Donald Atwood Kimball


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Eulogy for Don Kimball at his graveside service on July 9, 1991 by Reverend Richard M. Fewkes, First Parish Unitarian-Universalist, Norwell, Massachusetts.

With all of you I am bewildered by this death. I am angry. I am distraught. I am stunned. I am enraged., I am trying to make my peace with something that did not have to be, but has nonetheless come to pass, and with you I stand by the grave of your loved one helpless to undo what has been done. I call to mind the simple and profound prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr: O God, give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. And I would add, give us compassion, compassion for Don whose inner pain and despair drove him to take his life by his own hand, compassion for ourselves and one another, that we might be more attentive to each other's needs for love and forgiveness, and give us patience with our grief and tears, and help us to stick by one another in these difficult times, till the peace that passes understanding comes to bless us with its grace and strength, however long or short the struggle.

With you I ask the questions that have no real answers. Don, how could you do this to yourself and to those you love after having seen and felt what your own son's self-undoing did to friends and family? You were 60 years too young to die. You were still needed and loved even though you were burdened with bills and financial worries. Didn't you know that financial worries were not worth the sacrifice of your irreplaceable role as a father, grandfather, husband and friend. Why didn't you seek help? Why did you keep it all bottled up inside? Grief shared is always a little easier to bear. Why didn't you share it? You sat at the kitchen table, looking at pictures of your dead son, and your living daughter and grandchild. Why did you choose to join your son in death rather than to give yourself to the life of those who were still living and needed you so desperately? These are the questions I would ask you, Don. I don't know why you chose death over life except that the pain was so great and your sense of personal worth was so low that you were unable to choose the gift of life that was there before your eyes and still within you if only you could have seen it and believed in it.

I said to Karen and I would say to all of you, no matter what has happened to Don, know that you are needed, needed by the living, needed by your mother and brothers, daughter and grandchild, nieces and nephews, friends and companions, church and minister. You are all needed and loved and precious beyond words. Don't you dare forget it. This insanity of senseless and needless deaths and the wounding of those we love and who need us has got to stop with this death. If Don has taught us anything it is that life is for the living, while we have the gift, no matter how painful it may be, and we must turn to one another for strength and support, and carry on with courage, hope and determination as God gives us the strength to do so.

We cannot help but be enthralled by Don's death as we were by Ben's, but I would ask you to pray for the strength to be disenthralled, and to remember Don's human gifts and loving qualities as a father and grandfather, husband and friend. He loved fishing and photography and once had the best collection of music and jazz which anyone could ask for. He loved his buddies, in the B.D.A., the Blue Dun Anglers, and weaved his own nets. Casting a line out into a quiet lake was the next best thing to paradise. He enjoyed playing games with young people, especially a good game of Monopoly, which he continued to do with Ben's friends even after Ben's death. He did not stop to think that they too will be pained by his death as much as they were by Ben's death. And let us not forget, that in spite of his psychic pain and bewilderment, he loved his family, especially his daughter and granddaughter. They were the last things on his mind before he took leave of this world. And let us remember that even the pain he felt as he contemplated taking his own life, was a pain borne out of love, the love of a father for son. Knowing this, may we find a way to forgive him, and pray that he is at peace.

Don got lost in a dark thicket somewhere in the depths of his own soul. He couldn't find the strength to affirm life in the face of pain and loss. We must find the strength to do so for him and for ourselves. We must choose life, and we must do so with conscious intent, and we must resolve here and now, that we shall never permit the tragic death of a son and then a father, to take away the precious gift of life that is still ours for the living. Each one of you is loved and needed and precious beyond words. Don't ever forget it. Beneath the pain and suffering of life there is a well of compassion and peace at the center of the soul, just as there is calm at the center of storm. Believe it, it is so, and someday you will know it. To know it you must live and love and endure.

Dear God, it is so hard to say goodbye to those we love, especially when we know that their lives were still worth living. Help us little by little, day by day, to let go and let be, to do the work of grief and to return to the land of the living. Whether it takes months or years, give us the resolve to bless one another, to love one another, and to forgive one another our lapses of pain and anger and anguish as we struggle to make sense of our lives once again. Bless our loving companion, Don, as he wends his way home to thee. May he rest in the bosom of nature and be forever at peace in the beauty of the earth. Amen