A eulogy to a special man and a lesson in empathy & compassion

This blog will be a tribute to my late father-in-law Gary.  Gary is my father-in-law from my first marriage to his late son Jack.  I've had a couple people ask if I would share what I spoke at his service as they were not able to be there or watch it virtually. 

I will first add that Gary was a wonderful man to all he met and I was blessed to have been a part of their family and continue to be a huge part of their lives.  Gary died the same day as my late husband, his son, on February 8th just 14 years apart.  What a strange thing to think about, but absolutely beautiful and remarkable in my opinion. 


Hello, thank you for coming out and celebrating the life of Gary. If any of you don’t know me, I am Angie, Gary & Suzanne’s daughter in law; I was married to their son Jack.  Let’s just touch on that for a minute; Jack died on Feb 8th 2009 after his short battle with cancer and can you believe that Gary died on Feb 8th 2023 after a lengthy battle with his disease PSP.  They died 14 years apart and Their time of death was also just a short hour apart from each other.  I am not sure what this means or if there is any meaning to this; I find it quite remarkable that it happened this way and the vision I see is absolutely comforting and amazing.  One really can’t be sad about it can we? 

The Rittenhouse family has definitely seen their fair share of losses within the family and it can’t go unnoticed that just a few short weeks ago, Gary’s nephew Brian, his brother Bill’s son also passed away.  Bill, Becky…we all loved Brian and he will be missed and even though we don’t want or like the situation, we have to accept it as it is and pray these reunions in Heaven are just amazing; Grandma D is probably just beside herself.

I could go on and on with stories about Gary. His life was full of love, hard work, and integrity.  If you have stories of Gary whether they are small or big, please share them with Suzanne so she can have those memories tucked in her heart to lean into.  A lot of people were very intimidated by Gary because of his tall statue and loud voice; what a lot of people missed or didn’t see because they were shying away from this bigger than life man, was that Gary was tender and had a heart of gold.  Gary was tall and he was a get it done man, Gary was loud because he couldn’t hear you, and Gary was intimidating to most because he knew what was right and he wanted to get it done asap.  Gary was fortunate to travel to many places around the world because of his successful career and with this many memories were created that have been cherished forever.  Gary loved his family, he loved you Suzanne more than anything.  He loved Jack & Brooke and loved watching their lives transform into adulthood and what they became and built.  He loved his grandbabies fiercely; Graci, you and Garret were his everything.  The day after Graci was born, Gary was on his way to work and he stopped into the hospital sporting a pink shirt & pink tie…we all looked at him because Gary said he’d never wear pink.  Well, Graci you changed all that for your Pa and he was the proudest ever that day and wanted the world to know he had a little granddaughter.  He loved on Garret and dubbed him “Buster”; anytime Garret would see his Pa, his hands would go crazy with excitement. 

This is just a very small taste of who Gary was.  What a lot of people don’t know Gary for is his strength and fierce desire to live with this disease he had.  Gary was diagnosed with PSP (Progressive supranucler palsy) 10 years ago and boy did it take a lot from him.  BUT, do not be fooled, PSP did not take away Gary’s love of his family, his will to live, or his strength in life.  Gary was strong up until his last days when his body was tired, but he could still grip our hands with a strength, I’m not sure where it came from.  

What many people saw on the outside of the Rittenhouse home was a suffering man, but inside those walls, they were filled with love, hope, & care.  We know that in life we will all suffer.  Gary had an amazing care team and Suzanne was the main caregiver for Gary in this fight.  We live in an extremely opinionated world and I know many people thought the care had gone on longer than it needed to. I am here to squash those opinions and let you know that Gary was the one living and fighting.  The care he received was extraordinary, yes, but God was the one in control of Gary’s days, not any of us. Just imagine being Suzanne and having to make the toughest decisions and knowing and seeing how Gary was responding to all of it. Also remember Suzanne is making all these decisions without her children to lean on.  That’s right, no one here can imagine that because nobody here has lost their grandson, then their son, then their daughter and then caring for their ill husband knowing that he will ultimately die sooner than you. Please give grace to all decisions that were made for Gary’s life, because they were done with an abundance of love.  So, if I could give you one lesson today it’s a chapter in empathy and compassion.  If you aren’t familiar with the meanings of those two words here you go; empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another AND compassion: concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. So I ask you to please turn your questions of “why” into words of “empathy & compassion” for Suzanne and our family.  

We cannot give enough praise to Gary’s caregivers with Compassion Care.  These caregivers were with Gary for 6 years of his life.  Eric was there from the beginning and they all have become our family.  These caregivers not only cared for Gary 24/7 for the last 4 years, but they were caring and they were there for Suzanne.  They made sure she was taken care of, they ate meals with her, they watched tv with her, they helped with health decisions and helped her better understand what a lot of it means, but mostly they did what God was calling them to do.  Since Gary’s death, they have called, they have stopped by and they are also grieving for the man they came to love as their own Papa.  

SO, thank you Eric, Mississe, Issac, Tina, Codi, Evette, Elvis, and the other’s that filled in when needed that I am sure I am missing.  Your love and dedication has not and will never go unnoticed.  

Thank You also to my husband Chantz.  You came into this family after marrying a widow, not understanding you were marrying into something bigger.  Our life isn’t typical, but it’s beautiful.  You have accepted and come into this with so much help, love, and grace.  I will forever be grateful for Gary & Suzanne for being 1000% accepting of Chantz with open arms and loving him as their own.  

To my beautiful and amazing daughter Graci.  You are strength wrapped up in all those who love you and who have died.  Even though your immediate family is small and it seems sad sometimes, know that the love given to you daily is bigger than any lives lost and always carry those who have died in your heart and live for their memories.  My hope is that I have given you the lessons in life to know that this world is never what we think it will be, but we live life to the fullest and we live it full of grace, hope, love, and always adventure.  

To you Suzi…I love you. I hurt for your losses and struggles that you have to go through.  We’ve had some very amazing and intimate talks the past several years, but the hardest and most meaningful talks the past few months/weeks.  You told me the other day that Gary was your best friend and I know that Gary would mirror that sentiment.  You were an amazing wife to Gary, you cared for him unconditionally without any abandon.  You are a true angel on this earth.  

To all of you, Gary’s friends & family…know that you are here because Gary cared for you and you learned to love & be a part of his life.  Thank You for being Gary’s friend and companions.  I also ask that you please, do not forget about the ones closest who are mourning daily for Gary and check in on Suzanne, a phone call, a card in the mail, a visit to share stories.  This will be the help and support she needs.  

The song that will be playing next is a perfect tribute and his battles over the years with his health.  No matter what anyone thinks or feels, take the words from this song and know that Gary has no hard feelings towards any of his circumstances and he definitely has no enemies.  Take notes within this song and listen to how we can hope Gary’s life is transitioning…it gives me so much comfort. 

Lastly, We talked about acceptance a lot over the past few weeks; How can we accept the outcome? How can we accept loneliness? How can we accept saying goodbye?  Then the day after Gary died I saw this quote “I am learning to trust the journey even when I don’t understand it” by Mila Bron.  I wrote in my journal and shared on social media that I truly believe it has to do with having the faith to trust the journey.  We have no idea where our life journey will go from day to day and we have to trust that we are being held & carried. It doesn’t mean we will like it or we won’t fight with resistance; but we have to accept it for what it is.  So, as we say goodbye to our favorite Pa, please take this life journey and embrace it with acceptance, faith, & grace. 


The song that was played was "No hard Feelings" by the Avette Brothers.  I was introduced to this song many, many years ago and I have leaned on it heavily.  I knew that I would always tribute it to Gary as the words have so much meaning to how his body had worn out and where he was going.  Click on the name to listen if you haven't heard it before. 

Thank You always for the love, respect, & compassion you give me each and every week as I write my blogs, share my thoughts & feelings.  I never imagined a life with so much death, but I believe that this is the task that I am supposed to conquer and the journey that I'm supposed to guide and help so many others who suffer.  SO, like I always say "together is always better" and we will get through hard times together.  

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1 comment

Angie, this is absolutely beautiful. Perfectly stated in every way, thank you so much for sharing!
I am learning to trust the journey even when I don’t understand it❤️❤️

Niki Frerichs

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