Eulogy by Stephen's Dad 
October 14, 2008

As I’m sure you all know, there are no words to describe the shock and grief that Karen and I have felt over the past few days.  And we realize that these terrible days were just the first steps on a long and difficult journey, a journey that will never take us back to the familiar life that was so suddenly wrenched from our arms on Thursday.

But even after just these first steps, surrounded by family, friends, neighbors, and—perhaps most importantly—so many of Stephen’s friends, we hope and expect that the searing grief will slowly be pushed aside by the precious and unending stream of memories of our son Stephen, a loving, caring, fearless, and really cool kid who could not have made his parents any prouder. 

Stephen drank fully from the cup of life, each and every day, each and every minute.  As his brother, his cousins, and his countless friends over the years can attest, Stephen never did anything in a half-hearted way. He thought big. For example, as a toddler playing with his toy Legos, Stephen wasn't satisfied to build just a small model; he asked for enough Legos so he could build a real full-size fort out in his back yard for his friends. When he was older and wanted to practice his skateboarding, well, to build a half pipe right in his own backyard just seemed to him an obvious and simple solution. No half-pipe?  No problem.  He would make due with a home-made ramp off the top of the shed. Just ask his friend Rollie to show you the picture of Stephen setting up for a run off the roof even without the ramp! We told him a diving board was just too dangerous for our backyard pool.  That was not a problem for Stephen. There were always trampolines, home-made Olympic diving platforms, and skim-boarding across the length of the pool.

He was a natural at every sport he tried, and he tried them all.  As his friend Mike recalled, it was easy to talk Stephen into attempting any new sport; his friends would tell him, “dude, just add the word 'board' to the end of it".  He was a marvel at skateboarding, snow boarding, skim boarding, any boarding.

Karen and I derived great pride and joy from his hockey playing, but not so much for the obvious reasons, such as the winning goals or the varsity jacket he wore as a freshman.  We were most proud of his attitude toward the whole complex, competitive world of youth hockey. For Stephen, the character of the players was more important than the record of the team. A better teammate you couldn't have. The fun of the competition was more important than the score; the journey more important than the destination.

This is not to imply that Stephen was not competitive, especially with his brother Christopher. One day this past summer we were pleasantly surprised when Stephen decided to go fishing rather than jet-skiing at our summer home on Mousam Lake. It soon dawned on us that Chris held bragging rights to the biggest catch of the summer, and for Stephen that situation could not be allowed stand. However, even the highly coordinated Stephen found it a challenge to cast with one hand while texting his friends at 100 words-per-minute with the other.  Stephen was equally obsessed with the high score that greeted him on each login to “Call of Duty 4”, an Xbox war game, a score by a soldier named… “Chris”.  No soldier in World War II saw more action than Stephen trying to beat that high score. 

In spite of an occasional bout of competitiveness, Christopher loved and admired his brother, looked up to him, and learned by example many important life lessons on honesty, sincerity, loyality to friends, and compassion for others, lessons that will shape Chris and stay with him as he grows and matures into his own unique person.

Two years ago as my brothers and I worked on a eulogy for our father, we decided that the single word that summed him up best was decency, and Karen and I have many times given thanks to God that my father’s legacy of decency glowed brightly in his grandson Stephen, as it surely does in Christopher as well. Almost every one of the over 400 postings to Stephen's facebook page over the past few days speaks of this sensitivity and his tendency to place the problems of his family and friends above his own. To quote just one:

"You were one of the most genuine and caring people I've ever met in my life. Every time I saw you, you had a huge smile on your face. You always could make a bad day good for me. I'm so happy you were a part of my life."

So many close relationships of this sort enriched not only his life and those of his friends, but also ours and Christopher’s. All of the hockey games, the cookouts, the pool parties, the movie nights, and just hanging out brought into our home an amazing number of bright, caring young people whom I would like to speak to directly for a moment.

On the day after Stephen's passing I was on my front lawn, my mind racing, anticipating and dreading the days ahead.  I wondered who might stop by. Maybe Rollie would come by, maybe he would bring a buddy or two. Moments later my driveway was full of dozens of Stephen's friends, bursting not just with tears, but with love and compassion and an unending stream of stories about their great times with Stephen.  Nothing could have been more uplifting for Karen and me at that time.

When Stephen was very young Karen and I of course knew everything about his world, and like every parent we wished that could always continue. But even though our relationship with Stephen was unusually open and close, it is only natural that as Stephen's world widened, our window on it narrowed. Karen and I will be forever grateful for the conversations we have had with you over the past few days, which gave us back so much of Stephen's life that we might never have known.  This is a gift we will carry with us forever. Your conversations convinced us that the happy, loving young man that graced our house was the same one that inhabited his wider world.

Finally, Karen, Chris, and I would like to express our deepest gratitude to all of our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors who have been so caring and giving during this terrible time.  Your love and support are a great comfort for each of us.