Dr. Billy J. Hopper
(August 18, 1928 - December 3, 2001)
In Loving Memory
O Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds, and whosebreath gives life to all of the world, hear me. I am small and weak. I need your strength and wisdom. Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respect the things you have made. Make my ears sharp to hear your voice. Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught your people. Let me lean on lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock. I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy - myself. Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes. So when life fades as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.
The Native American prayer above was the one chosen to be printed on the memorial cards distributed after the death of my father. On the reverse side was various pictures of nature. The cards were chosen because of the fitting words, his love for Native American spirituality and, his love for the great outdoors. His home was filled with many pictures, artifacts, and books relating to Native American spirituality. Although, he was not Native American, he had great respect for their beliefs and their wisdom and, in many ways, spoke with the wisdom of a great tribal elder. He also studied all major forms of religions and was quite knowledgeable on each. He often quietly celebrated various religious events alone in his home as it is quite difficult to "belong" to more than one religion and even more unacceptable socially to celebrate multiple religious ceremonial rituals simultaneously. Thus, he chose to practice his own way of religious practice utilizing aspects of numerous religions in his own way.
His funeral services was attended by a large contingency of family, friends, employees, and patients. It was obvious that he was loved by a great many people for a diversity of reasons. As a father, he was probably typical of most parents, going through the various stages of adulthood and parenthood: trying to get through college, struggling to survive financially, establishing his practice, and trying to juggle career with family and all the other aspects of his life. I remember going on many camping trips, going to car races, and often being frustrated because he seemed to be gone from home so much with his involvement in local professional and various other organizations and activities. Though he was always there if there was a crisis or serious need for attention. As he became more secure in his profession and settled into a nice routine with his own clinic, he began to spend more time with me as he had when I was young. As retirement loomed around the corner, I think he set out to make amends with all those in his life as most people due. Priorities change with each change in life stage. Family was certainly his priority in his later years and I am glad to have been a major part of his final years. I learned probably more from him during the last two years of his life than in the previous 20 years!
The saying "Live for today as tomorrow may never come" is very true and illustrated here. People always seem to think that bad things will not happen or will happen later perhaps because we don't want to think or deal with it. My father had a complete medical workup complete with CT scan of the brain, ECG, pulmonary tests, blood work, etc. and came out looking "good for another 10 years" as he felt. When it's your time, it's your time and you may not go any way you can think of. A series of medical errors lead to his unexpected death. What was the very thing to save him and gave him a clean bill of health was ultimately the very thing that killed him. After losing my son, something that's not supposed to happen and, the untimely and unexpected death of my father, I can attest to the fact that you should live each day as if it might be your last and put forth in relationships with the same attitude. He will be sorely missed by many. The best thing we can do is heed the lessons he left us and become better human beings for it.