Remembering Ron Anderson

*This is the eulogy I gave at Ron’s memorial service last August.*

My beginning of Ron, 18 years ago, is really no different than any other Academy Students beginning with Ron. I was 10 years old. I was standing in the lobby. I was feeling awfully alone and inadequate because EVERYONE else had a gray t-shirt except for me. And this tall guy with a cup of coffee in one hand, a notebook in the other, and a pencil behind one big ear walked up to me and said “Hi, my name’s Ron. What’s yours?” I was pretty hooked on him from then on. One of the reasons I believe that there are thousands of children who love Ron so dearly is because he didn’t believe that just because we were children that should render us meaningless. He treated us with respect and expected great things. In return, he is respected and in so many ways, we were able to meet his expectations of us.

I can’t tell you everything I love about him because that would take…18 years. At least. But we have had our defining moments. The academy years, the college years, he stopped me from making a pretty life altering mistake, he hired me, he fired me, he taught me how to make coffee (2 filters…1 would be blasphemy), he bought me coffee, I bought him coffee, there was pizza, there was crinkle (ask somebody from Wisconsin to explain to one to you, we have natives in the house…), there was West Wing, there were classic movies, there were chats by the fire, there were late night texts and early morning texts, there were political discussions, there were theological discussions, there was Waffle House, there was the Triade (we can’t really talk about that one…think “Fight Club”), there was laughter, there were tears, and there was love.

Ron Anderson saved my from myself. He loved me. For me. He encouraged me. He told me hard things. He gave me tough love. He made me feel like I could conquer the world. He taught me that plans are overrated. He taught me to trust myself. He taught me how to focus, how to enthusiastically BE, to always strive to improve, to be a team player, and to be the most outstanding version of myself. In every part of my life, I have sought his advice and council. We haven’t always agreed, but he never once judged me or my choices.

Can you hear yourself in those words? My guess is yes, you can. Because, again, my story is really no different from anyone else’s. And that is the magic of Ronald Harry Anderson. He has this knack for making you feel as if you are the most important person in the room. He is a builder of confidence, of courage, and of the ability to fail with pride…because at least you TRIED.

The last two years were a long goodbye. A time of really living life in a way that was full of joy, intention, and purpose. Ron taught us how to live each and every day of his precious 64 years on this earth and in the process, he taught us to live without him.

As an adult, I have realized Ron taught me two very important life skills that eluded me until recently. First, he taught me how to be married. Sometimes, as a Springer kid, I think we forget he is married. He has a family a part from us. And as I have had the incredible privilege and joy of watching Ron and Debbie as couple, I realize so much of my marriage, the independent nature of mine and my husband’s relationship, the mutual respect for each other’s craft and career, for our respective friend groups, and for each other is something that I very much learned from watching Ron and Debbie. They have taught me how to be married without losing myself and I am forever grateful.

Second, Ron taught me how to be a parent. There are times when I am pretty sure I ask my 4 year old, Sally, too many questions. I heard myself ask her the other day how I could help her be more successful in listening to me…then I had to explain the word successful. The important part of that story is that he taught me to talk it out, to listen, to allow for conversation to happen in the correction and discipline portion of parenting. One of the last conversations Ron and I were able to have this week involved him telling me that I could never disappoint him, no matter what. I already knew that. But only because he lived life with me in such a way that no words were needed. If I am able, on even half the level of Ron Anderson, to live life with my family in that way, I’ll at least be on the right track.

I want to make sure that I say this, that in all my rememberings and lessons of Ron, that I don’t forget to tell you…there is no right or wrong way to do THIS. This grieving, this process of finding a new normal. Everyone is unique. For me, I am sad. So sad. I feel a void. A hole. There is a part of me that feels empty in a way that cannot be filled. I miss him already. I love this. This gathering of our Springer family. But it may feel different for you and you may feel the need for space. And that’s ok too. There is no right or wrong way. It’s important to remember that in this community of the Springer, in this family, there is always someone to reach out to, and I hope you will do that when it is the right time for you.

In every aspect of your life, I challenge you remember the story Ron shared of two little girls who went from sharing the starring role on this stage, to working backstage next door. When asked in a “talkback” what was different about having a starring role verses working backstage, my sweet sister, Caroline, responded with “Nothing. In both roles, we do our work well and treat people nicely.” So, be kind and do your work well. Those are the life skills through stage skills that Mr. Ron so diligently worked to impart to each of us every day.

I’ll leave you with this poem by Dylan Thomas.

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

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