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A Eulogy for Chris N. Cuddeback
September 23, 2013
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It could be said that at the very center of the Christian worldview is the conviction that God’s loving providence encompasses everything. Literally, everything, big and small. We might ponder how much faith is required, in the vicissitudes of life, truly to adhere to this conviction. I don’t often experience a temptation to doubt that God exists, that He is a trinity, that He founded the Church, that He is present in the Eucharist, or that He died, rose, and will come again. But really to believe that everything that happens is part of a loving and wise plan; in my experience, this is a different matter.

 Certainly one of the natural aids to our belief in divine providence is the experience of a human providence.

 When I close my eyes and think of my father, many thoughts come to mind. But the first is of his providence, his wise and loving care. He was always fore-seeing. Scanning the horizon, especially the horizons of those he loved, he would strain to see what was coming. One of the hardest aspects of being a man is not-knowing: not knowing what comes next, and thus not knowing how to prepare for it. Decisions need to be made in the present, with a measuring eye on the future and a remembering eye on the past. How often did I see Dad’s rational powers churning, sizing up situations—even those ostensibly unrelated to his own—and discerning how to arrange things for the good of those around him.

 I would like to give a few examples. These may not be the best examples from his life. But they are the ones I would like to share.

 1) Teaching people how.

I have never met anyone better at teaching someone how to do something. One of the unique joys of watching Dad be a grandpa to my children was having the opportunity to see again, this time from a distance, with a little more focus, what he had done for me as a child.  He exercised a remarkable combination of direction, correction, encouragement, and letting-you-do-it-yourself. I can clearly picture his face when he would say, following his under-study’s suggestion of a highly dubitable method of proceeding, “Well, we could it that way.” But one way or the other, with the job complete, you were convinced that you had done it, and that you could do it again.

 2) Attending to little things.

To me the story of Nicholas’s calendar is his Grandpa, my father, in a nutshell. From the time that Nicholas could walk, we arranged that Dad and he would spend regular time together, lunch and then the afternoon once a week. It would be scarce an exaggeration to say that Nicholas lived from Grandpa day to Grandpa day. He of course had no real sense of time, much less days and weeks. Dad realized that Nicholas needed a little help in managing his expectations regarding their getting together. What did Dad do? He built a one-week calendar out of a 1×4, complete with metal lining so that a magnet could be moved from day to day. Sunday, the first day of the week, is marked with a red cross—lest Nicholas forget the truly most important day. Wednesday, or Grandpa Day , the day Dad and Mom actually called Nicholas day, was specially marked with two stick figures, a man and a child holding hands. If today Nicholas knows the days of the week, I’m sure it’s because he learned them in relation to that red cross, and those stick figures.

 3) Sage advice when needed.

A local friend and mentor of mine only recently shared the following with me. A few years back this gentleman experienced a personal tragedy on a scale that few people I know have endured.  At one point while suffering from severe depression, this gentleman had a conversation with Dad, who said the following: “Well, sometimes a ship gets lost at sea in the fog, and the sailors have no idea which way to go. But they don’t give up. They make their best judgment, and they just keep going. And eventually they come out of the fog.” This admonition, reported my friend, was a turning point in his learning to accept the extremely bitter pill of his circumstances.

 I myself often think of, and use, one of Dad’s favorite lines: “What’s the worst thing that can happen in this situation?” This does not mean: expect the worst. Rather it expresses in a very concrete practical way a confidence that the worst that can happen is itself always set in the context of the great things that Divine providence has in store for those who are faithful.

 At the end of the day, how did he Dad it? Where does all this come from? Once I was nailing together some pieces of wood.  When I looked up, there was my one year old Raphael standing next to me. He had picked up a stick and was swinging it with the same motion I was. When he saw that I noticed, feeling a little shy, he smiled broadly. Nature speaks from deep within: be like your father. What could be more fitting, more pleasing… to both father and child?

 Having known my grandfather and grandmother, I know that my father was formed by their loving care. But there is something deeper going on. Dad had faith in, and even more, a participation in God’s loving care for each of us.

 This past week, going through some of Dad’s things, I found on his desk a piece of paper, on which he had written little quotations from his spiritual reading. One that stood out to me, and which he himself had underlined, was this: “Do not worry about anything. Abandon yourself more to Me.”

Dad, I don’t think we will ever know how hard these last few years have been for you, and for Mom. So many times I assumed you simply didn’t realize what was going on. I now see that I did not give you due credit. You handled things with such grace, and abandonment to Divine providence. I did not give you credit for the struggle that dementia must have been for a man like you. But I am grateful, so grateful, that an all seeing and loving eye has nonetheless taken the measure of you; and has seen the measure with which you measured.

 I want to end with words of Our Lord that recently struck me deeply: “…lend expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.” Luke 6:35

One thing I’m sure of: nobody on this earth knows how much Dad has loaned to people in need; not any accountant, not Mom. I hope that when I am laid in the ground one day, I may have loaned a mere fraction of the amount that Dad has never been paid back. Or hasn’t been yet.

Dad, I know that the words of Our Lord are true, and thus I know that your reward will be great, and that you are a son of the Most High. And another thing I know is that we your sons, daughters, grandchildren, relatives, friends, and neighbors are honored to call you neighbor, friend, uncle, brother, grandpa, and Dad.

Dad and Mom, thank you for your providence, your wise and loving care, that has given so many of us the occasion to see, to feel, and to live under that Providence which slowly, and ever so carefully, is working to bring us all together, with Him, one great day.   

 

 

The photos are: my father and my son Raphael, September 29, 2011; and the funeral, September 21, 2013, kindness of Spiering Photography.

 

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20 comments

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your dad, John. The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  2. Thoughtful and from the heart! May Our Blessed Mother, Auxilium Christianorum, continue to bless you and yours in the Abundance and Grace of Her Divine Son, The Word of God!

  3. Jefffery B Cuddeback

    John, thank you for sharing your thoughts and prayers and for sharing your feelings of your dad to us. Your honesty and genuineness was a true blessing for all that are mourning the loss of your dad. Your dad and mom have built a wonderful, blessed legacy and you and your brothers and sisters are a huge part of it. God Bless you.

    1. Jeff, Your words are very generous, and deeply appreciated. God bless you too.

  4. Dr. Cuddeback, I am very sorry for your difficult loss and was greatly moved by what you shared about your father. He sounded like a very holy man. Your thoughts on the most difficult part of being a human being and not knowing what is going to happen or why is does sometimes, pretty much sums up what it especially apparent when we lose someone dear to us. I hope in time you and your family find comfort.

    1. Colleen, Thank you very much for your kind words.

  5. What a legacy of manliness in Christ. Condolences from Beth Collins’ mom.

  6. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. We will all miss him. I, and everyone else whose life he impacted, in his hidden but irreplaceable way, for the better. We all have much to be grateful for, in the gift of his life.

  7. You gave a beautiful eulogy for your father. Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Sincerely, Deanna Turner

  8. Thank you for your words John. It was through a link reading this and only now that I have learned of the passing of your father. I am in Chile working on my doctorate – a journey begun long ago in part through the generosity of a foundation your parents helped to direct. I think often of that look in his eyes you were describing, how profoundly it touched me over the years. I found it peaceful and confident that, in all things, what counted most was to be a saint. There are a mountain of kind acts done in secret by your father which benefited the entire Christendom community. I mourn deeply the loss of this man who quietly effected my life so profoundly and I rejoice that his journey is done. He is now an example of the race won.
    John Corrigan

  9. John,
    Thank you for sharing this about your dad, and about life and Providence. Perhaps it was, in the words of Lewis, a severe mercy that God allowed his decline as it happened — the utter detachment that it demanded of him was perhaps a great grace at the end of his life, although it brought great suffering.
    Though I knew your dad only a little, I knew him to be most kind, charitable and humble (I discovered the last when I accidentally called him “Dr.” and he jovially assured me that was his son, not himself, as he was “just Mr.”) In my few interactions with him, he was truly interested in me and the children with me; one felt that he cared in a real sense for the individual people that make up this community. His smile stands out to me; though I knew him only a little I cannot forget his smile.
    I remember seeing Mr. and Mrs. Cuddeback at weekday Mass over the years: their presence was a testimony and their clearly happy marriage a joy to see.
    I wanted to thank you, especially, for your welcoming us, with so many who knew your family, to the funeral Mass and burial day. It was an incredibly powerful, grace-filled time, through the tears.

  10. Dear John,
    Our prayers for the repose of the soul of your dear & wonderful father. I remember very clearly at one of your barn dances (academic year 2000/2001) that we were invited to attend also. Daughter #2, Bernadette, went on a rosary walk with friends around your father’s vast and glorious property. Night fell quickly thereafter, and we worried that we couldn’t locate her among others who were partying inside the barn. I reached out to you, John, with great anxiety, and told you I thought she might have climbed the fence to your neighbor’s property in order to be with those gorgeous horses! The darkness was overwhelming (especially to a city boy) and I could see nothing but pitch-blackness as I looked across to your neighbor’s property. You remained very calm. You said that if she didn’t show up soon, you would take a vehicle and go out & find her. No worries… I remained calm, thanks to your composure, & THANKS TO YOUR FATHER for teaching you how to govern your emotions and abandon to His Divine Providence!

    After reading your Eulogy here, I am so convinced that you were blessed with a wonderful earthly father! And THANKS BE TO GOD… Bernadette was safe, all along. She returned back to the barn with good company after saying a rosary. Therese, on the other hand, was having a great time with her classmates inside the barn. No need to bother her with the anxieties of a parent. THANK YOU, John, for helping me keep a lid on it all!!

    Our prayers & love,
    John, Janis, Therese & Bernadette Peters

  11. Maura Cuddeback Kaiser

    John, Thank you for sharing the eulogy…we are very blessed to have Uncle Chris as our uncle and all the “C&C’s” as our family. Truly…a blessing and such love. Our prayers are with you all.
    Maura, Larry, Anna, and John

  12. The whole Kromhout family is sorry for your loss, John. Love to you & Sofia and the children as you mourn the passing of what sounds like a truly remarkable man.
    (Peter’s sister) Nell & Anthony

  13. Dear John, how beautifully written. Your father was an amazing man and I had an opportunity to really talk with him during his appointments. He is a man that will surely be missed. How do you begin to say “I’m so sorry for your loss” but I would like to say that Heaven is celebrating the arrival of a dear man who I’m sure has heard “well done my good and faithful servant!” May God bless your entire family and give you His peace and strength to get through this sorrowful time. In His love, Margie Hasley

  14. Dear John, You say that God’s Providence encompasses everything. Were it not for that fact I would be completely devastated and almost in despair. I met your Dad when I was 19 and now cannot imagine life without him. But I know that God is watching over me, and will be with me every step of the difficult walk that I have ahead of me without my lifelong companion, friend, confidant, lover, and sharer of everything. That is my ultimate consolation since I know that God takes special care of widows, as it says many times in Scripture.

    I think I will be reading your words and Matthew’s words delivered at the Funeral Mass many times in the coming weeks, to help me remember the great man I was married to for 56 years, and whom I saw fail slowly as God took away his many attributes and capabilities one by one. He never complained, and I can only imagine how hard it was for him, who was so capable and who took care of me and his family so lovingly, to be completely helpless. Know that I told him how much I loved him and that his family loved him, many, many times. He would often say “Thank you, sweetheart.”

    Can I hereby thank you and the many others who have given him tribute, and sent many Mass cards and sympathy notes.
    All my love, Mom

    .

  15. Dr. Cuddeback, I am sorry about your family’s loss. May your father rest in peace.

  16. Dr. Cuddeback, thank you for those beautiful words so filled with love. I dread the day I lose one of my parents… May I share this with a friend of mine who, a year ago, lost her mother to Alzheimer’s, and who has now lost her faith in the goodness of God?
    God’s peace to you, and all those who so loved your father. Cathy