It sounds like your father was a blessing to all those who knew him! You have good genes, girl. Do what he did and he will carry on. Hugs!

    1. I hope to follow his example of compassionate service even more. During his memorial service, I realized we are more alike than I knew. I love that man so much. I still can't really believe he is gone. Today I have planned nothing; I have released all expectations, and I am open to the possibilities the universe has to offer me.


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