Today marked the end of a very tough week for my family. As many had heard my brother Scott passed away Wednesday. He was 54. He had fought the Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) bravely and with dignity. He died peacefully in his own bed with his family at his side.
I was unable to attend his funeral. I have been fighting a bad round of chest congestion and this morning made the most difficult decision to avoid going out in bad weather. My head knows I made the right choice, but my heart has a large void in it having to miss my final good-bye.
The wake for my brother was joyous. Wakes are strange like that. You're gathered among family & friends, many you've not seen in years. More laughs are shared than tears, as it should be. Life is a celebration. And even though my brother was only 54, for a person with SMA that's like being 80 or 90. My brother would not want people to be sad and he would have supported my choice to stay home.
My brother was a great writer. I am a hack compared to what he could and did do. I am going to try my best to get his writings online. More people need to see his works.
I knew I had to and wanted to write his eulogy. I have honored by many in that it was well written. I just poured my heart on to paper. That is how I write. Because I miss him I will reprint his eulogy here for those who did not get to be at church, like me.
It’s hard to type those words because my memories of Scott are so vivid and alive. Scott is and will forever be a son, a brother, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a Godfather, an adviser, a friend, a collaborator, an author, a wordsmith and the type of guy that would ask,
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
In the hours following my brother’s passing I started hearing a similar question from different people. The question was,
“Did Scott have any special wishes with regards to his funeral?”
To be honest, I don’t know. We never talked about dying. It wasn’t a fear of his, but why waste good energy on something you have little to no control over. Life was for living, and Scott lived life.
Scott had passion for whatever he was doing and for whomever he was working with. Scott lived his life just before changes were being made for people with disabilities. In Junior high his school wasn’t accessible enough for him to go there, so his teachers came to the house. In high school, again not accessible, but Scott went to classes via an intercom system. Did it limit his actions? Not even close. He was involved in the school newspaper and other activities. Was even a member of the National Honor Society and other groups that recognize people for academic excellence. In college he did even more. He went to Moraine Valley Community College and was newspaper editor, sports writer and a club president. Nothing slowed him down.
You can’t have a eulogy about Scott and not mention MDA Summer Camp. Camp is where kids with Muscular Dystrophy get to be regular kids doing regular things for a whole week away from home. I went to camp first as Scott needed a surgery to keep his back straight. When he got there he was an instant big man on campus. He saw opportunities to make camp even more fun. The Ploch Brothers were born. We created a camp game show, we created yearly themes for the camp, and we were among the first “campers” to become camp leaders. We’d spend months before camp preparing for that week. Scott was the driving force and I just followed his lead. Those years at camp were pure heaven on Earth. It was also the place where we’d meet some of the greatest friends for life.
The other subject you can’t forget to mention when talking about Scott is sports. Scott was no different than any suffering Chicago sports fan. He was fortunate. Scott was fortunate to see each of his teams, the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox win championships. There was one year he cheered for the Cubs, but we don’t talk about that. I believe his friend Mike Corrigan blackmailed him that year. That secret he takes with him. Scott and our Dad had a special relationship because of sports. I can still see them talking about the current slate of games. I can imagine my brother and father sitting in the greatest skybox in heaven watching over their teams.
In regards to competition Scott was a worthy opponent. If you could determine a way to measure a winner or loser of an activity, it was game on. A game of Yahtzee would become dice basketball, a game of Tiddly Winks would become a contact sport, and come summer it was baseball all day long. We invented rules and techniques that allowed us to play baseball competitively. Disability be damned we were ballplayers.
Scott was also a skilled writer of the common things. He would often write on Facebook mouthwatering descriptions of our Mom’s cooking. When he went offline last week people were eagerly awaiting his descriptions of his hospital food. He never got to write those, but I know they would have been delicious. He probably would have even described the full bodied red wine matched perfectly with crisp and holy Eucharist we receive today.
My son Jimmy has been struggling with the thought that he won’t see Uncle Scott again. The concept of heaven is complex to understand for adults let alone a child. Our faith guides us to believe we will reunite with our loved ones in heaven. I can think of no greater heaven than to be reunited with those we have not seen in a long time. This is why we’re gathered here today to see friends and family to rekindle our memories of loved ones past and present. People only die if they are forgotten. Scott will not be forgotten anytime soon.
Finally, our family gives thanks to the many friends and family that have supported us during these tough times. Mike Corrigan thanks for being my brother’s best friend for so many years. You never asked why, you just helped whenever Scott needed you. Rob & Laura Martin for your understanding & generosity when Gail would need time away from work to help care for Scott. Dr. Jim Valek and the hospice team that made this last week of Scott’s as peaceful for him and the family as was possible. To my sister Gail and my Mom. You have given Scott the greatest gift of all. Your unconditional love. You made his life comfortable for so long. It wasn’t always easy, but you did it.
Scott passed away when my sister, my mom and I were at his side. He lived as a family and he died as a family.