Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Eric H. McClellan Memorial Garden

As presented by Anita McClellan (my sister) at the garden's dedication:

I'd like to thank everyone for coming to represent Eric during this Memorial Garden Dedication.

Eric's life ended way too soon.  I'm still waiting for him to come through my front door and end this nightmare, I can't believe he has been gone for almost a year.  It is difficult to view the world without Eric being a part of it.  He was the sort of man who made an impact on many people's lives.  He made a point of greeting everyone he encountered.  Eric met many of his friends by going out of his way to have conversations with people he didn't know at the time.  He had friends all over the world.

When we first met the conversation flowed, there were no awkward silences; it was like we had known each other our whole lives.  We talked in the parking lot of the restaurant until 4 am and couldn't believe how the time had flown by.   When Eric set his sights on something he wanted he would not accept no as an answer.  We had only known each other a month when he asked me to marry him.  He wouldn't accept no for an answer and asked me every day for a month before I agreed.  I think it shocked everyone we knew.  When I met his Mother she told me she didn't know anything about me but she sure liked the way I made her son walk.  I loved Eric just the way he was, I wasn't about to try to change the man I fell in love with.  We brought out the best in each other because all we wanted to do was to make each other smile.  Didn't matter what was going on in the outside world when we knew we had each other to rely on.  We wanted ours to be the last face we saw each night and the first face to be seen in the morning.  Eric didn't like working overtime because it took time away from us.  Once he entered our home, he knew he was in a sanctuary where all was good.  Other than the mountains our home was his favorite place to be.

Eric was a hard worker but he played even harder.  He loved his motorcycles and the mountains.  He would tell me "any day you do a wheelie is a good day."  He was doing them in the back yard the Sunday before he died; I just shook my head and laughed watching him through the kitchen window.  I thought "that boy will never grow up," I was partially right as now he will never grow old.

He attended most of the Yamaha FJ rallies over the years and as the years rolled by the younger guys would push the envelope farther in their riding. One of the guys tried to tease Eric about being too slow so he looked him in the eye and said, "You may have been faster than me but I guarantee you didn't have more fun."  Eric was always game for a motorcycle ride; it was normal for him to go on a 200-400 mile ride in a day.  If the weather man said it was 40% chance of rain, he was going because that meant it was a 60% chance of sunshine.

Eric believed no one could get through this life alone.  He knew life was not fair.  He felt it important to offer a kind word to people because you never knew what was going on in their lives.  A cheerful hello might just be what they needed at the time and it allowed people to start their day on a positive note.  He was willing to help those in need.  When he found out one of the people on his motorcycle forum had been diagnosed with cancer, Eric looked hi up and went over to his house to rebuild his truck engine for him to make it easier for him to get to the doctor.  He was always answering forum questions on how to fix motorcycle problems and offering mechanical solutions when friends would call him on the phone with vehicle problems.

Eric liked to stay busy because it made the day go by faster.  He would tell me "if you don't have time to fix the problem correct today when will you have the time?"  He didn't believe in band-aiding a problem only to have it break later.  I use to tell him he was an artist.  I heard a bunch of noise from an engine but when he heard a motor it was like a melody and knew which part was playing off key.

We use to watch survivor shows on TV and Eric asked me one time what would be my one item to take to make life easier?  I looked him in the eye and said, "I would take you."  He laughed, but I knew if he were by my side I would want for nothing.

More than anything I wanted him happy.  When he would smile it would light up the room,  I encouraged him in his dreams and desires.  We use to laugh because I would say I knew him all his adult life and most of his childhood.  We had 28 good years together which I wouldn't trade for the world.  Neither of us could believe we had been together over half our lives; the years just flew by.

He didn't believe in throwing a fit when something went wrong.  Because when you were done with your tirade you still had to fix the problem and you only found out you wasted valuable time and the problem was still there.  It is an imperfect world and screws fall out.  Keep it simple and break it down into basic components, push, pull or twist.

Eric had an eye for detail.  He liked all his screws to line up, liked parts to be shiny and new looking, he never wanted his repairs to stand out; he told me they should be seamless.  He said the magic was in the details.  Nothing was too hard to fix or modify.  He loved the speed and handling of his 91 FJ1200 but didn't like the old suspension, so he upgraded the entire suspension to a 2005 model.  He would laugh when other men would admire his bike and then slowly catch on at how much modification had been done on what appeared to be a stock bike.

I recall one cold January morning when he was rushing to get to work only to encounter ice on the porch.  His feet flew out from under him, and he fell down the stairs.  Instead of continuing to his truck he crawled back inside to warn me of the pending danger so I wouldn't suffer the same fate he had.  He was always watching out for my safety.

Eric met me at our door after work every day during our marriage to give me a hug and kiss.  He wanted it clear to me to know how he felt.  He said marriage to me was easy because he had married his best friend.  When he had his stroke six years ago he told me that if he were to die tomorrow that he had no regrets, we had led a good life together and he had been happier than he ever thought he would.

We can't demand to know the reason why things happen, or shout at the world when bad things occur.  Life isn't fair, no one ever said it would be, but I trust that at some point everything will make sense to me.  Until then I trust in Eric that I shouldn't have a temper tantrum and waste my energy on things I can't change.  I put one foot in front of the other until it becomes natural again.  I continue doing the things we had planned and following the course we had set together.

If we have learned anything from Eric, remember to hold your loved ones tight and be sure to let every single person that means something to you know it.  You don't want to leave this world with regrets and have the people you cared about not know how much they meant to you.  Memories with people you care about are more important than the material items this life has to offer; your last thoughts won't be how big your house was, how green your yard was, or what type of car you drove.  When your life flashes before your eyes, see the people you loved not the things you regret.

Eric and I both believed you experience two deaths in this life; the loss of your physical body and when people no longer mention your name.  I know I will be speaking his name for the rest of my life because a life which doesn't include him is unimaginable. I hope with the Memorial Garden Eric will be mentioned and continue to live long after I'm gone.


  1. MCCLELLAN, Eric H., age 55, died on Wednesday, November 25, 2015, in Richmond, Va., after an industrial accident. He was preceded in death by his father, Jimmy H. McClellan of Newport News. He is survived by his loving wife of 27 years, Anita A. McClellan; and son, Jimmy; mother, Jeanne S. McClellan of Newport News; sister, Sharon M. Doane and husband, Thomas, of Richmond; uncles, Larry N. Sherman and wife, Nina, of Kansas, Bill McClellan and wife, Kathy, of Arkansas; aunt, Elizabeth Skillman and husband, Thomas, of Ohio; cousins on both sides of the family; mother-in-law, Vernell Sutherland from North Carolina; brothers-in-law, David Sutherland and wife, Cindy, from Louisiana, Patrick Sutherland from Ohio; sister-in-law, Teresa Sutherland of North Carolina. Eric moved from Newport News to Richmond to kayak the James River. He was an avid biker and founding member of the FJ Owners Club. Eric was known for his quick wit and positive attitude on life. He will be dearly missed by those who knew him.

    Note: Formal Obituary

  2. "Praying for patience and strength for the entire family and loved ones to carry through this challenging time."
    Attic Syed

  3. "Anita, I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your husband. My condolences to you and your family. Thoughts and prayers for all of you at this difficult time." Sincerely, Erma Vingara

  4. "Our deepest condolences to the McClellan family during this difficult time. We are very sorry for your loss. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers."
    Reynolds Wheeling, IL Facility

  5. "Praying for friends to comfort you, faith to uphold you, and loving memories to carry you through."
    Louisville Human Resource Dept

  6. "I am so very sorry for your loss. Eric's family, friends, co-workers and all who knew and loved him are in my prayers. With Sympathy,"
    Lindsey Cleveland Hegle

  7. "Your family is in our thoughts and prayers through this difficult time. I'm very sorry for your loss."
    Jonathan Monge

  8. "I'm so sorry for your loss. Eric's family and friends and other co-workers are in my prayers."
    Kate McCann

  9. "Prayers for family and friends as the go through this difficult time."
    Richard Beckmann

  10. "My condolences to the family."
    Eric Boe

  11. "My best wishes and condolences to Eric's family and friends from a colleague way over in the UK; whilst I did not have the pleasure of knowing Eric, I am nevertheless thinking about and praying for you all. Simon"
    Simon Bullen RCP International