Eulogy for my father

My dad died very suddenly on October 20. I was asked by my mom and siblings to give the eulogy. This was the hardest piece I’ve ever written. I hope I did you proud, Dad. I miss you and love you.

“Thank you, all, for being here and supporting our family with your love and prayers.

I loved watching Dad shine shoes.

He’d gather the necessary supplies and lay them out in order of how he would use them. First, he laid down a towel or newspaper. Then, place one shoe on his left hand and use his horsehair shoe brush to remove dirt and old layers of polish. I can hear the quick flick of the brush bristles scratching across the leather. And I can smell the polish.

He’d sprinkle a tiny amount of water into the lid of the Kiwi shoe polish tin. Then, he would wrap an old t-shirt tightly around his right index finger. Dip his finger in the water, then the polish, and rub the shoe in small, counter-clockwise circular motions, starting at the toe and working his way down one side to the heel and back up the other to the toe. After drying- sometimes overnight- he rubbed the shoe until he could see his reflection shining in the leather.

It was a methodical process that he loved. It had a beginning, a clear path, and a definitive end. Shining shoes was a metaphor for how he viewed the world and lived his life.

He was hard-working and generous. He cheered for us- sometimes too loudly- at soccer games, swim meets, and crew regattas- all activities that he made possible for us. He and mom provided the foundation on which we’ve built our lives. That foundation is strong and true, and deeply rooted in love and devotion.

He pushed us to high standards that sometimes felt impossible to reach. I know now that they were his way of saying ‘I love you and I want the best for you.’

He was organized and focused. At his house, Kiki found Christmas gifts that he had already purchased for us. And, if it were November, those presents would have been wrapped and labeled.

Dad was always early for events and appropriately dressed- jacket, tie, and those shiny shoes. He was there for all of it: baptisms, birthdays, holidays, graduations. I feel  untethered knowing he will miss so many of them in the future. 70 was too young.

He was a prolific reader who was in his element discussing current events or the state of his beloved sports teams. He did crossword puzzles in ink. He could drive somewhere once and remember every detail of the trip and then give you directions.

He loved and spoiled his nine grandchildren. He adored them. He contentedly held them as infants and rejoiced in showing them how to run the Lionel trains at Christmas. It was especially fun to watch him try to corral them for photos. And just this summer he treated them to a week at the shore, complete with tons of seafood, pizza, and rides on the Ocean City boardwalk- like he did for the four of us when were little.

I’ll remember and cheer him every time I have fresh berries, lemon desserts, chocolate Tastykakes, a soft pretzel or an amber beer, and I hope you will, too.

We miss you already, Dad. We love you. Semper Fi.”

Grief changes all the rules

Thanks everyone for your words and for taking the time to read my blog and respond to my #11 and #12 things….(post from January 5)

As a person of faith, I actually believe that when people die, they do go to a better place and that their earthly suffering ends. Especially, the kid cancer warriors. They endure so much, for so long. I absolutely believe that they are in “a better place” after they die. I believe that the kiddos are finally free. Free from their suffering, free to run, and play, and jump and laugh. I believe that in Heaven, our children are beautiful and pure again. But, I would never say that to a grieving parent because that is what I believe, not necessarily what they believe or want to hear.

Some parents I know also believe as I do and it is okay to share these dreams and visions with them. I have done so with a few other Mommas and I have treasured those conversations and always will. It is important, though, to remember that others do not believe that their children are in a better place. This is their right as the grieving parent. The world of childhood cancer has taught me that comforting a friend is about them and what they need, not about what I need or believe. Being a friend is about doing and saying things to make my friend feel better. It’s not about me.

It is funny to me (not ha-ha funny, but ironic funny, I guess) that I am writing a post about believing one thing and saying another. I usually preach about “meaning what you say and saying what you mean.” This philosophy often gets me in trouble (see previous posts about my big mouth). However, I believe that grief changes everything and everyone and in those cases, the old adages about honesty no loner apply. Grief cuts away part of your soul and it never goes back completely. I know this. I must honor this in others as well.