Wednesday, September 19, 2012

{a life well lived}

I'll miss you daddy.


On September 4th at 6:45am my dad left this world and passed on into eternity with our family, my mom and my sister and her husband by his side. After nine months of battling autoimmune hepatitis, and all of the troubles that come along with having a weak immune system he is finally at rest. I am really struggling for the words to share about how much I loved my dad and just what an amazing man he was... I will miss him everyday. I included the eulogy Stan wrote for his funeral at the end of this post... since it summed up so well the heart of my dad.

my dad the four of us kids on his back

"Pa" and my girls






my parents with all of their grandkids

dad & me

The eulogy Stan wrote for my dad's funeral.

Eulogy of David Little Rusk

Friends, thank you for joining my family in celebration of the life and passing into eternal life of David Little Rusk IV.

St. Paul tells us, “ live is Christ, and to die is gain.” That sounds like a win, win situation to me; and Dave’s soul was prepared for either situation. For, to Dave Christ was HERE (point to heart) HERE (point to the people) HERE (point to the tabernacle) and HERE (point to heaven).

The good news for us Christians is that we don’t have to die to experience Christ, but death is more like a finish line at the end of a race. However, those of us who knew Dave must still work through the loss of one of God’s special creations. G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The only way to truly love something is to realize that it could be lost.”

On the morning of Tuesday the 4th after the medical staff had done all they could and left the room, the machines were turned off and the sheet was gently pulled over his head; physical peace had finally come to a man who had suffered greatly over the period of about nine months. The silence was both sweet and sorrowful as our family gathered around him in tears, shocked that he was gone but thankful his suffering was over. As I drank in the scene and I realized that he had passed on, I knew in my heart of hearts that I truly loved this man.

I have had the honor of being his son-in-law, although he would leave the “in-law” part out. He treated me and referred to me as his own son. He was a father, a mentor and a friend to me and I will truly miss him.

When my beautiful wife asked me to write a eulogy for her daddy, I was honored, scared and overwhelmed at the thought of this task.

Honored, because Dave was a great man and highly respected by many people;

scared, because I knew this task involved public speaking, and you and I know, it is easier to criticize and ignore a public speaker than it is to be a public speaker;

and overwhelmed, because Dave touched so many lives and was so much to so many people, how was I to go about encompassing our experience with him and the person he was?

Then something occurred to me as I listened to the stories and experiences of other people and that is, Dave treated everyone the same. That is, he treated everyone with respect, dignity, reverence and love. In light of this, I realized I could speak to my own experience with Dave and everyone would be able to relate.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

These are the inspired words of St. Paul to the Galatian Church penned some 2,000 years ago for the purpose of guiding a group of people that was struggling to find Christ in the midst of false doctrines and worldly philosophies. These words were also written to Dave when about forty years ago he finally found the name of what he was searching for among the present day false doctrines and worldly philosophies; and that name was Jesus Christ!

Those of us who knew Dave, knew that his quest for Christ was second to nothing in his life. For Dave, being close to Christ was not enough; for in order for something to be close to something else, it must by definition remain separate. Like the old saying goes, “close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades.” No, close was not good enough for Dave, his quest was to become part of Christ; to die to himself and live anew as Christ! I think he really captured this concept in a poem he wrote back in 1997 entitled, “Half Crucified”

Half Crucified

Cleanse all my darkness
Kill all my pride.
I’m hanging by one hand
Half crucified
I want to do something
With the hand that is free
But you want it nailed
To your blood-stained tree.

Cleanse all my darkness
Kill all my pride.
Pierce my hands and my feet
And even my side
I want to do nothing
With this body of sin
But to hang here and die
And arise from within.

Dave fell in love with the Body of Christ! St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Church at Ephesus that the Church is at once the bride and the body of Christ. Take a look at the person sitting next to you. What do you see? A friend, family member, stranger, enemy, or just another warm body in the pew? Dave had a gift of being able to look into the soul of people and see Christ staring back at him. He found value in every person.

He invited my daughters to go to work with him one night so they could see what “Pa does” with his time. He was an engineer at Stephen's hospital and he dealt with a lot of cool stuff; boilers, sterilizers, ventilation systems and the like; but the impression my daughters were left with regarding, “Pa’s work” was that everybody knew him. He took the time to get to know everyone from the nurses to the cooks to janitors and valued them all equally. The nurses in labor and delivery knew him as the guy who walked out of the elevator in scrubs with salad spoons just to brighten up their night. He would volunteer to take the 4th of July shift so he could set up chairs on the hospital roof and sneak employees up to watch the fireworks. He worked hard to spread life and joy in a place that was in desperate need of life and joy. He was an expert at the technical aspects of his job but his co-workers remember him as being an expert at humanity.

St. Mark records these words of our Lord Jesus, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Dave had a light heart filled with laughter, play and wonder. A man able to look at God and his creation through the eyes of a child, being content and inspired by the mystery it invokes and asking questions about how such a thing is possible; “why God, did you make the sky blue and frogs jumpy, and a snowflake so beautiful, complex and unique; only to melt shortly after it’s creation?” He was not weighed down by worldly matters but soared in a world of imagination and wonder. Dave is the only person I know who actually passed out because he was laughing so hard. His laughter was explosive and contagious. We rarely saw the whites of his eyes because they were constantly smiling and his face always looked as though it were ready to erupt into laughter or beam radiantly with joy in an almost frightful zeal for life.

His love of books and study was not born out of weighty intellectualism, that is knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but rather a light hearted inquisitive spirit, eager to see Christ, Lord and Creator, in all things. So the character of a child is lightness and innocence which seems to be the very character of Christ; for our Lord tells us, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” So perhaps our Lord was telling us that we need to become like him to enter the Kingdom of heaven; and the example He gave us to follow was our children. To Dave, becoming ‘child-like’ was to find fun in everything and every situation, water fights (sometimes in the house), practical jokes (the more practical the better), and living in the present moment and loving his Lord through those around him. In fact, I can’t remember Dave ever being down, the only complaint I heard was, “Stan, if this sickness of my could materialize, I would kick the living...” well, some things should not be said in church, but you get the point!

He is remembered by stories of taking his kids to the beach to see a tidal wave; giving his young children pocket knives and teaching them to whittle; building elaborate structures in his house so his children could have their own rooms; putting up ridiculously large Christmas trees while trying to maintain his Christian witness and then disposing of the tree by feeding it inch by inch into the fireplace; befriending those who all others had given up on and sticking with them through to the end; books, books, and more books...speaking of books, did you know that Dave struggled as a kid with learning how to read? I have always likened it to Einstein flunking math! When he told me about his struggles there was no bitterness at all. In fact, he considered it a gift. He told me, “Stan, those who learn to read without any struggles take it for granted; but because of my struggle, I will treat every word I read as a gift from God.”

When Dave first fell sick in January, he was reflecting on his life and final outcome. He shared these words with me while I was still overseas on deployment.

Inside the Incredible
Come with me! Step across the threshold of faith, into the human soul…

…inside the incredible!

It is an entire realm belonging to the King of Kings. It is the home of God.
He is its Architect and has designed it for Himself and His Love.

It is an inner Paradise which mystically contains the Garden of Eden, the Passover, the Path through the Red Sea, the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon’s Temple, the womb of Mary, the Mount of the Transfiguration, the Upper Room of the Last Supper, the Resurrection, and the Throne of God. Our soul is where the Bride loves her Lord and they drink-in the “Oneness” of “First Love.”

It is the Realm of Light where the children of God bathe in the Rivers of Living Water, eat from the Tree of Life, and embrace the Cross. From these sources (within their Lord), they gather gold, silver, and precious stones. It is an interior creation, comprised of spiritual ecosystems within its vast, expansive chambers. Here are found the treasures of peace, new beginnings, healings and…the way Home. Here is that “Promised Land” filled with Divine graces hanging like ripened fruit from branches abiding in the Vine, and falling as Bread from heaven. It is the most desired place in the universe since it contains the very Presence of God.

It is a place of unimaginable capacities…possessing the potential of entering the Oneness of the Trinity and participating in the Love-Exchange between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The soul is destined to merge with Divine Life and surrender to the ecstasies of Divine Love. Indwelled by Christ, encompassed by the Father and empowered by the Spirit.

The dignity of the soul is staggering…it is the very Holy of Holies where God has chosen to live.

In this Castle of Honor, His Excellency has taken up residence…and though He is infinitely pure, He rushes into even the most damaged soul and promises His Whole Heart. The soul is the very Destination of His Love. His Prize, His Splendid Jewel whom He has elevated from the valleys of earth to the mountains of Heaven…inviting it to ascend with Him, ever higher, into the Eternal Embrace of His Radiant Love!

By Dave Rusk

As I conclude I would like to leave you with these final thoughts which are perhaps the most difficult yet profound thoughts regarding Dave’s life. These are the words of our Lord as recorded by St. John in his gospel during Jesus’ high priestly prayer, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” Dave realized in a profound sense, that the body of Christ is ONE. He followed his Lord to a place that required a tremendous sacrifice in his life. The gospels tell us that to follow Christ we have to be willing to part with everything we hold dear. St. Luke records a parable of Jesus’ describing the Kingdom of heaven as being like a field with a buried treasure or a merchant finding a great pearl and selling everything they had to obtain their treasure. Dave had to walk away from family and friends to follow Christ into the Catholic Church in complete obedience to him. This broke Dave’s heart and was misunderstood by many. When Dave first became ill he shared with me a prayer he had for his family to be united again. He told me that God was going to answer his prayer but the cost would be high. God did answer his prayer; Dave’s family is united; but God took it to the next level. It occurred to me, as I watched a steady stream of Christians walking in and out of my house from our parish and Cederhome, setting aside their differences and working together to tend to hurting members of the Body of Christ; and as I look around this room I know that God truly answered Dave’s prayer, and united his family!

Farewell my friend, our thoughts and prayers are with you as you journey into the arms of our Lord.


Dawn Morgan said...


I am so sorry for the loss of your father. He seems like he was a wonderful man. I too lost my Dad when he was just 60 years old. Seems so unfair. The only thing that is comforting is knowing he is up in heaven with our Lord and I will see him again. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I know we don't "know" each other in the normal sense but I have always enjoyed your posts and talent. I have especially enjoyed your pictures as you know. The one thing I have always enjoyed was the LOVE in your photos.

I understand your pain... My dad died when I was five years old. So, I'm a bit jealous of your memories, your treasures.

Most people think Heaven will be filled with treasures, while that is true I know God gave us treasures here on earth. And you and your family were obviously blessed with an absolute gem. Hold on to those memories, speak them often, and know that some wonderful day you will all be together again.

With thoughts and prayers,

Rebecca Foley

P.S. Props to Stan... He did a great job.

Leonie said...

Beautiful, may he rest in peace, & you & your family find peace in your memories of him.

AJ said...

Dear Noel,

What a beautiful eulogy Stan wrote. I have tears in my eyes. I am continuing to keep you and your family close to my heart in prayer. I hope you can feel it.

Amanda J.

Michelle said...

Oh Noel, I am so so sorry!!! I know from reading your blog posts these past few years how much you love your dad!! Thinking of you and your family. {{{hugs}}}

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Stan. Wow.

love you, Ro.

Sylvie said...

So sorry to hear the loss of your dad! This is a very sad and sensitive moment. I never know what to say when something like this happens. I wish I had the gift of saying the right things.

My dad passed away nine months ago and it was totally unexpected so we didn't have time to say goodbye. I still think about him every day and it is still hard at times.

I do want to offer you and your family my sincere condolences and all the strength in the world to get through this. If you have good friends and family around you, it will help.

You have my sympathy. Sylvie

Michele said...

We do not know each other, but I have followed and admired your work. I have been checking in to see how your family is doing and am very saddened to hear of your Dad's passing. Way too young, was my first thought. I lost my Mom when she was 65, just 7 months after having my first daughter. My grief over losing my Mom was intensified by the feeling of being cheated out of a grandmother for my child. Eight years later and that feeling still weighs heavily on my heart. I hope that your girls can treasure their memories with the grandfather.

Prayers for all of you. May God bless and keep you.

Emily S said...

So sorry to hear this sad news, Noel. I pray blessings over you and your family in this very difficult time. Much love!

Emily Straw

Anonymous said...

My sympathy to you and your family.

Things I've admired about you and your family from reading your blog and admiring your work have been love of God, love of family, and a sense of humor. I hope they will help get you through this difficult time.

--Marilyn, Northern VA

Cindi said...

God bless you and your family. I lost my husband in January and can relate to your pain.

Dragonmyst said...

Hi Noel, uhm, Ester here, dunno if you remember me, distant cousin. Heard about your father via Aunt Florence. I am soooo sorry. Mom (Robin) was very fond of him and when I told her, and sent her the link to your blog, she was deeply saddened.

I hope you folks are hanging in there. Prayers for all of you. Take care. {{{hugs}}}

Chark said...

no words are good but how lucky you were to have him in your life...and how lucky he was to have you and your family. I can see how much your parents loved each other and what a blessing it was that they found each other, fell in love, married and had a family...hugs to the girls for their loss and to you and your whole family.


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