I recently read the eulogy for my father that I wrote when he died, and it still moves me. It’s a call to action as well as a tribute to someone who made me possible:
Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you today not to mourn my father, but to honor him – as all of you do by being here. The loss of a friend or family member cannot be undone, so it’s best to make the experience as positive as you can. So I’m here today to simply say “thanks.”
But how do you begin to thank someone whose first gift to you was your very existence? Where do you start – how could you even finish doing that? I remember the old joke about someone famous standing up at an awards ceremony and saying, “I’d like to thank my mother and father for making me possible.” But it’s so much more than that, isn’t it?
Every decision where that person gives up part of their life in order to enrich yours – that’s a gift from them to you. Every time they drive you to practice, every dime saved for education, every meal cooked, every time they hold you back in the car seat while braking suddenly – everything they do during your life can be thought of as a gift without wrapping paper. A present without a card. Like a birthday every day.
And this extends to each and every one of you sitting here today. It was once written that the value of a person’s life is directly related to the number of people they positively affect. I can’t begin to tell you how many calls and notes I’ve received in the last week from people my father knew for most of their lives. Many are here today, and I’m sure he is very glad about that.
As for me, I can tell you that I am, in no small part, a product of my father’s example. He taught me to be self-sufficient, strong, compassionate, and giving. Everyone makes mistakes, and he was no exception, but his mistakes helped me to avoid those pitfalls in my own life.
My father wrote me a letter years ago, with instructions to open it and read it upon his passing. I read it for the first time a few hours before he passed away. It includes this:
“Every parent, including me, likes to think that somewhere along the way, they said or did something that by its example, influenced their child to choose a better way to do things than the many other alternatives. Hopefully the good examples I displayed outweighed the bad – I know you’ll set the same example for your children. No man has ever had a better son. I love you always – Dad”
I love you too, Dad. I always have. I always will.
You know, Life is a beautiful cycle – as he was leaving, I’m sure a couple of new babies were arriving not too far away. And along the same lines, I have great news that you all should remember. Regardless of your beliefs in the afterlife, this much I can assure you: my Father remains alive and well. He is all around me, in all of you, every day. So honor him today as I am, and write a letter to your kids today, please. They will treasure it more than gold. Thanks.
Here’s a “Dear Photograph” styled photo of him as a Choir Boy at West End Methodist, age 12, taken at the exact spot where the original picture was shot.