I don't want anything from her now, just to say we gave him a great send off, from the fire truck that led the procession to how good he looked in Bengals jersey. Lot's of people commented on the eulogy I gave. And I feel it is appropriate to post it here. Time to get back to living, and I am doing so with the conviction that I will live without regrets.
As a teenager, Paul challenged many aspects of life. He didn’t fit in school and quit when he was 16, much to our mom’s chagrin. But he found his way to the fire house and Charlie Spreeter who took Paul under his wing. Paul discovered a sense discipline when he became a volunteer firefighter which fed something in him. Perhaps burning that hillside down and the aftermath had a lasting impression on Paul. To rescue became his ultimate goal.
He served in the Air Force with great pride, learning all aspects of firefighting in an airport setting. During Paul’s service he went from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany to Vietnam for a month to learn about putting out fires in war time. He returned home in 1976 with extensive knowledge that Charlie Spreeter recognized, then hiring Paul as a full time firefighter in Dayton.
While he began his career in Dayton’s Fire Department, he looked forward to quitting his job with a private ambulance company. However, on a beautiful June day, he transported a patient with epilepsy in full emergency mode when the driver of a garbage truck failed to hear the siren or see the lights flashing. At Fifth and Scott Streets in Covington, a B.F.I. truck broadsided the ambulance Paul drove and our family’s life changed that day.
In many ways, Paul died that on June 24, 1977, at least the old Paul, the one who fought in the Beverly Hills fire; the one who drove a red and black 66 GTO; the one who took his mom to the grocery; the one who loved his three year old daughter; the one who tried to protect his best to protect his little sister.
I can’t really eulogize Paul without talking about our mom. On the day of the accident, the doctor at Christ hospital told us that, if Paul survived, he would be a vegetable. Mom would have none of that. In a coma, tucked away in a corner room at the V.A. hospital, Paul had one daily visitor, her. I continue to believe that Mom brought him back to life. A physical therapist taught her how to move his legs and arms for him so that atrophy would not set in. She played the radio for him and talked to him as if he were able to respond. One day, while she groomed him, passing a comb near his mouth, Paul bit her. That day he was born again.
With extensive rehab and his faithful mother, Paul learned to walk, talk, feed himself, and move about the world with a fierce independence. When the funeral director suggested that Paul’s cremated remains could be buried with my mom. I put my head in my hands and said, “Oh that is so appropriate.”
Paul and Louise lived tightly woven lives. They were the like the buttons on a shirt.
I became much more involved in Paul’s life because of a phone call from a friend of his who helped Paul when he was being kicked out of his apartment years after my mom died. Paul would need assistance and his friend found Bridgeway Pointe and me.
Brain damage is a tricky thing. The personality can remain while the body deteriorates. Paul fiercely held to his independence, even in the face of his rapidly aging body. From assisted living to a skilled care facility, Paul made the ultimate decision for himself. Because he had been in a coma, he had scar tissue from a tracheotomy that caused a weakening of the throat muscles. He was advised to stop eating and use a feeding tube. It was installed and in true Paul fashion, he promptly started stealing food from other people. I became his Power of Attorney, and wanted him to do what was right. But in the end, Paul wanted to eat. He and I made a conscious decision that if he enjoyed nothing else he would have his food.
Paul had a tough road. Yet, he took things in stride and knew that he might suffer consequences for his actions. In the last year, I have been grateful to be near him and learn from him. Patience and compassion, forgiveness and self-acceptance have walked with us, amid all the things life threw at him. Paul’s last rescue mission might have been me, teaching me to be a better person by helping him.