The Measure of the Man
A tree is best measured when it’s down.
A Woodsman’s Proverb
How do you take the measure of a man—of the impact one life has on the lives of others? Carl Sandburg in his biography of Abraham Lincoln titles the chapter on Lincoln’s death, “A Tree Is Best Measured When It’s Down.” Though we gather because of the death of Randy Peck, the true measure of the man is seen in his life, not in his death, marked out by how he loved and was loved in return.
Like a stately oak tree, Randy loomed large in my life, not just because he was taller than me but because he was my friend of fifty years. From the moment a skinny, towheaded second grader said hello until the moment of his death, Randy had been a constant presence in my life. In him I found the rarest of all rewards: true friendship. It might well be said that a man with a thousand acquaintances is a poor man, but a man with one true friend is a rich man. Randy made me a rich man; I’m the poorer by his passing.
True friendship is not a dainty and delicate thing to be handled with kid gloves. True friendship is a rough and rugged thing to be handled with hardy hands, smudged by fingerprints. My life was covered by his. It was with him that I shared celebrations and sorrows, hopes and hurts, dreams and disappointments. He strengthened me in times of weakness, provided for me in times of need, and protected me in times of danger. In Randy, this truth came alive: “Friendship multiplies joy and divides griefs.”
Whether driving his mother’s green Plymouth Valiant backwards from my house to his—and carefully obeying all traffic laws—telling a joke that caused me to laugh so hard milk poured out of my nose, or sitting around a campfire at a mountain lake swapping ghost stories and sharing dreams, Randy always gave more than he took. His was a life well lived because he was a man well loved, who loved well in return. This is the true measure of any man—of the impact one life can have on the lives of others.
The Roman orator and statesman Cicero, reflecting on friendship, wrote: “He . . . who looks into the face of a friend beholds, as it were, a copy of himself. Thus the absent are present, the poor are rich, and the weak are strong.” Friendship is soulship. And so it was for Randy and I. He was more than my friend, he was my brother. And the impact of his life on mine is immeasurable.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend love at all times.” Never in the fifty years that I had the honor and privilege of calling Randy Peck my friend did he cease to love me. He called on the Friday before his death, we spoke and we prayed, and his last words to me were, “I love you”—words I will carry in my heart until I see my friend again.
Rest well my friend, my brother. I love you too.
This was the eulogy I wrote and recorded for Randy’s memorial service, Friday, April 3, 2020, which was conducted via Facebook live.