Eulogy for Glen Doherty

This is a recording of the eulogy I gave for my brother Glen as part of his funeral at St. Eulalia’s Church in Winchester, Massachusetts on Wednesday, September 19, 2012.

(Our family allowed a mic but no video cameras in the church. Media were granted open access to the audio. I understand it was streamed live online, though I don’t know where. It was posted to by WBUR in Boston on Monday, September 24. This audio posting is ripped from that.

Also, a friend, Yvette Converse, was kind enough to transcribe the recording. [I wasn’t speaking from a written eulogy.] Below is her transcription, with just some punctuation/paragraphing editing by me. Thank you, Yvette.)

Eulogy for Glen Doherty (Transcript)

Well, as the one God intended to be Glen’s primary role model, I’m honored to be able to give him a tribute among you who love him.

I’d like to start with the facts.

We were kids who looked up to our parents.  They made it easy.  Our dad was a man of mighty family ties. He was a trustee of U. Mass who worked to make people who might not have a chance have that same shot at education that he was the first in his family to enjoy.  He ran a lot of charity events. And he was a man of ready fists who would come back with tales of defending a damsel in distress—it usually was a damsel. And he knew how to make things happen.

And my mom, who’s such a light, which shone through her mother, Marie, and who cultivated wisdom.  Her hobby is sitting people down for heart to hearts and thinking through their lives.  What’s important? Where do you wanna go? How can we get there?

So there’s Glen: my mother’s light, my father’s good fight.

And he had a brother, me, who was trying his hardest and had a year head start, so there’s always something to try to catch up to. And he had a sister, Katie, who probably the most beautiful thing she could and did teach him was what it means to be someone to look up to, to have someone to protect and look after.

And then there were friends.   The first time I felt that Glen ever surpassed me in life was after about junior high or so—which had scared me. I had looked around and started to see this adolescence thing as the possibility to be someone new.  And I  looked at who I wanted to be and saw people who were like that and thought the short cut would be: be near them. And I stopped giving as much time to the old friends I’d had. And it was a mistake—that Glen never made.

I first admired him when I saw his core of friends never leave each other when they didn’t fit in the larger fabric of… whatever we were going through. To have people think, You’re a loser, your friends are losers, and you say, “No, that’s not true. They’re with me.” was something they did for each other.

I drew up some courage into high school and started to look at life as a possibility to be inclusive and invite people from all walks of life to be my friend, because I think I just started to open my eyes to the fact that there were people of high caliber in all corners. And that was so richly rewarded, and it combined with Glen’s core of loyalty, so that our social scenes merged the way my parents’ characters had in us: to be something inclusive and loving and something that felt like it would last.

And it also became a growth industry, because people wanted to be a part of it. And we looked around at each other, and we felt like we were among stars: we were a constellation, we were a sky; we were more than the sum of our parts.

And Glen carried that into the world, where he met people who had been taught what we had been taught as children, which is to love and to step up, to work.

That’s the story until now, really. He’s been spotting people of character, and here you are.  It’s an honor to be a part of this community that he shared.

He became a whitewater rafting guide, became a ski bum, became a pilot, joined the Navy, became a SEAL—proved his character in BUDS and then got training. A couple things I know about SEALS: one, they get training. But you have to earn it—you have to show your character, you get through BUDS, you show your character, then you get training. And they train and they train and they train. And this was Glen: he learned, he built his skills. He was doing this well before he was in the Navy. He was building his skills; he was becoming somebody.

And the number two thing about SEALS is they get used. He would train, train, go on a mission, have a break. Train, train, go on a mission, have a break—for ten years, and another seven outside of the military, but same idea.

Seventeen years of missions. That’s a lot of days.

Let me tell you about one of them—the heart of it, as far as I know. One mission.

On September 11, 2012, the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and overrun. Glen was not in it at the time. Glen and his good friend Ty Woods were the ones called to help. They coordinated an effort. They fought their way in. There were 30 people, working for diplomacy in a new country, that wanted to live. They fought their way in; they got them loaded into cars; they got them out to a safe house about twenty minutes away.

The safe house was attacked. There are teams within teams. The people sent to rescue Glen…did. They came and saved everybody while everybody fought their hardest. The 30 people that had been rescued from the consulate, they live today. They’re alive now.

Let me tell you about the feeling of knowing Glen.

It was happiness.   If you knew Glen and he made you happy, (singing) clap your hands. (Applause).

In the song, they give a double clap (clap, clap). That was generous. But the double clap is for the double happiness that you felt with him, because there were two things happening. The feeling of being with Glen was: here we are, going somewhere.

We felt it as kids in the back of a station wagon with sleeping bags arranged, on our way to ski week that our parents had hooked up ‘cause they’re (singing) gettin it done.  This is before guardian angels were helped by seatbelts.

We felt it as teenagers: say, 5 boys and 2 girls packed into a car—so it was inherently competitive. The driving mattered—the precision of the shifting and cornering.  And you sang with or without the radio. Going where?

You felt it with Glen carving down powdery canyons, or gliding or rumbling down rivers. Looking for that next fun thing to do.

And you felt with Glen in your living room when he was on the floor with the pets and the kids. Here we are: so present.  The laugh, the sound of his voice.  My wife, like so many others, loved to whale on his big arms, loved to rest her head on his shoulder.

You felt it after everyone had gone to bed, and it was time for the heart to heart. There’s still time for another beer and a soul-to-soul talk. Where’s your life going? Are you happy?

He thought of these things. He wasn’t done; he was in transition. He had gotten his commercial pilot’s license. He was looking at his options.

He loved so many, and you felt it.

There’s the separation, which is the tail side of love. Those of us that didn’t have whatever it was he had that let him spend his spare time visiting friend and friend and friend, traveling among people because the face-to-face mattered. We who chose different lifestyles—not unwisely, not with less work, not with less sense of purpose, but with envy—waited for him to come around, didn’t we? You waited for him to come around. When’s Glen gonna visit?

Here we are.  Where are we going?

Then there’s the context of Glen’s life.

Which is really this: he died protecting people because he believed in humanity.  He believed in humanity because his friends taught him–sharpened him, challenged him—taught him the value of life.

He cherished life enough to want to pay it back.  Do you understand that thought?  We can’t pay back life.  You can’t pay back what makes your heart beat each time. But he loved it so much that he wanted to work for it. He wanted to pay back life and be able to say at the Pearly Gates, “Thank you” and “You’re welcome.”

That’s a grown love—of the childish wonder that life can offer. It’s a gesture—in the scale of infinity, so overwhelmingly grand and so helplessly small.

And it’s mirrored by how we’ve come together over this.   This celebration has been so over the top and so barely scratching the surface. Because we feel that for life.

If we’re grown, if we’re responsible, we want to pay it back, we want to say “What can I do?” “God, what can I do to thank you—for these people, for this: for these mountains, these rivers, for this?” That’s how he lived.

So, I appreciate the outpouring. I’m humbled by it. We all are. It’s a good thing that we grew up on Glen Road or they’d have to name it that now.

But what we want to do is honor Glen, don’t we. Because what we want to do is honor each other; we want to honor life. We want to show what we value.

So how do you honor Glen?  Here’s a four step plan:

(1)    Improve yourself.  Build skills. Look at the source of your pain or your weakness, and address it. Uproot your addictions, your sadness, your fear.

(2)    Help others.  This privilege that we have been blessed to receive: the privilege of character taught to us, the privilege of resources granted to us. Share it, and no one can begrudge your gratitude for it. Find the people who need to be invited in, or need to be cooled off, and with those skills you built, handle it.

(3)    Find what you love to do, and do it.

(4)    And find who you love, and show them that you love them—by the feeling that they’ll share with you: of security in your friendship and perfect happiness in your presence.

Thank you so much.


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