Eulogy for My Brother, Clay Arnold Bean

The following is a copy of the Eulogy I gave for Clay on February 17, 2020. Clay (63) died on December 6, 2019 after a 3 year battle with heart disease.

Clay Arnold Bean December 18, 1955-December 6, 2019.

This is the 3rd Eulogy I have written and given in my life. The first was for a close friend in college who was tragically killed in an auto accident. I remember my father helped me write it and he coached me as I practiced my delivery. The second was a Eulogy for my father. I wrote that one on my own, and it was difficult to distill my feelings of love for him, and what he meant to me as a father into the 3 minutes of  time I was granted by my Stepmother, Leslie at Dad’s memorial service. Less than 2 years later, another Eulogy to give- for my brother. While I am honored to remember him, I do not like this ritual of age.

My brother, Clay and I were born 8 years apart. Clay is the oldest. Our parents, Alan, a young Ensign in flight training and Sue, a fresh college graduate and new elementary school teacher had a sense of adventure and they were excited for their Navy life together when their beautiful ginger-haired son, Clay was born.

Clay was a happy child. Our mother taught him to read. Our father taught him to swim at 3 years old, an athletic skill Clay excelled and enjoyed all his life. Dad’s Naval career took them from Pensacola, Florida to Beeville, Texas, from Jacksonville, Florida to Patuxent River, Maryland, from Long Beach, California back to Jacksonville, and finally to Houston.

What do I remember about Clay from our childhood? We didn’t spend much time together. I guess there were too many differences; age, gender, and interests between a brother and a sister. We never shared the same teachers or attended the same school. Our daily lives seldom intersected. There were no mutual friends between us. Mostly I recall how much he teased me.

So I pulled out our old family photos; Clay and I playing with our dog, Clay hugging me before we drove to the Apollo 12 launchpad, the both of us laughing and swimming in the backyard pool, and a funny picture of 9 year old Clay after winning the 4th of July hot dog eating contest. The family album tells a different story than I remember, and maybe, it is the real one.

I started to think about our relationship in a new way, not what were our differences, but what were our similarities? What bonded us together?-the Ragsdale nose, the Murphy freckles, Nanny Bean’s pies at Thanksgiving, pony rides on Grandad’s knee, our German Shepard, She. Mom’s evening rings of the dinner bell outside our kitchen door telling us Dad was home.

Both brother and sister were strong-willed and independent-minded. Clay was more of a Maverick than me- an outsider, a non-conformist. He wore his hair long (which was the subject of many arguments between Clay and Dad during high school), raced motorcycles, never missed a moment for fun-Clay lived life on his terms.

The Bean Family 1975, standing left to right, Alan, Sue, Grandfather Edward Ragsdale, Clay, Grandmother Floy Mae Ragsdale, Amy-Houston Backyard.

Being the only son of an Astronaut, a Moonwalker is a tough act to follow. My father was training for spaceflight during Clay’s formative years. He became a rebellious teenager, a parenting phase Dad did not handle well. Clay’s struggles drove them apart. Their distant relationship was painful for them. Dad talked of Clay often, and I encouraged him to visit, especially after Clay became ill. But Dad unexpectedly died. It was too late. He remembered Clay in his Will leaving him his most personal things; his watch he wore on Skylab, his jewelry, his car, clothes, models, books. Our stepmother, Leslie, is cruel. Even though Clay was sick, she refused to give them to him. Clay never received those final expressions of our father’s love.

Mom, Sue, and son, Clay, July 1956.

There is one person who made a difference in Clay’s life more than any other, and that is our mother. When Clay’s illness surfaced in college, Mom took him to doctors. She provided opportunities for Clay to build his self-confidence by sending him to Florida for flight school, Hawaii for scuba-certification. Clay tried. When Rose was born, Mom helped the family move to Austin. Carmen worked and Clay found his purpose as a stay-at-home father. Clay loved Carmen. Together for 30 years, Carmen was an understanding  partner, friend, and the loving mother of their children, Joyce, Rose, Angela, Ian, and Theodora. Clay was proud of them. His children were his moon and stars.

Etched on the front of Clay’s Urn is an eagle, the majestic bird he admired. A symbol of strength and courage, a fierce protector of his young. The eagle solitarily soars high in the sky with ease and freedom. Clay we miss you. We remember you with love and hope the wind lifts your mighty wings towards the sun.

Memorial Service for Clay Arnold Bean, February 17, 2020.

18 Comments

  1. Thank you Amy for sharing. A tribute not only to Clay, but a tribute to your Mom & Dad as well. Too many losses too close together. Thinking of you & your precious Mother with much love & prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy this was so excellent! It made me cry! I remember growing up with Clay. He always liked me, maybe we had that rebellious spirit in common! God Bless and keep on loving your Sweet Mom Your cousin Karen. P.S. Loved that part about the Ragsdale Nose, it seems I pasted that along to my son also!

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  3. February 18 2020 7:20 AM, “Moonwalker Daughter” wrote: moonwalkerdaughter posted: ” The following is a copy of the Eulogy I gave for Clay on February 17, 2020. Clay (63) died on December 6, 2019 after a 3 year battle with heart disease. Clay Arnold Bean December 18, 1955-December 6, 2019. This is the 3rd Eulogy I have written and “

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy your eulogy was so real and heartfelt. I remember Clay teasing me too when we would visit. He had an infectious laugh and he wrinkled his nose too. He left behind a remarkable family and I know he will be missed. Thank you Amy for sharing. Your cousin Ann

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy that was beautiful! I remember Clay was a really good artist. Remember seeing his drawings He was a tad older than us so I didn’t see him much when I came to visit you in Nassau Bay. I do remember he was a very handsome guy tho ! I Remember many good times in your backyard also remember the baby deer y’all had! Your Dad & Mom was so sweet. Thank you for sharing !

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautifully said Amy. Clay would be laughing at these memories. I always had a good connection with him he would y’all to me for long periods of time and we always had a good laugh about something. So sorry I missed being with your family for the service but you know I would have been there if I could. I watched you all grow up and have loved you both since I first met you and your mother is the sister I never had. It’s up to you to take care of her and I am depending on you doing that. I love you
    Barbara C

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Amy, it is very bad that you have now lost your brother as well. You have written the eulogy in very good words. I enjoyed reading that. All the best for you and your mother Sue. Gerhard.

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    1. Hi Pam, I received your card a few weeks ago. Thank you for remembering our family. Thinking about the folks in Wheeler. Spring has sprung here in Boerne. I planted my garden. I assume farmers and ranchers are busy there too. Tell Chip hi. Amy

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  8. Dear Amy, the first picture in this series is the one I most remember Clay by. Me and him did an on going game of “dare”. Out of many, the one most memorable, was daring him to drive his bike from the pier near your house, into Nassau Bay. Which he did quit often. Yes, I had to help him pull it out. That situation stays in my memory. Michael Ragsdale. Sorry for our loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dear Amy,
    Your eulogy was heartfelt and beautiful. This is too young for him and too soon for you and your family. I am so sorry for your loss.
    Deepest sympathy,
    Becky

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dear Amy, I stumbled across this post in search of astro-kids. Your tribute to your brother is beautiful, honest and heartfelt. May peace be with you~ To the moon and back! Michele

    Liked by 2 people

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