Below is the full transcript of the eulogy given at the funeral service for my grandfather, Roger Royer, on 30 July, 2014.
On behalf of my entire family, I’d like to express how thankful we are for the show of sympathy we have experienced in these last few days. We are all here to say goodbye to someone special, and we’d like you all to know just how much your hellos mean to us during these trying times.
Roger Royer. That name has a different but equally special significance for each of us.
Dad. Brother. Husband. Friend. Grandfather. Great grandfather. Businessman. Dog lover. Scout leader. Musician. Outdoorsman. Snowbird. Devoted Catholic.
To me, he is and will forever be simply “grandpapa”.
Either by association or by the role he played in society, he was something special to all of us.
So it comes as no surprise that gatherings like these come with a conflict of overwhelming emotion. In these last few days, I’ve struggled with how to honour my grandfather in the very words I speak to you now.
On the one hand, our hearts are heavy, our eyes teary, and our minds ever so mindful of the memories we have of, and with, Roger. Our hearts tell us that today is a day of sadness.
On the other hand, our Christian faith, a belief to which my grandfather was ever so steadfast, tells us to rejoice, for his suffering and his pain have come to an end.
My grandfather was the undisputed king of our clan; the master of our household. He was there when someone needed him, never turning them away and always eager to share his wisdom and counsel. He provided for his family—as the breadwinner as well as a moral compass.
He was a very private person and the family was always foremost on his mind. I never once heard him complain about anything, not even as his health was failing. He didn’t want to trouble anyone; he didn’t want us to worry about him. In his mind, that was his job.
Men like my grandfather came from a different time and were cut from a different cloth. It’s what my generation would call “old-fashioned”.
For example, my grandfather struggled with expressing any form of affection. My mother, my aunts and uncle have always used the words “I love you” in family conversation, but my grandfather rarely ever did. After a while, I don’t think it mattered whether he said the words or not—he bypassed words and went straight to just loving us in his own way. Besides, my grandmother was a saintly woman who showed and expressed love for her family more than enough times to compensate.
As I think about this, there is an emerging pattern which, at least in my opinion, characterizes the predominant theme of Roger Royer’s life: duty.
Duty to his parents. Duty to his own family. Duty to his community. Duty to his clients. Duty to God.
My grandfather was a human success story in that he was a good-hearted, hard-working and dutiful person. He took over his father’s business and passed it on to his daughter. He gave back to his community, first as a Boy Scout and then as a Scout leader. He taught his children right from wrong and instilled in them his family values. He was a devoted Catholic. He was faithfully married for 50 years.
In honouring his commitments, in fulfilling his duty, he naturally treated himself to some of life’s pleasures. He enjoyed an early retirement and exercised his passions, music in particular. He spent the winter months in Florida. He bought motorcycles and motorhomes and loved his dogs with a child-like heart.
Moments spent with my grandfather were evermore precious for me, since I’ve spent the last 11 years living in Vancouver. I was fortunate to have a chance to see him a few months ago.
This past May, I spoke with my grandfather for what would be the last time. I admit that it was difficult for me, because since his mental health deteriorated, I didn’t really know what to talk about with him. It was difficult for me to watch him like that. I never visited him without having another family member close by, out of an abundance of caution. For me, there was no way of knowing whether or not he knew who I was, which was my chief concern in going to see him alone.
On that day in May, I went to visit with my mom, who that day had planned to talk with some of the staff at the Lodge. She saw who she had been targeting, told me to stay with my grandfather, and before I could utter a protest of self-doubt, she was gone.
It took a minute for me to come up with something to say. I, like my grandfather, can be reserved as well. Finally, I just turned to him and I said:
“I’m going to try learning to play the harmonica.”
His eyes fixated on me and he smiled, as if he forgot all about his failing health. He looked so proud that I had carried with me for all these years the same passion for playing music he so generously shared with me when I was a child. I had an ear for music—he took the time to help me develop it.
“There’s a trick to it.”, was his response. Unfortunately for me, his mind blanked and he never shared the secret to the harmonica.
My mom and my aunt reminded me last night of a time where both my grandfather and I, during a trip to Florida, jammed together on our own accordions. I regret to say I can’t remember it, but since I heard about this, I keep imagining how happy he would have been on that day, and how sorry I am we didn’t get to jam together in these last few years.
My grandfather fought to stay with us, and if I may be so bold, I don’t think he’d want us to be sad. I think he’d comfort us by reciting this biblical passage, from the Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy:
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8)
Many lessons can be learned from the life of such a good-hearted, dutiful person. The lessons we draw from his life, and whether we choose to learn them or not, will define my grandfather’s ultimate earthly legacy. This is the work that Roger leaves to us. This is as much my duty as it is yours. It is our collective duty as a family; it is the collective duty of all those whose lives were made better by my grandfather’s life.
I’d like to conclude this tribute by reciting this old Irish poem:
God saw you getting tired and a cure was not to be.
So He put His arms around you and whispered “come to me.”
With tearful eyes we watched you, and saw you pass away.
Although we loved you dearly, we could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands at rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us, He only takes the best.
God looked around His garden, and found an empty place.
He then looked down upon the earth, and saw your tired face.
So, today we see you from this world with a love that reaches you in the next. We remain to remember you, our patriarch, and love you as you did us, forever thankful that for these past 80 years, you were ours.
And when the day arrives for us to meet again, be assured of this: I will discover that trick; I will bring that harmonica… and we will jam once more to the song of saints and an audience of angels.