Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eulogy



Tomorrow is my Dad's birthday. He would have been 63. He's been gone now for a little over three years and there are no words to express how much I miss him. Knowing that you will never see someone again, especially a parent, is a very hard reality for your brain to absorb. It actually took me about 9 months to truly process and believe that he was gone.

The surprising converse of that is that he will never leave me. One of the things that frankly sucks the most is that I can't call and share good news with him or tell him about my adventures, good and bad. But I can still hear his voice on the other end of the line saying that's fantastic baby girl and I can see his face as he says it. I know what advice he would give and the questions he would ask. He will always be with me.

I find myself still needing to keep his memory alive in little ways. In time that might lessen but for now it helps. So after much thought I decided I wanted to share his Eulogy. Partially as kind of a birthday present but also because I want more than just the people in the church that day to remember him. I want people in my life now that I love, who will never meet him, to know who he was. My father wasn't perfect though and he wouldn't want me to tell you he was. 

I wrote this very quickly actually the night before the funeral in my sister's living room in Atlanta. It was about midnight and we'd gotten home from the wake a bit earlier. It was the first moment I'd sat down to think in about 2 days. Death and funerals immerse you in decisions, details and planning-there's not much time to mourn. That comes later. As I started typing I thought to myself....how do you sum up a human life in 3 minutes? This was my attempt and I hope he liked it. I remember walking up to the lectern and saying to myself don't cry you can do this. Just get through it. I also remember thinking that the pantyhose I had on were completely wrong for the dress but I didn't have time to buy anything new. Silly but true. My hands were shaking as I unfolded the paper......

When I began thinking about what I wanted to say about my father today I realized fairly quickly that I didn't want to simply recite his resume. I didn't want to rattle off facts and figures that told you what he did in his lifetime but didn't show you who he was. I realized that the best way to show you who my father was would be to tell you what he believed in.

I used to teach confirmation class which, for all of you non-Catholics in the audience, is a sacrament in the Catholic religion where you really come of age and decide for yourself that you want to be Catholic; you affirm everything that your parents pledged for you when you were baptized. I used to tell my kids that my one goal for them was that by the end of the year I wanted them to be able to tell me what they believed in. Not what their parents told them was right or what they thought I wanted to hear, but what they really truly believed in. 

I think the greatest measure of who my father was was that if you stopped him on the street and asked him to tell you what he believed in, he would have been able to without missing a beat.
  • He believed in the concept of Social Justice.
  • He believed in equality for all people. That no matter who you were or where you came from you had the same rights as everyone else and no one had the right to discriminate against you.
  • He believed in education, that a good one meant that you could achieve anything you wanted in life. 
  • He believed in God. Being Catholic defined a huge part of him.
  • He believed in history, he loved it. He believed that if we forget it we are doomed to repeat it.
  • He believed in good music and it's power to affect us as people either through pleasure or protest.
  • He believed in having a beer and telling stories. Some of the best memories I have of him are nights that my brother and sisters and my friends sat around and had a beer with him and told stories.
  • He believed in family and tradition, ritual and reverence.
  • He believed in love. He was always searching for it. Found it a few times. (At this point I have to add some commentary. When I said that the whole church erupted into laughter, even the priest. I guess I meant for it to be cheeky. I had no idea people would laugh that hard but it was wonderful. He was married twice and had two other major relationships. To his credit, they were all in attendance including my mother who was his first wife. Marriage, divorce, life, blah, blah....what matters is love and that time heals everything).
  • He believed in helping others and I was extremely touched last night to hear some of the wonderful stories about him. It reaffirmed what I already knew, that he really did have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I ever met.
  • He believed in laughter and always did it exactly three seconds after everybody else.
  • And finally, he believed in his children and loved us the best way he knew how.
We love him and will miss him every day. Love you Daddy...

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