*The following eulogy is for Adam Tilrow Morrison, who passed away on Thursday, August 16th, 2012, at the age of 22. It was read at a service celebrating his life on Tuesday, August 21st, and was posted here at the request of friends and family so that it could be easily accessed and shared.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Erin. For the first year of my relationship with Adam, I was his AP English teacher at Santa Fe. For all of the years since then, he was my friend. And for that, I am incredibly blessed. Being asked to speak in his honor is both wonderful and terrifying.
Disclaimer: A little more than a week ago, I had my last conversation with Adam, and part of our discussion included the movie, Bridesmaids. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, there’s a scene in which one bridesmaid tells another how ugly she is when she cries. I’m pretty sure that, for the past few days, Adam has been itching to tease me about how ugly I am when I cry. So I’m going to try to spare you. That being said, I can’t promise anything.
When I finally told little Georgia that you were gone, the tears (hers and mine) came fast and hard. A little while later, she came running, suddenly, out of her room, and she said, “I could make an Adam out of paper, and keep him beside my bed.” Problem solved! She even planned on coloring you a different shirt for each day of the week. (Clearly, monotony is not a concern when it comes to pants.)
I didn’t have the heart to tell her, You can’t just make an Adam.
Although I didn’t know you as a child, I can’t imagine you were much different from the mostly grown-up version of yourself. Maybe a little shorter. Your Dad tells me that one year, for his birthday, you gave him a handmade card with a dollar bill inside, the only one you had. And, not surprisingly, in kindergarten, when you prayed with him at night, you wanted God to look out for everyone in the world. (Well, except for the strangers and bad guys.)
You were always looking out for everyone else. You’d give away your last piece of candy if someone asked you for it. You’d stand up for the kid who needed it most. You’d take me out for lunch and insist on buying because, as you said, I just couldn’t afford it on my teacher’s salary.
And in January of 2007, when that drunk driver collided with you, someone was looking out for us. Someone wanted us to have you for just a little bit longer. And so these last five and a half years haven’t been the cancer years; they’ve been the bonus years.
And in those years, you were outrageous and entirely too funny, and I can vouch for this. I remember getting negative marks on one of my teacher evaluations because you chose to read “double, double, toil and trouble,” aloud in your very own Shakespearean witch voice. But how could I get angry when I was too busy laughing? And even when I did get frustrated, you’d sit up straight in your desk so that everyone could see you, and use your index fingers to make those “Angry Lavelle Eyebrows” on your forehead, and I’d lose it all over again. Apparently, this kind of thing worked with your mother, too. (And, trust me, my friends, if you know Mrs. Morrison, you know she doesn’t mess around. I’m pretty sure she’s the reason Adam only missed two days of school after his first surgery. So, getting her to laugh when she’s angry is a feat that only Adam could pull off).
That same year, we all watched in the SFC auditorium as you walked around on stage with a pillow tucked in your shirt for your role as the Mayor of River City in The Music Man. And you rubbed that big old tummy when you yelled, “Where’s the band?!”
And then you were off to college, and from what I’ve gathered, you were everyone’s first friend.
In December of 2008, you were finishing up your first successful semester in the honors program at Florida State and I was standing in Santa Fe’s media center, when I got a text from you: “MRI not good.” And I thought you were kidding, because it was you. But you weren’t.
Within the next month or so, you were off to Boston for another surgery. And I remember we Skyped the night before. Jane was a brand-new baby then, and you made me hold her up for you and your parents to see. You put some effect on the screen that made it look like you were covered in bubbles, and Georgia started referring to you as “Adam with the bubbles on his head.” After your surgery, when we Skyped again (I’m pretty sure you don’t remember that one), you became “Adam with the boo boo on his head.”
And, as usual for you, within days, you were a man on the town in Boston with Richard, wearing matching lobster hats on your heads.
The following summer was that of the Chanson (a wonderful merging of the Chan-Pong and Morrison surnames) Beach vacation, which included not only the Chan-Pongs and the Morrisons, but the Garzarellis, Molly Grosser, Katie Welch, and Kyle Peeples. And on one fateful night, between the hours of 12 and 4am, while all of these little darlings slept in one hotel room, the band we know as Epic Fail was born. (Okay, even though it was epic, it was formed rather quietly, with the boys scheming inside the closet so as not to disturb a sleeping Colleen.)
When you went to Japan that summer, your sisters say you were “bald as a cueball,” but those Japanese ladies still loved you. It’s not hard to believe, though, considering you were always really really ridiculously goodlooking.
And then you went back to school, and the best part is, nothing really happened that year. You got to be a normal college kid.
The next year brought more cancer, another surgery and too much chemo. And yet you never left school. You studied things like organic chemistry — I remember this, specifically, because we had a discussion concerning whether it should be called “orgo” or “orga,” and you said “orgo” was more “aesthetically pleasing” — But how did you do it? You didn’t just keep going, you kept living.
You had cancer before I met you, but it was never who you were. It was just one of your characteristics. Like being really tall. Or having brown eyes. One of the things I appreciated the most about you and your cancer was your openness, your willingness to talk about it, to assume that I was smart enough to understand all of the scientific and medical language that came with developments and treatments (and to answer my questions when I wasn’t). Nothing was ever awkward or uncomfortable, including the time you first passed gas in the hospital after your colon surgery and we all cheered. Or those funny noises that came from your colostomy bag while we watched Jeopardy and you acted like you knew all of the answers, but it turned out you had already watched that episode. (I only caught on in Final Jeopardy when you said, “I bet this guy is going to wager $7,000.”)
There was always some hope there, you know? Even when it felt like there shouldn’t be. Just a couple of weeks ago, when your mom took me outside and said (not in these words) that things were beginning to be hopeless, I came home and wrote this about the hope that I felt when I was with you: Hope is reserved for those with soft hearts; it patches the holes and stitches the tears. It’s the gift we receive for surviving the heartache. For letting ourselves be vulnerable enough to love. To believe. Hope gives us strength without hardening our hearts.
I guess, maybe, that’s why I thought you’d never die. Hope made me believe. And I’m kind of okay with that. Because I liked believing.
You never made cancer your excuse. Okay, well maybe a few times. Like when you wanted to dance with Ms. Schauer at prom or hug Mrs. Skalski at graduation. Or when you dropped out of cotillion. Or the time you had to explain why you got second instead of first at the county tennis tournament three weeks after your first brain surgery. Or even the other day, when Claire and I teased you for your attempt at one-handed-string-cheese-eating, and you said, “Hey, I have brain swelling, okay?”
Maybe you were just too darn good for this world. I remember last October when we texted back and forth all day one Saturday about a girl you liked. You’re going to hate me for telling this one. You had taken her out on a date to a bar the night before. She drank too much and went home with someone else. In the morning, she called and asked you to come pick her up at that guy’s place and take her home. And you did. Isn’t that crazy? You did! You said, “But she’s really pretty.” I said, “But she’s really mean.” You said, “I have cancer! I don’t have time for this!” I said, “Please don’t ever talk to her again. Ever.” You said, “I can’t do that. I’m too nice.” And you were. (All those girls you kissed on New Year’s Eve a few months later make up for this, I think.)
You did it, you know? You stared cancer right in the face, unafraid. And you didn’t let it kill your spirit. You didn’t complain. You didn’t feel sorry for yourself. You laughed a lot. You ate breakfast at Denny’s and biscuits at Red Lobster and watched 21 Jumpstreet (even though your mother didn’t appreciate all of that foul language) just a week ago. You kept on fighting the good fight. And I don’t think we can say that you lost. Because of your attitude, because of your approach, I don’t think we can say you were defeated.
Thank you, Adam, for being who you were. For showing us what the world could be like. For giving us hope. Robert Kennedy once said: “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I see things as they never were and say, ‘Why not?'” Who knew you had so much in common with a democrat?
Hey, before you take off, there are a couple of things I think you should know. The first is that, no matter how impressive this stunt is, I still will not be voting for Mitt Romney this year. And I promise to make Teddy wear the plastic clip-on earrings the next time we play Pretty Pretty Princess. (Oh, and I hope you liked your eugoogly.)
Claire would like you to know that this whole thing is doo doo, baby.
Colleen would like you to know that she recently had to concede that the Noles’ casket was, in fact, far more attractive than that of the Gators.
Your mother would like you to know that even though it was a struggle for you to get the words out, she heard you say, “I love you, Mom.”
Your father would like you to know that his father used to be his hero. Now his hero is his son.
We lost you. Yes. And we could look at it that way. Or we could view ourselves as the undeserving recipients of the greatest gift in the first place.