In remembrance and honor of my best friend, Joe, I share the words I spoke at his memorial service in Washington, DC: "I wanted to share with you tonight something that gave me great comfort three years ago when my brother, Bruce, passed away unexpectedly in London. Joe and Bruce were very close, and I thought this would be appropriate for this evening and for Joe.
DEATH is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by my old name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air f solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me , pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was, let it be spoken without effort, without the trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well.
Henry Scott Holland
Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral
Many of you know me, and many of you here may not, so…. I am Steve Snyder – Steve – also known to many of you as Mary, thanks solely to Joe, known to many - and especially me – as Joleen. Without Joe, there’d be no Mary… and I’d also have no alter- ego names… like MeeMaw…or Sheila, who Joe designed as Mary’s evil twin… she was white trash, you know, and lived in a trailer park and had a nasty temper! No, without dear Joe I’d just still be plain old Steve Snyder… and there might not have even been Joe’s “What-everrrr, Maaarrryyyyy!”
A while back, my dear friend, Laura, gave me a picture frame about friends, which I think is fitting to share tonight – it reads: “FRIEND is one of life’s greatest gifts. Thoughtful in endless ways. A friend lends a hand without being asked, Encourages growth, and Supports change. In good times and bad times, a Friend remains reassuring and faithful. Time and distance cannot diminish friendship; it is Forever.”
For those of you that don’t know, I am honored to have been chosen by Joe to be one of his few “Best Friends” – a role I’ve been blessed to play in his life for however many years it’s been. I really am not even sure, as it seems like Joe and I have been together forever. One of our first conversations of many at our home-away –from-home, Mr. Henry’s, was all about how we felt we had to have been separated at birth, cause we just knew we’d known each other forever!
“Best Friend”….. “Friend”….. “Friendship”… what an absolute honor to feel Joe valued you highly enough to call you and regard you as such! Not one of us here tonight should feel anything less than privileged to be his friend and receive the gift of his friendship. “The gift of friendship”….. the GIFT…. I had never even heard that term before Joe put it into words in a card he sent me years ago. In that card, he wrote “Thank you for the gift of your friendship” – he THANKED me!! – for the gift of MY friendship! It was a gift that I gave freely and deeply from the heart all these years, and it was a gift I received in return from the one person who gave it to others better than anyone else… an example to us all!
Joe has left us all with so many memories….some are private, not to be shared with anyone else, and many to be shared publicly, usually full of giggles and laughter! Joe also – and more importantly - has left us to carry on what I personally believe should be his lasting legacy: giving and receiving the gift of friendship. It’s a legacy we need to keep alive and carry forward every day of our lives, not only as a tribute to Joe but as a tribute to each of those we all call a friend. A friendship to Joe was something he treasured above all else in his life. And usually with a measuring bar set high....sometimes too high for others and sometimes hard to measure up to! A lot of us here have been above and below the bar at various times, not always a pretty thing! Joe and I always had that in common – a belief that a friend is much, much more than just a friend. It’s a term so many can use so freely. We spent endless hours discussing our standards for friendships and pitying those that, at times, didn’t meet our standards… but usually ending up laughing that it was usually our fault, not really theirs!
In going forward from this moment on, I ask of each and every person in Joe’s life – those here, those who are not and wish they could be – to keep Joe’s legacy of friendship alive and honor it by devoting yourselves to your friends. Tell them you love them, as Joe always told us; treat them as family, as Joe always treated us. In our world today, friends ARE family, and family ARE friends. Support your friends with the type of support Joe gave so devotedly. Above all else, be a friend as you would want a friend to be to you. It is SO important, and so hard to find at times, but ultimately, it is a gift… to be given with love as any material gift is given, and to be received with gratitude as any material gift is received.
Joe lives on in each of us on a personal and individual basis. But, more importantly, Joe will continue to live on among us as a group of people he called “my friends”.
God bless you and I love you, my darling Joe!