Here is the eulogy I wrote for my father’s memorial celebration:
“A reading from the Book of Nick:
A guy who works in an aquarium gets summoned by his boss who is looking very worried. She says to him, “I’ve just been by the dolphin tank, and they’re feeling very amorous. They’re doing all sorts of things to each other. And the trouble is that in less than an hour, we’ve got three busloads of second-graders coming. We can’t have them watching those naughty dolphins. Now, there’s only one thing that acts as an anti-aphrodisiac for dolphins, and that’s the meat of baby seagulls. So I want you to go down to the seashore, catch yourself some baby seagulls, and hurry back. But be careful, a lion escaped from the zoo this morning, and though he was heavily sedated, he still just might be dangerous.” So the guy takes a shortcut through the forest to the seashore. He gets some baby seagulls and he’s walking back through the forest when he sees the lion and it is lying across the path directly in front of him. It’s too late to run away, and the feline does seem very placid, so, summoning up his courage, he steps across the lion. Nothing happens and, with much relief, the guy begins to resume his journey, when all of a sudden, a policeman steps out of the forest and grabs the guy and says to him, “You’re under arrest.” The guy can’t believe it and asks the officer what the charge is. The policeman says, “Transporting young gulls across a sedate lion for immoral porpoises.”
As pieces of my dad have slipped away over the last few years, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what we’ve been losing and what I’ve been missing. Here are just a few: I miss dancing with my dad – at my senior prom, at my wedding, around the dinner table with the music turned up so loud the cats went running. I’m going to miss his easy laugh when we played the game where we tried to get the worst songs stuck in each other’s head, or when we could only speak in song titles or lyrics. I miss hiking in the woods with him, talking about everything that worried me or thrilled me, and how he took me so seriously, even when I was just a kid. I miss walking the train tracks with him, and laughing at Miss Piggy. I miss hearing him snoring down the hall, and late night sessions in high school laughing at televangelists when neither of us could sleep. I miss throwing rocks and playing pooh sticks and dad-the human-jungle-gym. I miss flattening pennies on the railroad track, or leaving pennies, head side up, in random places for strangers to find and saying, “This is going to make someone VERY happy!” I miss the handwriting that looked like he should have been a doctor. I miss the way he embraced my friends, assuming that if I loved them, he loved them. I miss imitating Beyond the Fringe and Jonathan and Darlene records with him. I miss our easy shorthand. I miss the way he looked at me when I sang. I miss how he’d rough house and snuggle with the kitties. I miss his Christmas newsletter. I miss his radio show. I miss watching him play at First Night Virginia and other gigs. I miss hearing him practicing to Jamie Abersold records in the background while I read. I even miss him farting and saying someone must have stepped on a frog.
I loved his firm belief in equal rights for everyone – women, men, black, white, gay, straight. I love that he taught me to stand up for what I believe in and to find a way to make a living doing what I love. He taught me to seek my own truth and not just accept what I’m told. He taught me that it’s okay to be a star, but to never forget that there are millions of other stars out there waiting for someone to recognize them for what they are – to treat people as if they, too, are important, special, and full of light. He taught me that life is a process and no decision is final, that we constantly choose and get to change course and reshape our lives. He taught me to clap on the 2 and the 4, and to relish the ridiculous. He taught me to say I love you early and often, and mean it.
Ann Michaels wrote, “The dead are everywhere but the ground.” She’s right. My dad is in that distant train whistle. He’s in every lucky penny you find. He’s in your favorite jazz riff or dirty joke.
In the last 15 to 20 years, my dad wasn’t what you would call a religious man, but he was definitely spiritual. He looked for meaning in life, and I think he found it. The meaning in all of this, in all of you, is friendship, love. He was generous and loyal to a fault, and loved each of his friends deeply. And you’ve returned that love 10 fold. The cards and phone calls and gifts that you sent when he was diagnosed, when he had his final radio show, and when he was admitted into the dementia unit, the rides you offered to town when he had to stop driving, the visits to him in the dementia unit, all of it, was staggeringly kind. The staff at Our Lady of Peace was, frankly, amazed at the outpouring of love they saw from his friends and family on a daily basis. I think it helped them see who he had been before the disease. And when I would start to forget who my father had been and lose him in who he had become as a result of the dementia, those cards and such would remind me of why I still loved him so fiercely – why I still LOVE him so fiercely.
So on his behalf, thank you for wholeheartedly returning his love.”
UPDATE: Darling readers, tomorrow or the next day, I’m hoping to be able to post video footage of the service so that anyone who had wanted to attend but couldn’t will be able to share in the beautiful day.