The following is the eulogy I read at Derek’s funeral. There were 5 of us that got up and shared a bit about him and this was my portion.
Every one of us here this morning has a story to tell about Derek and it is my honour to share a bit about my little brother. Yes, even though he towered over me, he was still my little brother.
Derek was the youngest of three boys, and I’m sure the one to give my mom most of her grey hair. Whether he was blowing things up, burning things down, or otherwise causing mischief, Derek loved getting into trouble, though he was pretty good at doing those things and staying out of trouble as well. :)
As you all know, Derek was really tall. And to add to that, he was very skinny. We used to laugh and call him a giraffe, and when Tiffany told me that he once showed up at the airport to pick her up and he was dressed in a giraffe costume, it just fit.
We were looking at old photos the other night to find some for the slideshow, and there was a picture of him in his speedo and he is turning sideways and almost disappears. Growing up we were well aware of his allergies and I sometimes wondered how he survived with his asthma and allergies to everything from cigarette smoke to cats to nuts to dairy to eggs, and for the last few years a gluten intolerance. At one point he was approaching 160lbs and he was so proud of that fact. It was good that he was skinny though, because while taller, I was still stronger, and I needed to have something in order to maintain my big brother status.
Growing up, his allergies were a big part of our lives. We couldn’t eat in smoking restaurants or visit people with cats, and we had to be careful with food at home. Because of Derek being deathly allergic to nuts, we always used separate knives for our peanut butter and jam lest we contaminate it. It would happen occasionally and then we’d have to label the jam so he didn’t eat it. For years after moving out I would feel guilty whenever I used the same knife in each, and he just laughed at me when I told him.
Adding to my mom’s grey hairs was his attitude towards work. Growing up my parents said that it didn’t matter what we did for a living as long as it made us happy. Derek fully embodied that and worked hard to fulfill his ambition of one day becoming a guide. He worked long hours doing road construction in the summer to be able to afford to take various courses to pursue this dream. I was always amazed when he’d be working 12-14 hour days all week and still manage to go for a hike on his one day off. He worked so that he could pursue his passion, and didn’t seem fazed by the lack of security that came with it. His ambitions didn’t fit society’s expectations for building a career, but he pursued his ambitions with a passion that was enviable.
Along with the quote on the back of the memorial card, a favorite of his was the old English phrase, Wyrd bid ful araed. It came from a book by one of his favorite authors, Bernard Cornwell, and translated it means, fate remains wholly inexorable – that while our destiny is unchanging, we chose our path. It is a phrase he, Trevor, and I got tattooed on our arms a couple of years ago.
I am so proud of my little brother. He taught me so much about living life, about being happy, about smiling, about pursuing dreams. It’s totally messed up that he’s gone, but we will always have our memories of him. Our stories into which he is permanently intertwined.