As given by Karen Bradshaw Maxwell at the funeral of Merrill K. Bradshaw, Tuesday, July 18th, 2000.
May I thank all those who have come together here to honor the memory of my father and especially those who are singing and playing praises to God and our Savior. A special thanks to Don Cook for helping us include Dad’s beloved Bach on the program.
In order to understand this funeral you must know that Dad had definite instructions and preferences—would strong feelings better describe it?—about his services. 1hour, mostly music, 1 speaker. Not knowing whether this request of his might be more honored in the breach than the observance and in keeping with what Dad would recognize as a highly creative gesture –which he taught many fine musicians here so well--I am not speaking. No. This is a tribute. Hopefully it is a tribute in the tradition the Savior set forth—twice it is recorded in the New Testament He was asked about paying tribute. The first time He instructed Peter: “What sayest thou, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook and take up the fish that first cometh up: and when thou has opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.”
I do not wish to offend either the kings of the earth, or any others of you.-- Being one of the children, then, I freely offer this. I have drunk deeply at my father’s well—which included fishing and finding lessons of value almost as it were like coins in the mouth of fish. One of the best was—our father loved us enough to spend the time to take us fishing. You really can’t understand what this entails—or entrails—until you are a parent. Dad loved solitude and introspection, and to give that up to otherwise gorgeous mornings at Flaming Gorge spent entirely untangling interminable snags, baiting and rebaiting badly cast hooks, losing a pound of sinkers every hour, and never getting to pick up his own pole—all the while reassuring us as we wanted to reel in once again-- that the real granddaddy of them all was down there ready to bite—just be patient!—that was Dad’s love. Born in what he insists later became a chicken coop and raised in Wyoming, savy to the ways of the High Uintas’ lakes and rivers, with a father he helped on the farm and in carpentry, Dad had many practical skills which grounded his wide-ranging interests in the reality of the square and the true and the straight row.
He is the same man of whom others have said, “Merrill Bradshaw? He is the smartest man I have ever known.” As my mother says, Dad not only read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica— he remembered it! His thirst for knowledge was quenchable—it was highly satisfying to him once he could share what he had learned—but it was also renewable! He knew a lot about everything—could converse intelligently on any subject. My brother Brian remarked that he understood the workings of an internal combustion engine as well as the niceties of a fugue, and the neurotransmitters in the brain as well as the phsyical properties of sound, the names of all the wildflowers on the trail as well as the history of the world and the geology of Southern Utah as how to fix major appliances. Charles suggested he would be the best phone-a-friend on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Elliot Butler said about Dad’s service on the Faculty General Education Council at BYU:
“He is remarkably well read. The breadth of his reading is surprising, and this breadth is the result of his interest; it does not follow at all from some drive to appear well-read. More than any other member of the council he is likely to take the text for a course being evaluated, and to read the whole text, just because it interests him.” Dad took great joy in learning about any and all of the Lord’s creations.
One of Dad’s greatest gifts was to be able to communicate an enthusiasm and interest for things to others. He was the quintessential teacher—no learning for him was complete until he had found a way to articulate it so that others could apprehend it. We look forward to the book he just completed, The Creative Mind. Dad taught the way the scriptures do—he was full of stories that were better than jokes—they had a punch to them that made some unique spiritual insight strike sweet and delectable. And central to those insights was his love for and knowledge of the scriptures. I remember when in preparation for composing The Restoration he read through the entire Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. On his way, he picked his libretto. Handel owed so much to Charles Jennens, his librettist for the Messiah. But Dad’s gift and love for language was great and he often wrote his own words for songs. He read all of Shakespeare’s works several times, and loved Dickinson and the metaphysical poets. On the back of the program you will see one of the poems he composed for Christ Metaphors. I think it reflects his love for the Savior and deep immersion in the scriptures and his especial love for the words of Isaiah. I share two verses that I remember his loving so well: 1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” 32:17: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” And I can’t help sharing one more which refers to the temple where he loved so much to work: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths, for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
I am so grateful that he passed his love for the scriptures on to his children. He was able to help me through some difficult religious questions in my first two years at BYU. He let me make his office my home on campus, and I spent some of the most wonderful hours imaginable learning at his feet. I remember a quotation he had under the glass on his desk for many years—from my father-in-law, whom he loved and admired so much and owed so much to—“The Lord is never offended by excellence.” Dad truly felt he owed the Lord his very best, and he knew the richest blessings of the Lord—the greatest of which he felt were in his family and he would weep in the last few years as he saw his children and grandchildren enjoying each others’ company. To him, that was heaven on earth.
Just so you get both sides of the picture. We children remember a time around the dinner table when we were all experimenting with the magnetic effect of vapor on smooth metal surfaces—well, to be truthful, we were just having a rollicking good time trying to hang spoons from our noses. Just when everyone was successful and delighting cross-eyed in their own delicately dangling silverware Tracy told us that one of Dad’s students had asked her if we had intellectual conversations around the dinner table. Marie reminded us that we could ask Dad anything, and if he didn’t know the answer, he would make one up. We were not always thrilled with Dad’s intellect. Playing Trivial Pursuit—the game that asks questions on six very diverse subject areas—devolved from trying to ever beat Dad, to making him go around the board twice, to a total unwillingness to play with him. Cory remembers being gratified to know that such a gifted and skilled composer could have fun huddling in a blanket drinking hot chocolate and yelling just like him at BYU football games. Moreno Robbins—our bishop for many years—remembers watching Dad bow to the standing ovation of thousands clapping for The Restoration, and knowing that this composer of such a monumental and moving piece was also the scoutmaster who took the boys camping in tents and taught them lashing and knots and dutch oven dinners. The picture is that of a humble and whole man.
When a colleague observed to dad that “You really can’t write anything except what you are” Dad said, “Well, then we better live so that what we are is worth writing.” He would get very emotional telling of how Ralph Laycock was conducting a rehearsal of a piece Dad wrote as a tribute to him, and how Ralph had to leave the rehearsal to weep because, Ralph said, it was so beautiful. That meant so much to Dad. When asked to give a talk recently, Dad was asked to say something spiritual about music. He said, “That’s rather like being asked to say something wet about water.” He went on to describe how when music is exceptionally well done, “the corner of the veil is lifted and we get to experience a bit of the joy that usually belongs to heaven. We are left to look inside ourselves, to rejoice in our relationship with that music, and to examine our lives in its light. It changes people’s lives forever. Some of us even examine our personal relationship to our God. There are not many things in this life that are more spiritual than that!” On the other hand, Dad sometimes gave audiences credit for more than they were prepared to receive. Dad’s brother Dick came to a concert of one of Dad’s works and said afterwards, “Well, I won’t go home whistling that tune!” But if you want to know Dad’s testimony of the truth, listen to The Restoration, Christ Metaphors, The Articles of Faith, the Three Psalms, his children’s songs—he wrote from the precious thoughts of his heart.
Of course, Grandma can remember when Dad was first learning piano—that started as a result of a third-grade teacher’s call to her saying Dad drummed his fingers on his desk and really ought to take up the piano. —And that teacher sold her own piano to Dad’s determined though financially challenged mother who saw that he had time to practice by excusing him from supper dishes—Dad thought piano was great fun, because he thought he could just quit any time. When he happened to say this to Grandma—she is less than 5 feet, but you would never believe that and she is going on 90 and is here today--, she said, “Just try it!” He didn’t.
I have to say, too, that one of the best things about Dad, as Grandma is continually reminding him and us, is Mom. They make such a pair. They met in a cappella choir and have been making beautiful music together ever since. Some of Dad’s loveliest pieces were written specifically for Mom’s voice—you will hear one sung later today—and many of them were inspired by his love for her. Keith remembers one early morning—well, he says it can’t have been too early, because he was up—an encounter with Dad on Dad’s birthday. The kitchen was cluttered—well, it was a mess—and Dad came up the stairs and started doing dishes. Keith said, “Don’t do that. It’s your birthday.” Dad said, “When I do the dishes, it makes your mother happy. When your mother’s happy, I’m happy.” Wise man. They worked at making each other happy. Mom has been such a defender and protector of Dad’s happiness. This was remarked upon by a hospital attendant. He watched as my mother, 9 months pregnant with Danny, wheeled my father into the emergency room—he had just blown out both knees in the Little League father’s and son’s baseball game. The attendant looked at Dad seated in the wheelchair, and at my mother, great with child, and winked at Dad, saying, “Just too much for you, eh?” Mom has, we must admit, also been a tempering influence on him. Dad would tend to get fired up about some things, and Mom was a very sensible voice for moderation. They shared so much love of the best things in life, and we have all benefited from the way they were able to share that love with all of us.
Dad also had quite a sense of humor. We had such a great time listening to his tape of the Hoffnung Festival together. He was the one who got the biggest kick out of the newspaper ad that came out when his oratorio, The Restoration, was to be performed. Some student had obviously taken down the wording for the ad over the phone, and there, published in the Daily Universe was an announcement of “A Moratorium on the Resporation.” He and Mom and a diverse group of faculty friends are members of a Great Books Discussion Group that has been meeting for over 40 years now, held together by love of literature, each other, and a great deal of laughter.
This tribute needs to close. The second time in the scriptures He was asked about tribute, Jesus instructed: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” I hope this tribute will prove to be rendering unto God the things that are God’s. My father loved God, he believed Him, he lived that he might be like Him and he belongs to God. God gave him many gifts among which was the gift to speak through music, and like Bach, Merrill Bradshaw composed music Soli Deo Gloria—“to the glory of God.”
I want to speak my praise to Heavenly Father for giving us Merrill Bradshaw to teach us, to lead us, to love us. I’m so grateful to be his daughter. I think of him somewhat in the way he worded praise for the Prophet Joseph. Dad has left such a legacy, I want to take words from his mouth as from the mouth of a witness I have been blessed to apprehend and to offer them as tribute: He wrote: “Oh Joseph”—I say, Dear Dad—“Bridge between the glories of heaven and the common things of earth—God rest thee well. God rest thee well.” In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.