My dad died very unexpectedly last Sunday. This is the eulogy I gave at his funeral yesterday. I've debated internally as to whether or not to post this. It's longer than something I would usually post, and I'm not really sure everyone would care to know about my dad. But, his absence is felt deeply, profoundly and achingly right now and I'd like to try to keep his spirit alive somehow. He was an incredible man, deeply loved by all who knew him.
My dad meant the world to me. And judging by all the wonderful things you said to us last night about him, my dad meant the world to a lot of you all too. My friend Shannon told me, “when we lose people like your dad, I feel like the whole world should stop for a while and take notice.” I’ve heard similar sentiments over and over again. It seems people put my dad in a special category that not everyone makes it into and felt his death should be marked, the world should pay attention and grieve that he no longer exists in it. This makes me happy to know that other people recognize what I’ve always known about my dad- he was one of the exceptionally good ones.
My dad was perhaps the most selfless person I know. It’s been said before today, but you really can’t talk about my dad without talking about his constant, quiet, selfless acts of service. He was continually putting others before himself. Whether it was putting his name at the bottom of the ballot for the sake of the republican party, never, ever taking the choice cut of meat (and often eating whatever parts I had burned the most), or quietly moving all the cars around in the morning so everyone could get out of the driveway, my dad was always serving others. He would never have admitted it, but since we moved in with my parents seven months ago he’s been cutting his workout short every morning so he could get back and help me get the kids breakfast.
In these ways he humbly showed me how to live with regard to others, to serve and love them by helping. He did it all so quietly, never admitting these selfless choices, insisting that he wanted that burnt, gross portion of meat, it was easy to forget he was sacrificing and serving his loved ones.
One of the reasons I think my dad was so eager to help others was because he simply loved people so much. He really valued any time spent chatting with someone. And he was always chatting with someone. When I lived in Forest Park he came once a week to watch Liam. Usually he took Liam out and about around town. And proceeded to make friends everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I would be at a park or the library with Liam when someone would say, “Your Liam’s mom. We know Liam’s grandpa!” By the time we moved from Forest Park I’m fairly certain that my dad knew more of the stay-at-home moms there than I did. Everywhere he went my dad took time to get to know the people around him.
If strangers felt welcomed and known in my dad’s warm presence, how much more did those who actually knew him, who had opportunities to spend time with him. As my uncle said earlier this week, “everyone is here because this man loved all of us at one time.” My dad had warmth about him that made every person he encountered feel loved and valued. He genuinely cared about what was going on in the lives of others and found authentic ways to connect with everyone he met. He loved being around people, loved his friends and loved turning strangers into friends.
But the people he loved most were his family. For my dad, family was everything. He couldn’t get enough. Growing up, extended family get togethers were a regular occurrence in our family- not just something that happened on the holidays. And yet, for my dad, it still wasn’t enough. He would often comment on how it had been too long since we’d had a family get together. And we’d remind him that we’d all been over at Annie’s ten days ago. He looked forward to time with his siblings and many nieces and nephews- one of the first to arrive and often the very last to leave. Nothing made him happier than having our home filled with family.
And he reserved his greatest time, energy and love for us, his wife, kids and grandkids. I consider myself lucky to know without a doubt that my father was devoted to us. He showed us that in a million different ways. He welcomed my husband Tommy into our family almost instantly and seeing the friendship between my dad and husband grow over the past seven years of our marriage has been a particular highlight. They were buds; in Tommy my dad found a partner in crime and in my dad Tommy had a fellow patriot in the war against meatless Mondays. I am so thankful for how close they were able to get in these past few months living together. Not everyone would welcome living with their in-laws, but I think my dad made it fun and enjoyable for Tommy.
Mom, living with you guys for the past seven months has been a wonderful peek into just how much Dad loved you. He loved you so much. My dad held my mom in the highest esteem and reserved the priority of his love and attention for her. Every morning I watched my dad take a cup of coffee up to my mom so she could enjoy it while she was still in bed. Even though they’d been married for 33 years my dad still called my mom his bride. In recent years we watched them do more together, have more date nights, enjoy more nice bottles of wine, share favorite shows. It thrilled me to see how their relationship seemed to thrive in the absence of the daily grind of parenting.
As a dad I think I speak for all of my siblings when I say he was simply the best. He was at every soccer game, school play, football game, and speech team regional night. He coached at least one of each of our park district sports teams. He was the kind of dad that got on the floor and played board games with us. My dad wasn’t the most successful, the richest, the smartest or the most driven. But he was the guy that loved his family so much he made choices to be home with them, to invest in them, to spend time with them. How lucky we were to call that kind of man dad.
The greatest gift he gave to us was unconditional love. My dad loved with a grace that astounds me. I never questioned if he loved me. After my fourth (or sixth) car accident my dad still wholeheartedly defended my driving skills. (At that point even I was ready to admit that I sucked.) I never grew up feeling like I had to be anything more than I was in the eyes of my dad. He gave us all a sense of “ok-ness” in a world that is always asking for more.
And yet, as amazing of a father as he was, I think the highlight of his life was being “Granda.” My dad was made to be a grandfather. It is utterly devastating that this, his best role was also the one he had the least amount of time in. I could literally go on for hours about my dad as a Granda, but I will settle on these few glimpses: of the 263 photos on my dad’s phone 255 of them were of Liam and RyRy, most of my text messages from him said something like, “how are the kids? Can you send me a picture? I need my fix!” (of course signed love, dad) and after we moved in with him if we left for the weekend without fail I’d get a text, usually on Saturday morning from my dad saying “what time are you guys coming home?" It’s too quiet here! Please send a picture!” He used to build brio train track formations while Liam was taking a nap so he would have it to play with when he woke up. If he felt especially proud of the track he created my dad would take a picture of it with his phone so he could build it again. For the first month that we lived with them I don’t think Ry’s feet touched the ground- my dad held her any and every time raised her little arms up towards him in request, which she did constantly. My dad loved Liam and Ryann even more than he loved us. I know this because he accidentally admitted it one day. The greatest grief I have had in my dad’s death has been around the fact that he will no longer be here as “Granda.” Tim, Ryann and Jack- I am so sorry that your future kids are robbed of this relationship. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about all they are missing.
One of the more comforting things that’s been said to us this week was that over time we would see and hear our dad in those that loved him. His sayings, characteristics, qualities and love would be reflected in his family. I’ve been looking for him this week and I’m comforted to see him everywhere already. Mom I have felt dad in your love for us. You love us and others the same way he did and I’m thankful that his love will live on in you. Tim I’ve seen dad in you this week in all the ways you’ve stepped up and been a rock for us, comforting us in our moments of grief and quietly serving us in hundreds of small and large acts. Ry, I see dad in your way with people. You have that warmth and grace with others that makes a small gathering feel like a party and a huge get together feel intimate. You make people feel the same way dad did. Jack, I’ve always seen him in your sense of adventure and travel and in your extreme kindness. Lately though, and most comfortingly, I’ve seen him in your interactions with my kids. You love them patiently like dad did and if they can no longer live with Granda I’m so thankful they still live with Uncle Jack. And I suppose my dad’s stellar driving skills live on in me.
I heard somewhere that the whole of our lives gets reduced to our birth year and the year we died with a dash in between. That dash is everything we did with the years we were given. At any rate for my dad that dash was all about people, family and all the friends that he considered family. He had it figured out. He died at peace with everyone in his life, there were no grudges left bared, no regrets about how he treated someone, no hours he spent chasing after the wrong things. He knew what mattered most and he spent his life acting accordingly.
I could go on for hours more. I didn’t even touch on the amazing mentor and co-worker, friend, brother and uncle he was. I didn’t even mention his realized dream of elected public office and his service to his community. But I look forward to hearing your stories later today and in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime I ask you all to keep my dad’s spirit alive by living as he lived. Help others, value people and give your best time to your family and friends. It makes for a great life for those around you. I can speak from experience.