love letter to my dad

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dad and me

In the fall of 2012 I had the honor of offering my dad’s eulogy. He was such a beautiful soul, and I miss him terribly. Here is a little view into who he was….

Thank you for being here today to celebrate my dad’s life. Our family is so grateful to all of you who supported him through this last part of his journey. Your visits, and phone calls and text messages and prayers really encouraged him and brought him great joy. You helped him to feel so special and so loved. Thank you.

Thanks for indulging me and listening for a few minutes while I talk about the sweet miracle that was my dad.

My dad was the oldest brother in a family of six children. He became the man of the house when he was just 11 years old after the sudden death of his father. His was a childhood cut short. His early road wasn’t easy. But it was that early road, in part, that helped to shape the gentle and compassionate soul that we all know. Those difficult years were eclipsed by what he made of the rest of his life. Particularly the last 26 years where his life truly blossomed.

I talked to a lot of people over the last few weeks who knew my dad differently than I did – either through work, or volunteering, or socially. It was heartwarming to speak to so many people who saw him the same way that I did. He was just such a good man. It was no surprise to me that just about everybody I spoke to used the same words to describe him: humble, grateful, funny, generous, hopeful, devoted, and unconditionally loving.  He had a gift for accepting others just as they are – without any judgment – and for seeing the goodness in people even when they weren’t able to see it in themselves. He was a kind soul.

My parents have known each other since they were children. My dad used to tell stories about throwing rocks at my mom when they were just little kids. I guess in the language of little boys, throwing rocks at a girl means “I’m madly in love with you”. And my dad was madly in love with my mom. Anyone who knew my dad knew that my mom was the center of his world. It was easy to see that she was the love of his life. I know now more than ever that love shines even in the darkest parts of our lives. In those final days when he was making the difficult transition from the physical world to the afterlife, when familiar faces began to fade from his memory, his love for my mom didn’t fade. He always recognized my mom. What a blessing and a gift for both of them. And it was a blessing and a gift to Barbie and Craig and me to be there to witness their love for each other in those last days.

My dad had a lot of roles – husband, father, grampa…brother, friend, neighbor…mentor, trusted servant, volunteer…and he was Santa.

My dad wasn’t just “a Santa”. He wasn’t just a round guy with a white beard in a cool red suit. He was truly the spirit of Santa. He always had that special twinkle in his eye, he was particularly kind to animals, and he loved children. But most of all, he had an unshakable faith that every kid on the naughty list just needed someone to believe in them so they could be transformed. I know he was that “someone” who believed in some of you…and I know he’s still with you, and he still believes in you.

Barbie and I were blessed with a wonderful father. He taught us, through his unwavering example, what unconditional love really is. Love without limits, love without judgment. He had an incredible way of making us feel special and loved for the unique individuals that we are. And we love him endlessly. He always had the simple answer to life’s complicated questions. Sometimes the answer was to put on your lucky red socks and pray. Sometimes the answer was simply a good laugh to break through the tears. And sometimes the answer was a daddy hug that said: “you are my dear child and I love you no matter what”.

My dad loved being a grampa. He was so good at it. He was naturally wise, funny, loving, and always so full of mischief. He and Alex shared such a special love. And when Lindsey and Corey came into our lives, he was so thrilled to have two more grandchildren to love and adore. His three grandchildren were his next generation of unconditional love.

So many of my dad’s treasured memories revolve around he and Mom and Alex and their annual summer vacations. These great adventures were always highlighted by a multi-state game of punchbug that gave the winner bragging rights until the following summer’s vacation. They saw some of our country’s most exquisite natural beauty in their 15 years of summer vacations – the Grand Canyon, both Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, the unspoiled beauty of Alaska – and still the biggest story upon their return every year was the punchbug score. That was my dad. He was just fun.

My dad was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. His sense of humor ranged from brilliant wit to adolescent and inappropriate – and everything in between. And he loved a good practical joke. He just loved making people laugh. He loved making people happy. I’m sure we’ve all got a favorite memory of laughing with him. Whether it was one of his silly one-liners, a funny pet name that he had just for you, or some goofy practical joke that you were part of…please take that memory with you today and hold it in your heart for a time when you really need a good giggle. He’ll be there with you. That would make him happy.

My dad lived a life of love and hope, a life of service to others, and a life of simple joys. For me, he will always be the greatest example of the person I hope to become. My dad made a difference in people’s lives. He made the world a better place.

May he rest in God’s peace.

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