To everyone who didn’t know what happened this last week, I lost my father. He was 79 years old and lived a wonderful life. He gave of himself more than any other human I ever met. He deserved honor, respect, and above all, our undying love and devotion. That, he certainly received.
His service was sad, but sweet. I thought I’d share the eulogy I hadn’t even planned to write or speak until 6:30AM the morning of his funeral. So here goes:
Spoken before I began: “As daughters, Annamarie and I have never experienced something so difficult in our lives. Watching Daddy’s decline was tough, but losing him after such a heroic fight for his life, was even more devastating. I’ll be very honest with you. I wasn’t sure I could get up here and do this, but I couldn’t allow this day to go by without all of you knowing a little more about the man whose life we are celebrating. If I choke up, please pray me through this.
“Children regard their fathers as God with skin on. This is very much the way Annamarie and I saw our Daddy. He was a man who could do anything. Even when there seemed no other way, Daddy either knew how to make it happen or he found a way. Just when everyone else thought the situation was hopeless, Daddy always came through leaving us wondering where he got his strength, wisdom, and stick-to-it-iveness. As the famous comic book and movie character, Superman, displayed: sacrificing of yourself to help the people you love, is not just a conviction, but a way of life. In his years, he set an example. Love with all your heart, your soul, and your mind, and make whatever sacrifices you have to, so that the people around you are left knowing without a doubt that you loved them.
“Daddy’s work ethic was beyond reproach. We wondered how he got so little sleep and continued working 12-17 hour days. He’d work all day and most of the night, come home, and get a few hours sleep, then restart the day, rested and rejuvenated. Looking back, now I know that he kept going because he loved his family and wanted the best for them. He wanted to have a legacy to leave behind when his final hours on this earth eventually arrived: for us to learn how to carry through life knowing how and where to get the answers when problems approached us, and that we should never give up.
“What I hope he knows now, is that his legacy wasn’t in items of monetary value. The cars, the carnival rides, the concession wagons, and all the means to make a living that he made sure were in place before he left us were amazing, but above all, the memory of him, his love, and his devotion to us meant more than any Earthly material item.
“When Annamarie and I were little girls, we rarely had the financial means to go on outings or family vacations. In fact, there were many days we scavenged through the sofas, the cars and any place in the house change might have been dropped, so we could purchase a gallon of milk and a bag of the cheapest cereal so we’d have something to eat for dinner that night. We always lucked up and found that final quarter or dime. And our mealtime with Daddy was just as good as if it had been a flame-grilled steak with all the fixings on the side. Because we sat at the table, discussed our day, and watched the twinkle in Daddy’s eyes as he enjoyed time with family.
“Family meant more to Daddy than anything else on his planet. We’ve joked and said that we ran a close second to his Cocker Spaniels, but they were part of the family, too. If any of you have a beloved pet, you know exactly what I mean. Anyway, not only did daddy ensure there was food on the table, never did a holiday pass that we didn’t have a basket from the Easter Bunny, a turkey on the table, or something we’d specifically asked for under our Christmas tree. As children, we didn’t get a lot of new things, unless our Aunt Kay and Uncle Bill took us shopping for school clothes or dress shopping for a special dance. We didn’t realize Daddy went without a few meals or worked countless extra hours for us. We only saw sparkling joy in his eyes, as he sat back and watched us giggling little girls, so excited with the prospect of something new.
“Daddy also worked extra hours to earn the money to send us on all the educational field trips the school offered. We never missed one. In fact, having been in the academically gifted classes, I was given the opportunity to chaperone all the other classes, field trips, at my own expense, so I went to the outer banks twice and Washington D.C. three times. Daddy made sure we had all we needed to get a well-rounded education. There was only one thing he held in higher regard: our Christianity. He stressed that we placed God in the center of everything in our lives. As the Bible teaches, he wanted us to make sure our eyes were set on God and that they never left him.
“In our younger years, Daddy surrounded us with Christian friends, a church family, and people we could look up to so that we’d grow into responsible, God-fearing adults. Today, I honor him today because he made sure that when he passed on from this world to go be with the Lord, that my sister and I would have the opportunity to run into his arms when we arrived at the Gates of Heaven. So, I don’t want you to focus on the loss of his life, but celebrate a man that deserved celebrating. He was a man of honor, a sense of duty to his country, his family, and his beloved friends. For years, I’ve wondered what I really wanted to be when I grew up. Now I know. I want to be as much like my father as possible.
“This afternoon, we will lay my father to rest, but be assured, the body you saw in that casket is only a vessel, a glove, if you will. The hand that fit into that glove, that guided the body throughout it’s life was his soul and that soul is no longer with us. On August 24th, he went to meet his maker. Daddy would want me to ask this. Are you ready to meet yours? Are you ready to stand before God? Daddy would want you all to be ready so that on that glorious day, he can throw those strong, loving arms around you again. Please make sure that before you leave this service, that you have made your peace, that you know, that you know, that you know without a doubt that you’ll be received into the Gates of Heaven washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, and forgiven of all your earthly sins.
“Thank you for joining us today to celebrate this man of God. There will never be enough words to express how much it means to us. God Bless you all.”
There were so many years of things I left out, sacrifices Daddy made, especially the 17 years he went without buying a single stitch of clothing other than underwear and how he resoled his shoes so Annamarie and I would have things. It’s another of those things you can’t go back and change. But that’s okay. Daddy is in Heaven now and he knows how very special I thought he was.