The eulogy I gave at my Dad’s celebration of life.
When I think about my Dad, I think about how I always had a Valentine. Every year since I was born, he did something to remind me that I was loved, whether I had a Valentine or not.
When I think about my Dad, I think about our drives to Legg Lake when I was in grade school. He’d teach me to fish and I’d sit for hours reading my Big Book of Amazing Facts and watch the ducks on the lake. Sometimes it was just he and I – I can’t remember what we would talk about, but I remember loving to go.
When I think about my Dad, I think about summer nights at the race track. I think about the excitement of the winner’s circle and the long walk back to the car. I can remember running to catch up to him to grab his hand. I wonder if he knew I pretended to fall asleep by the time we got home so he’d have to carry me to bed?
When I think about my Dad, I think about all the business picnics we went to throughout his career. I think about how everyone he worked with enjoyed being around him. He seemed to be able to get even the most unlikely people involved in the fun. As an adult, I realized he was a “head honcho,” but you never would have guessed it back then. He never treated anyone differently because of his position. It was probably because he had held every position imaginable – he worked his way up and he did it without a 4-year degree or family connections. Many of his co-workers felt like family – I believe that’s what was special about how he managed people. He stayed in contact with some of them even after he retired. A win for them and their families was often shared with us. He was proud of them.
When I think about my Dad, I think about how he hired and empowered women. I remember hearing that he had a workforce of women under him, which was sort of out of the norm for his field and that time. I think about the 10+ years I was blessed to work alongside him. I learned a lot watching him then…I understood why he was successful. He never sugar coated things, even with me. He looked at problems as opportunities. He could have taught a master class in the art of motivating people. I don’t know anyone who could speak to people the way he did. They wanted to be around him. They wanted to be better because of him. They believed THEY could because HE believed they could.
When I think about my Dad, I think about holiday family dinners. I remember him driving to pick up my Great Uncle Tommy so he’d be included. And mind you, this drive wasn’t down the street. This was a good 1 hour trip into Los Angeles before and after everyone came over. As an adult, I realized what a sacrifice that was because he often had work the next day. But he’d do it because family was important, and the alternative was that Uncle Tommy would be alone. And he didn’t do it just for family. I remember going with him to drop off food for an elderly woman, a former work associate who’d become family, because she was alone during the holidays and couldn’t leave her house. I remember when he bought the bank teller’s kid a camera because they shared stories about their children when he’d go in. She was a single mother, and he knew she was in need. There were a lot of things he did when no one was looking…but he often did them without a second thought and was so genuinely happy he could.
When I think about my Dad, I think about the many people who have come forward to tell me how special he was to them. How their lives were changed because of him. He was a man of influence in the fun ways of getting us back stage at concert events, or VIP treatment at the casino. I mean, this man talked his way into a meeting with Norman Lear because he had an “idea” for a show! But he was also a man of influence because of the special things he did like: Remembering someone’s name. Remembering their story. Remembering the things people like. Treating people with respect. Always, always being kind and courteous to the front desk of any establishment and tipping our waiter or anyone who provided a service. And sticking up for people who couldn’t stick up for themselves.
When I think about my Dad, I think about how much he loved his wife, his kids, and his grandkids. He also loved our friends. He included them on trips and family get togethers. And if I had a friend who needed advice, he’d be the first to offer it. And the thing is, he didn’t learn how to be a dad from his dad. But he taught his sons how to love their wives and their kids. We got to see our parents married for 56 1/2 years and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to actually witness “til death do us part.” I realize not everyone gets to have a dad like that on earth.
When I think about my Dad, I’m not going to lie…I have thought about the things he won’t get to experience with me now. Meeting my future husband. A walk down the aisle. Any other grandkids or great-grand kids. However, I recently remembered a quote my Dad would use during a few of the eulogies he had to give over his lifetime: It’s from Robert Fulgham’s “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” and it says:
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge
That myth is more potent than history
That dreams are more powerful than facts
That hope always triumphs over experience
That laughter is the only cure for grief
And I believe that love is stronger than death.
My pastor recently said that our lives preach louder than any sermon ever could, and I think he’s right.
So when I think about my dad, I’ll choose to think about the things he taught me with how he lived his life:
to imagine more…believe more…dream more…hope more…laugh more and finally, but most importantly, to love more.