These are the words I spoke at my dad’s funeral…
I am so proud of my dad. As we shared the last day that we would have with him, one prayer kept coming to my mind. “Thank you. Thank you, God, for giving me such a great father.” On that day, I told my dad two things: please wake up, and I love you. I didn’t doubt that my dad knew that I loved him. I just wanted more opportunities to tell him so. I wanted him to wake up because I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without him, when he had been there for me my entire life. There are so many more things coming up in the future that I wanted to share with him. However, during his last hours, I had complete confidence that his passing wasn’t due to a lack of strength and determination to stay with us as long as he possibly could. All of his life, family came first. He dedicated his life to us.
When some people lose a family member, you often hear about their wish to have resolved a conflict or to heal from some bitter feelings. This is not the case with my dad. He loved his sisters and his parents. He loved all of his nephews and nieces. He loved his wife. In fact, their marriage was a model to his children that will be hard to live up to. He and Mom did everything together. He relied on her, and she relied on him. There wasn’t one problem that they had that they didn’t work together to solve, and they did it with a great attitude about life. They both knew what was most important in life, and it was their family.
My dad was very dedicated to his family. With the exception of work, nothing filled my dad’s time that didn’t involve his family. He coached us on every sport we ever tried. My dad was the first person I would call with good news, or when I wanted advice, or when I just wanted to talk. No on in my life has ever offered me as much encouragement as my dad. Even the lectures that he would give to correct our behavior often included the words, “My daughters are too smart for that.” I never had a problem he wasn’t willing to help me solve. As generous as my dad was with his time and his assistance, he was even more generous with his love.
Now that I am a parent, I understand more clearly what it takes to be supportive, encouraging, and involved with three children. It’s a lot of work, and he never complained. In fact, he had even more love and generosity to extend to his grandchildren. I see the result of it when I hear Dylan mention Grandpa first on the list when he is looking for someone to go golfing with him. I saw it when Dylan took his first flying lesson, and he invited Grandpa to come and watch because he knew my dad would want to see him fly a plane. It is little wonder that the things my dad spent the most time teaching Dylan have become Dylan’s favorite past-times and his career goals.
Even though Tommy, Cadden and Amanda have had less time with their Grandpa, I see Dad in their blue eyes as they look out at the world. I hear Dad’s caring heart in Tommy when Tommy is helping me and then he asks, “Aren’t I helpful, Mom?” I see him in Cadden when after watching a commercial for an animal rescue group, Cadden said, “Those animals need us. Let’s go.”
Many people knew my dad to be interested in raising fish. He had at least one fish tank of some prized line of guppies or angel fish almost all of his life. For someone who was so color blind that he couldn’t tell the difference between televisions that was black and white or color, he knew what good color was in the fins and tails of his guppies. I remember him teaching me what made for a good breeder and it included everything from not having splits in the tail to the shape of its spine. He would travel around the country showing his fish. His plaques and trophies filled our family room. This wasn’t something he did alone. It was something he did with his family and he shared it with as may people as he could. He was the only guest speaker I ever had at my high school when he would come into our biology class to talk about the genetic selection involved in breeding superior guppies.
Many people knew that he loved the Cubs. You have to be loyal to love a team like the Cubs as long as he did. Every season they would disappoint Dad, but he would be right back rooting for them next year. I’ll always remember taking naps with him through the games and seeing Dawn keeping stats. He didn’t need three sons to share the sport with him. He had three daughters and he filled his softball teams with all their friends.
My dad also loved flight. He would play with anything he could get up in the air. It was a blessing that he wasn’t that much of an enthusiast of rocket launching, as accident-prone as he was. But he dabbled in it and he loved to watch the launches. When he was younger, he flew planes. While dating my mom, he buzzed her house. I think he would have loved to have been a pilot, but being color blind he couldn’t do it for a living. He made paper airplanes and flew model planes. One time he spent weeks building some huge kite that looked like the Kitty Hawk. It took up all the space in our living room and was made out of sheets of plastic, wooden dollies, and lots of glue. He took it out on a day that was probably too windy and it was destroyed. Then he rebuilt it several times before giving up on it. Several years later he bought a huge fish kite to fly off of his boat. When they used to fly hang gliders at Warren Dunes, he would stand down there and take pictures of them. Anything that flew over his house caught his attention. He also liked fireworks. He’s stand in the park across from our house, hold Roman Candles in his hand and light them. When Dylan was little, we would stand outside and watch. I made Dylan wear a football helmet, which was reasonable, if you knew my dad.
My dad also loved to go fishing. He would take us fishing when we were younger. We would catch tires, turtles, and weeds, but he never lost patience with us. His tendency to be accident-prone seemed to come out the most when he was on a lake or fishing. He broke a tooth on a fishhook. He walked barefoot over a campfire. He hooked his fingers more often that I can count. He has forgotten to plug his boat, hook it to the trailer, and once he had a big fiasco that resulted in his boat slamming into his car, puncturing his gas tank, the fuel leak ignited, and he burned a trail of asphalt down the road. He was lucky his boat didn’t burn up. He had a few cars he tried to burn too.
The fact that my dad never burned his house down was a miracle. If he had, he probably would have taken pictures of it. He liked to keep a scanner in the house so he could chase fire trucks to fires. I would like to see a photo album of the pictures he took. It would be filled with fires, hang gliders, fish the Cubs, lakes, lighthouses, and him after going out on his boat.
My dad had many loves and interests but if there is one thing that I would want you to remember my dad for, it would be that he loved us with all his heart. As we gather here today to celebrate his life, I know there is not one member of my dad’s family that wished Dad had loved them more. My dad’s family wishes they could have loved him longer.
(My dad was 68 years old)