The following was the
eulogy read at Billy's funeral by his Uncle Tommy.
I'm Billy's Uncle and
I'm proud and honored to try to say some words today - for Billy, who I recently
began to think of as much as a friend as a nephew. I'm lucky enough to
love him in both those ways, and I miss him.
First of all, the family
would like to simply say Thank You to the community for the phenomenal
outpouring of love and support. It's been beyond description. It
reminds us of the genuine goodness of people. Please keep it coming in the
days ahead. I'm a T.Z. guy, but even I have to say that you have a very
special place here in Pearl River. Never lose that. Be aware of
that. In times of need, take advantage of that. It's just not found
in many places. It's worth repeating: Pearl River is a special
And Billy is a Pearl
River Pirate. Just like Alicia Brady, Michael O'Connell, Keith Savarese,
Patrick Flanagan, Paula Bohavesky, Tim Kelleher, Jimmer Murray, Michael Carroll,
Brian Elliot, Brian Armstrong, Freddy Camp, Frank Swercheski, Bonner T. Adams,
Andrew Regenhard, Richard Pratrucco, Roy Noonan, Thorpe Seely and Jimmy Armstrong
-- A group of Pirates that this community refuses to let go of...A group that
now occupies a little corner of heaven -- a mini "Pirates Cove" --- that sadly
just got a little more crowded. A little noisier. But a little more
beautiful. I hope -- and I believe -- that in future years, Pearl River
kids will know Billy's name and even a little bit about what kind of kid he is.
His friends, who Billy loves and talks about all the time, can help to make that
happen. And the Billy Kayser Memorial Foundation will ensure that it
happens. And I know that this community will support Billy's Legacy in
Billy's legacy starts
with his parents, during these difficult days while the community struggles with
this tragedy, Diane and Jimmy stand tall and strong. I'm in awe of the
strength they demonstrate. As most of you know, this is not the first
cross they've had to bear. Their life reads like a modern day book of Job.
When faith is tested in such ways, many would crumble under the weight and
strain -- I know I would -- yet there they are... comforting and consoling
family, friends, and neighborhood kids. Opening their home to all, like
they always do. This, when you would expect them to need the comforting
and consoling! They inspire others to strength. They are our hero's.
We should follow their example.
I'll appeal publicly and
personally now to Billy's brothers -- Jimmy, Joey and Robert -- to
please strive to provide only good things for your parents. As you go
through life and have choices to make, consider what they've already endured and
choose paths that might bring them joy. Create no opportunity for further
sorrow. And know that I'll be watching. More importantly -- and this
is the other thing about this community: You never really leave it and it
never leaves you -- so others will be watching. Others, Like Coach Miller,
Coach Santini, and Coach Neeck.
Like the coaches, I've
had the great pleasure of watching Billy and his brothers grow up. I even
like to think I've participated in parts of the process, at least through
playing and competing with them. Wiffleball, stickball, basketball,
hockey, swimming, skiing, golf, and, always Baseball -- you name it., the boys
played it. And Billy in particular. Billy loves sports and to talk
sports, especially Baseball -- and our discussions often include Yogi Berra and
his famous Yogi-isms. A favorite of Billy's is the story of the reporter
asking Yogi about the difficulties in dealing with the dark, afternoon shadows
in Yankee Stadium's left field, especially since Yogi was new to the outfield.
Billy always laughs out loud at Yogi's simple reply which was, "Yeah, it gets
late early out there."
Well, Bill, last week it
seemed to get late early here in Pearl River. Way too early. And all
of us left here in the dark, afternoon shadows are deeply sad and hurt.
Our imperfect human form renders us unable to comprehend this sudden, drastic
change. This unwanted, unwelcome change. I suppose it's selfishness
that makes us feel this way. We want Billy back. For ourselves.
Forever. We're selfish enough to think it would never get late early for
But God has another plan,
and we're powerless to change it. God decided that Billy's mission here
was completed and he apparently has other work for him upstairs. The very
best we can now hope for is to have faith. Like Diane and Jimmy do.
And faith teaches us that there has to be a reason for everything. Even
something this devastating. Hard as that is to imagine, we have to find
something. And I suspect it doesn't necessarily have to be the one, same
thing for each of us. Maybe, instead, it's a personal thing--like a memory
is--that each of us has to arrive at individually. Maybe that's part of
God's mystery. Certainly, that thing could be the many recipients of
Billy's organs whose lives have now been saved because Billy had to leave.
Or, it could be for the many young people here today--and even for those of us
who are not so young--the lesson that this life is so precious and so
fragile--too much so to be taken for granted or handled carelessly.
Perhaps Billy's mission here was to make us realize that life is to be
cherished. To be coveted. To be grasped with a firm hand, and then
caressed with great care. That life is to be most of all, lived.
Certainly Billy lives
that way. Fully. Looking back now, it's as if Billy knew
something--Living his life as if to say, "I'm not here for a long time, I'm here
for a good time". From a very early age Billy showed a great zest for
life. A great willingness to dive into life. The broken bones and
skinned knees providing the evidence. Even when he was a baby, we noticed
now quickly he had learned how to flash that smile...that smile that was as
sweet and pure as his left-handed swing would become. The one that was at
once charming and devilish. The one that caused his doting aunts to
quickly dismiss little sins by saying, "But Billy's so cute." As he grew,
he learned how to make that talent work for him. How to use his
personality and his charm. I had never realized until spending so much
time these past few days with Billy's dear friends and classmates, his coaches
and teammates, how consistent Billy's personality is. How...honest.
These friends that know him so well, the friends he tries so hard to emulate.
These friends Billy loves. We all read Billy the very same way.
We all know that only
Billy can make you completely aggravated and totally amused. Simultaneously.
With a single gesture. God forgive me, but he can be a pain in the ass, can't
he? By the way, those are the words of those same aunts who used to think
he was "so cute". Those who know him best know exactly what I mean.
He can charm you with that smile--accompanied by a flex to demonstrate that he's
"JACKED"; or by a pose to show you that he's "HOT". He can absolutely
incite you into a competition of any kind, that you really have no immediate
interest in -- just by talking trash, or by bragging about a victory over you in
a previous competition. although I'm older and supposedly more mature,
Billy regularly snares me in that net, and before you know it -- the fight is
Like everyone else he
touches, I eventually concluded that it's better to be with Billy. In my
case, I became his permanent backyard bocci partner which is a position I will
cherish forever. Early in the morning on a day of a Bar-B-Q the phones
always rings: "Uncle Tommy", he'll say, Joey's got a bocci partner, should
we give them a shot at the belt today?" Even over the phone, I can see him
gesturing to show that he was wearing the imaginary championship belt. He
just has to be the best. At anything. At everything.
Billy is a fierce
competitor, willing to do whatever it takes to win. And cheating is always
an option--especially if there's a dollar or two on the line. Billy
started caddying last year. Now, with money in his pocket, he comes to the
Bar-B-Q's looking for a game of Pitch and Putt in the yard, saying, "Can we
play? I got dollars." again, most of you know that this is true.
In fact, by this time, I'm sure poor old St. Peter's been coerced into a dollar
game of something or other up there. It'll be something to see.
Billy is a light in our
lives. Regardless of our age or our relation to him. He is a light
in our lives. His best friend Eamon will tell you that. His 10-year
old cousin, T.J., says Billy's his idol. Coach Neeck even recently told
Billy that he loves him. His presence brightens and warms our spirit.
I heard Coach Neeck say the other day that Billy can annoy you into liking him,
and I can't disagree. That's not criticism, because Billy evens annoys in
a bright, warm way. That's part of his persistent charm. Just like
that smile is. That smile that makes you think he's up to something (which
he usually is). And even though you have no idea what it is, you're
positively certain that you want "IN". And that's just how Billy wants it.
So, I say, let's all be
"IN". Let's challenge ourselves to keep Billy's light always burning,
always shining. Brightly, Even bright enough to be a bit annoying from
time to time---Just so we know that it's really him.
Let's all be "IN".
Let's all keep Billy's light burning. Keep it burning with those personal,
individual memories that I talked about earlier. We all have them.
Share them with each other. Share them with me. Please, share them
with Diane and Jimmy and the boys.
Keep Billy's light
burning. Translate those memories into an energy that drives your own
appreciation of this life. However you interpret it and execute it, keep
his light burning. Live this life. Be full of life like Billy is.
Smile Billy's smile. Every so often, try to look "HOT" or "JACKED", just
to make yourself laugh, like Billy does.
Keep Billy's light
burning. Keep it burning by cherishing this life, by coveting this life,
by grasping it with a firm hand and then caressing it with great care.
Never, ever be careless with life.
I say, Let's all be "IN"
on whatever it is that Billy's been up to. Because I think I know what
he's been up to all this time--and that is he's been simply living life. FULLY.
And if we're all "IN", the light of Billy's life will never be extinguished.
Billy's light will then shine so brightly that it will keep those dark,
afternoon shadows away. So much so that we'll come to realize that for
once, maybe Yogi was wrong, and it really didn't get late too early, after all.
Because we have Billy's light. And as we know, Billy's the best.
Remember Us Billy --
We'll Never Forget You.
Billy's Prayer Card given out at his wake.
When we saw it we just knew it was the right one.
Thomas was stillborn June 8, 1985. One year before
Billy was born.
During labor the umbilical cord was positioned under his head and at
each contraction he cut off his own air.
They called it a prolapsed cord.
There was nothing we could do.
3 months later I was pregnant with Billy
scared but happy.
Written In Stone
Your gravestone finally arrived today,
That's what the voice on the phone had to say.
"Come check it over, make sure it's right,
and I will set it before tomorrow night."
I cannot begin to describe the shock that I felt,
When I laid my eyes on your stone, another blow was dealt.
Seeing your name, written boldly in stone,
My knees got weak, and I heard myself moan.
It is final now, you really did die,
The name on the stone is not a lie.
Denial has gotten me far in my life,
But I can't deny what is written in stone, my strife.
I had to run, and hide in the truck,
cause the tears are falling, and my heart has been struck.
That name that is written upon that stone,
is my beloved son, and yes, he is gone!
How many times can my heart be broken in two,
over and over, because I have lost you.
All I can think is "It's written in stone",
My son is gone, and I sit here alone.
I really didn't expect to feel this much emotion,
upon seeing your stone, and I wish for a potion,
to erase the wrenching torment I feel in my heart,
a pain I have become familiar with, since we have been apart.
"God,", I asked, "How much longer? How many more times,
must I feel this knife pierce my heart, live riddles and rhymes?
I know he is better off up there with you in heaven above,
but what do I do without the son that I love?"
I watched as the stone was placed on your grave,
And once again, I decided to be brave.
So I stuffed the heartache and pain deep inside,
with the rest of the feelings that I have to hide.
I told the caretaker, "It's a beautiful stone.",
as I stood there, I felt so horribly alone.
But my face did not show it, and that voice continued to intone,
You cannot deny it, it's written in stone.
written by Bonnie Atkinson
In loving memory of her son, Jonathan Ray Atkinson.
January 19, 1981- March 30, 2002
The Song Playing is 'I Will Remember You' by Sara McLachlan