On July 24th, 2011 my good friend Ron Sykes lost his battle with cancer and is now in Heaven with family and friends who preceeded him. Many of you reading this know this already and know Ron.. but for those who do not I share the following ramble entitled...
HOAGIES IN HEAVEN
Last winter my family watched the Super Bowl with our good friends Bryan & Laura Anderson at the home of Ron and Lola Sykes. Those of you from Wisconsin know this was a special night while those of you from Minnesota.. SPECIAL?? may not be the word you were looking for.
I even have pictures of Ron (a life long Bears fan) wearing a Packer hat.. PRICELESS!
ANYWAYS over the next few months to follow Ron would often say to me.. “Jeff, when you are having a bad day do you ever console yourself by thinking.. well at least THE PACKERS WON THE SUPER BOWL. And truth be told, I have from time to time consoled myself on bad days with this GREAT TRUTH the Packers won the Super Bowl… and IT WORKED.. until Ron passed away.
RON actually ASKED ME TO DO HIS EULOGY (IF NECESSARY) back in June. I was honored to accept this request as I have so many great memories and strong feelings regarding Ron and our friendship.
Then I started thinking the hidden reasons Ron may want to have me give the Eulogy.
1. My whole life I have struggled with speaking in public and in fact when I was a senior in High School I took a lower grade in a sociology class taught by friend Jim Anderson by not giving an oral presentation. Jim was in attendance of Ron's funeral, and so I asked him by doing the eulogy if I could now get that 'B'? He nodded, but I never did recieve official confirmation of any grade change.
2. The other reason Ron may have wanted me to give the Eulogy was that men sound like wounded badgers in a bear trap when they cry... and Ron would find humor in this. .. and he knew I would cry.
But onward and forward...
I HAVE KNOWN RON MOST OF MY LIFE
The Sykes family moved to Wisconsin as their year round home I believe in the early 1970s. They attended the same little white church in Cable Wisconsin as I did, and this was the start of a lifelong friendship. We both loved sports and our faith was a common ground for us over the next 40 some years. We attended the same High School, church, were college roomates, and roommates after college. We stood up in each other’s weddings and we have been through a whole-lotta life together. Single days, roommates, married, then married with children.
Growing up I was envious of Ron as his family owned a resort. I was the son of a logger and I appreciate that heritage, BUT Ron’s 'summer job' while in college was to pull pretty girls waterskiing behind the speed boat or setting behind the resort front desk schmoozing with those at the resort. In contrast I was cutting down trees working with men who looked and smelled like sweaty dirty men whose language would make a Baptist blush.
BEFORE WE NOMINATE RON FOR SAINTHOOD
there are glaring flaws that you should all be aware of regarding Ron
10 THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT RON
- Ron was neither a handyman or Auto Mechanic. His dad was a gifted carpenter and handyman, but that gene somehow skipped over Ron.
- Ron was a BAD DRIVER and killed more deer with his car in a weekend than most hunters in a lifetime. Also we have several MISSING THE T in the road stories.
- Ron and fashion.. LIKE OIL & WATER! Not a fashion consultant on the show WHAT NOT TO WEAR. (Ron once wore a Sky blue leisure suit as an usher at a friend's wedding)
- Ron entered a Ping pong tourney where.. he lost to a 12 year old girl. Ok, I lost to her too, but this is about Ron!
- I once drove out to visit Ron at his family's resort to find a large crowd around the tennis court where Ron was playing tennis against a vacationing Resorter wearing swimming flippers and goggles, AND HE WON. It all started when Ron trashed talk challenged this poor guy into this match.
- Ron watched game 7 of the Bulls last championship game WHILE HIS WIFE WAS IN THEIR HONEYMOON SUITE. It was a case of misplaced priorities. In defense guys are prone to confuse sports with love.
- Ron had no idea WHAT A FROZEN LAKE LOOKS LIKE.. he took my family out and his wife Lola out (almost literally) on a partially frozen lake for snowmobile rides with near disastrous results. He was like a Northwoods Mafia Hitman!
- He once left his kids unattended in a PRISON PARKING LOT while he was inside counseling a friend. Then over the loud speaker he heard the words .. "would the man who left his children unattended in the parking lot please report to the front desk." Ron said as this was announced hardened criminals teared up and shouted in unison "WHAT KIND OF VILE PERSON WOULD DO THIS!"
- As college roommates there were pranks and moments uniquely Ron. Ron loved to make EVERYTHING a competition including a pair of boxing gloves that he had. One pair, and he decided we should each get one glove and box, BUT NOT TO THE FACE... Strange!
- Ron was a Monty Python fan and could recite much of the movie The Holy Grail… like how do you know she is a witch? And I’M NOT DEAD YET. Now his son Caleb has taken on the role of reciting the lines from the Holy Grail complete with British accents.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE ONGOING OUTINGS WITH RON as I have shared in the past is
DAVANNIS for Lunch
For years now, At least a couple times a month IF NOT EVERY WEEK I have lunch at Davanni's Hoagie and Pizza Eatery in Arden Hills Minnesota with my best friends in life, Bryan Anderson and Ron Sykes.
BRYAN is a a Biology Professor at Bethel University whom we call 'Mr. Science', and is the Cliff Clavin of all things found in a laboratory, or on a petri dish.
RON of course .. the Pastor of Cornerstone Church. We called Ron 'The Vicar' and has protestant pope like status among the three of us good friends.
I call these get togethers ‘The Friday Lunch Brain Trust’ Both Bryan and Ron are successful college graduates while I am the guy with a referee’s whistle and color crayons.
Our weekly discussions cover the gamut of life’s mysteries.
- We start most weeks embracing our delusions regarding OUR BELOVED SPORTS TEAMS.
- Then we discuss the trouble (THIN ICE) we encountered with our wives. Like deer caught in headlights they almost ALWAYS have something to share, but... don’t all men. At first they both participate reluctantly, BUT with a little priming .. THEY ALWAYS SHARE.
- Next on to the topic of RAISING versus SELLING our kids .. even.. when our kids are all grown up.
- FINALLY we often take time to REFLECT on into deep THEOLOGICAL EXCHANGES regarding the church, the Bible, and God's timeless truths in this world of Oprah Winfrey-isms.
Of course as we speak on these.. ‘God topics' we stroke our beards (actually I am the only one with facial hair… or hair on head) and do our best King James speak.. spewing a plethora of ‘verily verilys, thees and thous, woe unto you wretched sinner comments woven seamlessly in a way that one overhearing us may think if their eyes were closed (and had been drinking.. HEAVILY) the Pope, Billy Graham, and the Apostle Paul were eating hoagies in the booth next to them.
We move deftly from topic to topic as only guys can without missing a bite of our hoagies. One strange side note is that Bryan and Ron each week both order a Whole Turkey Hoagie on Whole Grain. Don't get me wrong it is a great hoagie, BUT.. this leaves them a lifetime deprived of pizza and calzones. On the other hand I try to work the entire menu from meatball hoagies, to solo pizzas, and Davanni's makes a very good calzone... BUT I DIGRESS..
We not only laugh with each other, but at each other. It is very much a ‘guy like’ term of endearment to give each other good natured ribbing.
To make each weeks lunch complete it takes us usually about 1 1/2 to 2 full hours and most often includes us retelling the same stories and same jokes from our lives together.
Then.. THE MORTALITY OF OUR FRIENDSHIP comes in to play
(1) First of all, I am the one of us three that has the multitude of doctor visits for broken bones, migraines, a knee surgery, anxiety and depression issues and in my corporate America days I never saw a sick day I did not like. This has become a source of humor for Bryan and Ron who claim to be my good friends.
THEN IT WAS NOT SO FUNNY ANYMORE
(2) Several years ago while in a cross country ski race Bryan had a brain aneurism that almost killed him.
(3) More recently, just a few short years ago Ron had a bout with skin cancer but after treatment was given a clean bill of health as recently as February 2011.
(4) Then this spring Ron after not feeling well and being overly tired went to see the doctor and learned his cancer had returned. The doctors treated his cancer aggressively, and all of Ron’s friends and family prayed for him, but sadly for all of us his recovery was not meant to be.
A SUMMARY OF US 3 WISEMEN
We don't know what the future holds for any of us in this drop in the bucket of eternity existence.. BUT what I do know is the importance of good friends.. no make that GREAT friends.
How many of you can say they still see their best friends from school days on a regular basis? I CAN! It won’t be the same without Ron, BUT someday we will all gather together again for Hoagies on a Friday in Heaven.
So LIFE IS BIGGER THAN HOAGIES.. who knew?
I hurt for Ron's wife Lola and their kids as Ron leaving us was simply too soon.
The old saying goes YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU.. when you go to Heaven is true, BUT ALSO.. the greater truth today is YOU CAN’T TAKE IT FROM ME.
YOU CANNOT TAKE AWAY FROM RON
- those good times with friends and family
- the blessing of a wife and kids that were his joy.
- the blessing of loving parents, brothers, sisters, and family.
YOU CANNOT TAKE AWAY..
- from Lola and the kids the blessing of a loving husband and father
- from friends the good memories, and good times knowing Ron.
YOU CANNOT TAKE AWAY the influence Ron had during his life serving the one true God. To love God and care for others (God's greatest 2 commandments) was not on HIS 'to-do-list', it was who Ron was.
Ron served in the Kinship program as a big brother, as a missionary and all the many community service roles noted in his obituary and more. Ron became a pastor because it was the calling on his heart to preach God's truth and share the joy of living the Gospel message (in actions and if he must he would use words). Ron's faith was not 'churchy' it was everyday life..even when life included cancer..
I PRAISE GOD for Ron's life lived well. I know in my heart though Ron was taken from us too soon, that as he arrived in Heaven he was greeted with the words.. "Well done my good and faithful servant."
Ron's passing was a tough day for Lola, Caleb, Lara, Zhana, brothers and sisters and other friends and family but please take comfort and pride that Ron is a man who lived life the RIGHT WAY!
So many cannot say this at a funeral as a lifetime of pain and REGRETS, but this is not the case here. As I write these words remembering Ron and honoring his life.. I will stop short of endorsing Ron to the status of SAINT RON, but again.. he lived life the right way.
HEAVEN.. is that plain of existence beyond our comprehension.
Heaven is life beyond our failing physical bodies for those who believe and honor God.
Heaven is that plain where Ron is now reunited with his parents, other friends and family..
- Heaven is that plain where we will live eternally with our loving creator, and..
Heaven is that plain where I look forward someday to eating Hoagies on a Friday with my good friend Ron.
.. until then, Bryan and I will watch closely for anything that resembles a haunted-hoagie as we continue to meet for lunch.
( Ron Sykes Sightings.. in PARADISE )