Sunday, March 4, 2012

Celebration of Life

I had never been to a funeral.  Okay, I had been to one funeral, but it was for Carl's grandmother who I had met one time and Carl and I had just started to date.  I had never been to a funeral for someone who meant a lot to me.

Ralph's funeral was a celebration of life.  It was simple, yet beautiful.  It was very much "Ralph".  Gia, Alana, Brittany, and I all spoke and us along with Cassandra, Lauren, and Stephanie were pall-bearers.  Our speeches were full of funny and loving memories of Ralph.  Most made us laugh, some made us cry, but anyone who didn't know Ralph would certainly realize that he meant a lot to us and was a big jokester.  We were so honored for Ralph's family to ask us to be a part of his service.  It meant a lot to all of us.

One of the hardest parts was seeing everyone cry, especially Ralph's granddaughters.  It broke all of our hearts.  I knew how much pain I felt and I couldn't imagine the pain that his family was feeling.  I know Ralph was there giving all of us one of his big bear hugs.

I find myself randomly thinking about him.  I think about all the memories from my teammates' speeches and they make me laugh.  I could picture each and every one of them.  Some I had forgotten about.

Some memories I don't want to forget (in addition to the ones listed in the previous post):
-His stories about how he met Eileen.  I had totally forgotten he used to tell us these until Gia talked about it.  It was always different how they met, but it was always the same ending.  He stole her from some man (or men) and married her.  I think it was part of his way of telling us how to find a great man.
-How we counted before saying our chant for the game: Ein, Trin, Bita.  He claimed it was German, but only "ein" is German (I looked it up... today).
-How we believed every story he ever told, until we got older and realized that some of his stories might actually be made up (like the counting above).
-How he always tried to grab our nose when we were upset.  It would annoy us so much that we would forget what we were upset about.
-Asking us if we "believed" before he did his magical healing.
-How he answered his phone.  "MMMMMM Hello?"  And then him asking, "Tiffany who?" and you having to argue with him that he does in fact know you.  This usually took about 5 minutes before you could ever start the actual conversation.
-We always got to play on field 13 at the soccer complex.  This is the very first field on the complex from the front entrance.  And Ralph always had a golf cart to ride around in. During "Atlantic/Rush" sponsored tournaments, we always had to clean the complex after the tournament was over.  I remember we would always beg him to let us drive the golf carts.  We were probably 16 before he actually ever let us drive one.
-Gia also reminded us of Ralph's typical attire for soccer games: white shoes, faded blue jeans, a white button up shirt, and his blue Cougar hat.
-During practices, he would make us make a circle and put two of us in the middle with one ball.  We would beat each other up (in a soccer sort of way) trying to keep the ball from the other person.  Soccer is a contact sport and Ralph taught us how to be tough.
-Ralph always pushed us to do more.  He always wanted me to continue on and get my PhD.  That, and to join the military.  He was constantly trying to recruit us.

Last night, I went out with Gia, Stephanie, Brittany, Cassandra, Lauren, and Alana.  It was great catching up.  We toasted to Ralph and relived so many memories.  We caught up on everything going on in our lives.  All of us are doing amazing things and Ralph is a huge part of our success.  I can't wait for another reunion, we have promised each other it won't take another 8 years.

Thanks Ralph for all the wonderful memories and giving your heart and soul to us and our future.  You were an amazing man and we are all very blessed to have had you in our lives.  Thank you Downey family for allowing us to be apart of his service.  We were all very honored to have been a part of his celebration of life.

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