Four weeks ago, we publicly said goodbye to my father.
This morning, we privately said goodbye in a small graveside service.
We had done something similar when my brother passed away, giving us all a bit of space and time to prepare to take that last step in saying goodbye to his earthly remains.
I don’t know what made us decide that today was the day, but sometime earlier this week, it was decided.
It seems fitting that I share what I shared four weeks ago at my father’s funeral – it just feels like it is time.
December 19, 2015
Trinity United Church of Christ, Millersburg
When I decided that I would speak today, I thought I’d try to channel my dad’s muse. For most of my years growing up, I knew to stay out of Dad’s way on Sunday morning because he was finally writing his sermon. (During Advent, he seemed to be more tense with the extra responsibilities. During Easter – less so for some reason.) He always claimed that he’d spent his entire week writing his sermon and that he was just trying to write it down. It baffled me. Aside from meetings and visitations, what I saw my dad do was read and nap and watch TV fix strange concoctions for dinner when my mother was working. But mostly I saw my dad engage in what I’ll call “conversation” because what I’d prefer to call it isn’t acceptable to say in current context. Those of you who know my dad know exactly what I mean. While some of this “conversation” migrated onto Facebook in recent years, he was best face to face, with that distinctive voice and quick wit.
So to truly try to replicate this process for writing, I decided to do the same. While it turns out that no one noticed that I was doing anything different than normal (hey – I am my father’s daughter after all – though I know my wit is not nearly so quick as his), I did get the chance to gather some stories and memories from friends and family.
So many had words to share about great sermons and bad jokes, being there to help when they needed him most. It was an honor and privilege to hear what they had to say, but a few stories stood out.
My cousin Karla wrote on Monday, “Oh Uncle David… Family reunions just got a lot less fun.” She wasn’t the only one to mention my mom’s family reunions. Kelly remarked about how nice it was to have him read to her and talk with her when everyone else seemed to find other places to be.
Bill Wilhelm, a college friend, shared that, “He was sarcastic and truthful and irreverent and saint-like all in one package. I would suggest a topic or I would ask a question. And then I would just listen and enjoy. He never disappointed.”
Eddie echoed that sentiment last night that when he went to talk to my dad with one question, he usually left with fifty more to think about.
He had an incredible 43 years of marriage to my mother – living at 7 addresses, serving more churches than I can really count, having two kids, losing my brother Matt, gaining loved ones like (my brother’s best friend) Allen and my husband Jason and eventually his only grandson Bryson. He loved my mother with everything he had – and he said he regretted not saying it more to her one night while we spoke. I look at the house he built her on the hill and remember how he aimed to make it just the house they wanted and needed for their final years together. Sure, it took him years to get to finally putting the molding in or putting in closet drawers, but that, too, was my dad. I secretly think he enjoyed hearing her remind him that these things needed to be done.
A few years ago I had written a piece for the Nerdy Book Club about gaining a little piece of heaven when I got my library card. I laughed as I reread it, but the comment my dad left there made me smile: “I am so glad that we gave you something that still works and doesn’t need batteries.” He didn’t just give the love of reading to me and my brother – he went out of his way to give it to everyone, including random people he would meet at the Ned Smith Center or the grocery store or at the Gratz Fair or on vacation. But I think he was most proud of the time he spent reading with Bryson in the mornings. Almost from the time I went back to work after having my son, my dad was there in the mornings to get him ready to go to the sitter or to school. As he got a little older, Dad realized that he could motivate the boy to move just a little bit faster if he read to him. And so began their adventures with shopping mall gorillas and closets that lead to other lands and one legged pigeons and brave book-loving mice. I don’t know if Bryson will always remember the stories, but I am sure that he will always feeling loved when he holds a book.
Ultimately, others remember what I will remember: A man who could talk your ear off and make you think and laugh and wonder. He never failed to make a suggestion of a book or a scripture to read – and it was always what you needed to see. He loved his family beyond measure.
Thank you, Dad, for sharing your life with us.
So long and thanks for all the fish.