A Celebration of Life
September 25, 2010 -- Glenn A. Weaver
"You see a young man who recognized the presence of a greater meaning in our lives..Todd chose his path with clarity and presence of mind."
Regardless of what we have accomplished in life, and in spite of our best intentions, we are reminded daily that there is very little we actually control in this world, and even less that we truly understand. We too often press through life believing that we alone are able to reach our dreams and aspirations. Where does this leave us when tragedy strikes? If we rely solely on our own strength, how can we possibly comprehend September 9, 2010, the day I lost my younger brother, Todd? A day that forever changed my life and the lives of so many who knew and loved him.
We learn from David in the book of Psalms that our lives are like a breath of air. Our days are like a passing shadow. Todd’s short life was just that, a mere twenty-six years in a sea of eternity. James reminds us that life is much like the morning fog, here for a little while, then gone. Just a few short months ago, I saw my brother for the very last time on this earth. While we can’t possibly understand why Todd was lost at such a young age, and under such unexpected and painful circumstances, we can rest knowing that he lived his life as David and James would have counseled. He lived each day committed to making the very most of his short time on this earth. Todd understood that because life is short, he had to live purposefully. He knew what it meant to live a life with lasting value.
Let me share with you a few things that Todd would not have considered his calling; and forgive me if this resonates only with family. Todd would not have worked for the Otis Elevator Company. I remember being trapped between floors with my parents and Todd in an archaic elevator in Buenos Aires. Thanks to Todd’s brute force, we managed to pry the doors apart and hoist my mother four feet up to the third floor landing before she lapsed into claustrophobic shock. Todd would not have designed fireworks shows. I remember a New Years Eve in Montevideo when he set off a bottle rocket without the bottle. We were amazed watching this rocket struggling to take flight thanks to Todd’s decision to stick it deep in the sand, and then shocked to watch this aerial firework practically burst in our laps in blazing color. Todd would not have been a golf caddy. I remember late one night in Hampton when he managed to flip a golf cart on the beach near my parent’s home. We were puzzled the next morning to find the cart parked neatly in the garage with its roof and frame bent 25 degrees off center. Finally, Todd would not have worked for the Center for Disease Control. His paranoia over his sister’s germs was off the charts.
Todd lived for a higher purpose. My younger brother, Todd, a star in high school athletics, an accomplished scholar in college, an Airborne Ranger, an infantry platoon leader, a devoted husband and father, consciously decided to risk everything because he was called to live a purposeful life. My younger brother, Todd, enlisted in the Army after September 11, 2001 knowing full well that he would play a role in taking the fight to the enemy. My younger brother, Todd, served honorably in the Iraq war and quietly experienced the horrendous loss we all now feel as his close friends perished in that conflict. My younger brother, Todd, having returned safely from war, decided that his commitment to our great nation was not yet fulfilled. He voluntarily returned to the fight as a commissioned officer just a few months ago. In one of his last messages home, he described the miseries of living at his forward outpost without even the most basic necessities. He hoped to have gravel delivered to that base in the near future so the men under his charge could at least control the dust and stay reasonably healthy. My younger brother, Todd, chose to leave his family, and all of the comforts we too often take for granted, to ensure that those who mean us harm are kept far from our shores. My younger brother, Todd, having been appointed Executive Officer of an infantry company in one of the most respected units in the United States Army, willingly accepted the call to lead a struggling field artillery platoon. This was a job that lesser men may have considered a step back in their careers. A job that would literally put him in harms way on a daily basis, and a job that would keep him from what few comforts our soldiers overseas occasionally enjoy. This was the job that eventually took him on a night patrol leading his platoon against the enemy on September 9, 2010.
What drives such a man? I’ve quietly asked myself many times over the past two weeks if I could have mustered the determination to do what my younger brother did in the last few years of his short life. Like all of us, Todd had his share of faults, but something deep inside my younger brother’s soul drove him to choose the most difficult path every time. With due respect to my new friend, Captain Hinds, I branded aviation to stay out of the mud and dust. With due respect to President Reveley, I was lucky to graduated from William and Mary with a 2.3. And with due respect to all of Todd’s coaches and teammates, my ankle-biter football team in Reston lost every single game of the 1982 season. Todd may have been my younger brother; but I certainly looked up to him.
Todd was indeed a remarkable young man, a man driven to commitment and purpose, not for selfish pride or personal gain; but simply because it was the right thing to do, and because it was hard. At an early age he had already adopted many of William Bennett’s famous virtues. One of his favorite sayings was ‘no whining’. There is no more appropriate quote for a man who tackles Ranger School with a bum knee and tells his family he’s in good spirits despite not showering for over three weeks. Drive on Soldier.
Yet, when you look beyond the tangibles, you see a young man who recognized the presence of a greater meaning in our lives. I am convinced beyond any doubt that Todd chose his path with clarity and presence of mind. Knowing full well the risks and dangers he faced. He did this not for any earthly glory or self-gratification; but because he sincerely felt this was his calling and duty. He could have chosen so many other paths; yet he remained dedicated to serving our nation and protecting our freedoms until he left us for eternity with the Lord on September 9, 2010.
As painful as this loss is, I have found a measure of peace knowing my younger brother is present with our Lord this day. Todd and I only recently shared our faith with each other. We talked at length about the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, a gift readily available to all who ask Jesus in his heart. He shared this with me soon after his wedding. How grateful I am that Todd found his way to the Lord and is now living with Him in glorious eternity. We miss Todd terribly; but rest assured that he left this broken and troubled world for an indescribably joyous new life in Heaven.
Kathy, a close friend of ours, sent us her thoughts a few days ago in a card that struck a deep chord. Rather than offer condolences, she praised my family for being faithful to Todd. She assured all of us that Todd awaits us in the presence of Jesus. How wonderful to receive such validation of our faith during such a difficult time. It helped me to remember that Todd no longer needs our prayers. He is in the presence of the Lord.
So how do we best honor Todd? There are many things we can and should do. We can and should fly our nation’s flag in honor of Todd. We can and should remember him on Veterans Day and regularly visit his final resting place at Arlington. We can and should strive to create a legacy honoring him, be it public or private. We can and should stand by Emma, Kiley and my parents as they navigate the months and years ahead. We can and should pray for his brothers in arms who remain in harms way. We can and should reflect on the peace and security we daily enjoy thanks to Todd’s sacrifice. All of this is good.
What matters most, however, is eternity. The very best way to honor Todd is to honor God. By living each day committed to His purpose for our lives we not only honor my younger brother, but also find true peace and comfort in the midst of tragedy and brokenness. We learn in Lamentations of the hope we can all have in the Lord’s faithfulness. “The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.” I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: “The unfailing love of the Lord never ends. By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, the Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him.” May the Lord bless and keep each one of you.