Saturday, 28 July 2007

The Eulogy


A year ago tomorrow my father died. I've been thinking all week what to write about him and have realised that I am not ready to say anything new. So here's what I said at his funeral:

Thank you for being here today to share in this celebration of the life of a man who was straightforward, honest, fair, intelligent, loyal, funny, dedicated to his community and on occasion, even a little cranky and eccentric. A man on whose feet I learnt to dance and whose arms could hug away almost all of my childhood troubles – my Dad Joe.

I think everyone who knew him will remember his sense of humour. Dad never knew what to do when people were sad or upset. Whenever my Mom was unhappy, my brother and I would joke that Dad could be found up a ladder – a place where she wouldn’t follow. His other solution was to crack a joke. So, I thought I should share an example of Dad’s sense of humour.

Dad enjoyed his food and wine and developed a girth to suit his appetite. One day my brother, who was about seven at the time, asked him what was inside his tummy. Well, an illness in Dad’s youth had required surgery and left him with two scars on his abdomen – one long and one small. So father solemnly explained to son that a rugby ball had been inserted into his stomach via the long incision and the small one was for its annual service where it would be re inflated using a bicycle pump. The joke backfired on him a little when his son – who, of course, believed everything his father told him, documented this scientific marvel in a school essay which was later displayed at his school open day.

Dad was really a very practical person. He showed gratitude by repairing plumbing, love through building furniture and social commitment through electrical planning for countless Rotary projects. He was an engineer and in his case I do believe it was a calling – all of the hobbies that he had over the years - yachting, flying model aeroplanes came back to engineering. It was his job but also his greatest pleasure. He did not, however, require that things look beautiful – a recurring bone of contention between my parents - only that they function smoothly and efficiently. I am sure we will be pulling prestik off walls and unwinding recycled wire hangers he converted to many uses for many years to come.

Any tribute to my father would be incomplete without a mention of his life as a Rotarian. He joined Rotary the same year that he married my mother – in 1968 and since then has been committed to serving his community through this organization. He has volunteered his time, skills, energy and even his wife and children on occasion. But I think he always appreciated what he got in return – a deep sense of satisfaction and his very best friends.

A side of Dad that many of you may not be familiar with was his romantic side. The flowers on his coffin are a reminder of the first flowers he ever gave my Mom – Compactas which he called "Hermanus red roses". He was actually quite determined in his pursuit of my mother. He planned the courtship on a calendar – when each family member would be introduced – where he was going to take her and when. And with a great big star on the day he planned to propose. Considering that it was only four weeks from first date to proposal, such organization was required. Six weeks later they were married.

As a teenager with the hormonally charged notion that I would set eyes on some boy at the Bishops disco and have found my life partner – I remember asking him how he knew so quickly that Mom was the woman for him. He told me that he loved her because of her faults. Now, I will agree that on the face of it this doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, but his theory was that one should look for a partner whose failings we could live with which in turn makes their positive attributes so much sweeter. I still think he must have been a remarkable judge of character to have figured that out so quickly. My brother and his wife were together for 6 years before they got married and my husband and I were together for around 3 years before tying the knot so the skill appears to have been lost with him!

On my wedding day my now husband hired a beautiful old car for the occasion. On the way to the church I waited for my Dad to give me one last bit of sage advice. The secret to a long, healthy marriage maybe. But he didn’t. Instead he grilled the owner of the car on all its glorious specifications. Everything from top speed to tyres was covered. But marital advice - none. I remember feeling a bit disappointed at the time. But now I think that he felt his job was done. He was giving me away and, I hope, believed in my ability to figure out the rest on my own.

And now, without the man we loved so much, and with God’s help, that is what we all must do.

28 comments:

miss yerem said...

this is very touching and it paints quite a vivid picture of your dad,he sounds like a lovely man. i especially like his organization skills concerning his proposal!am sure you miss him very much,hope you will be okay tomorrow.all the best from berlin.

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing your Dad with us. A very touching tribute.

jenny said...

Brought a tear to my eyes. I am glad you have such fond memories of your dad, as there are many who don't. You are a lucky girl to have had such a wonderful dad. thanks for sharing.

The Good Woman said...

Thank you Miss Yerem. I'm trusting Bambi will keep me on track - as she did last year.

Hi Jen. Thanks for dropping by

And Jenny - I am lucky, but thanks for the reminder!

Annie said...

Beautiful memories. Beautiful proteas, too.

Anniversarys are hard - even though I'm sure you miss him just the same on any other day - there is just something about those dates that mark the passing of years.

Hope your memories are bringing you comfort today.

Sparx said...

That was so lovely. I'm sorry to hear about your father's passing, I can imagine that a year is no time at all when it comes to missing him.

Reluctant Memsahib said...

How sad. And how lovely. I don't think that the passage of time minimises the loss of loved ones - I think that anniversaries are always a little jarring - but it does make the loss less acute. My dad has been gone from my life now (22 years) for longer than the 19 I knew him. Years and years after he'd gone I needed to understand why it still hurt that he wasn't here. So I sought answers. I read that Ted Bowman, an American grief counsellor who works with Poetry Therapy, suggests that though we are able to come to terms with the vacuum that the loss of a loved one creates in our lives, it takes a lifetime to come to terms with the loss of a dream. Oddly that helped. Understanding I didn't have to come terms with Dad's death - wasn't compelled to get 'closure' - was comforting. It meant I was allowed to keep on remembering, even if it sometimes made me cry. I'll be thinking of you x

Crystal Jigsaw said...

That was beautiful. I very touching tribute to an obviously well respected man.

I hope you are okay today and thinking happy thoughts, the ones I am sure your loving dad would have wished you to remember.

Love Crystal xx

The Good Woman said...

Thanks Annie - I'm actually feeling much better than I thought I would - I think because I'm just letting it be...

Hi Sparx - so true about time. It feels like yesterday and then I look at that picture of him with Bambi and marvel atall the changes that have happened in that short time. Life really does go on.

The Good Woman said...

Hi Mem - and thank you so much for your thoughts. I do think that it is the dreams which are the most tricky - the images I have of him chatting with my child, which now will never be.

But today, Crystal, I'll just remember him sailing...

the fairy godmother said...

The people we love are never that far away, irrespective of distance or death. Our memories endure and with the so do the people who are closest to us and mean the most.

A year may have passed since the death of your father but the positive aspect is that you, and others around you, remember him, his life and the impact he had on you.

There are many things that cannot come to pass, and many things that I regret that I cannot do due to being too far away from people, but that doesn't mean that that they are not in my thoughts.

The main thing is that you remember. And you remember with love, affection and respect. With that, your father is still with you and although he may never be able to sit and chat with Bambi, through you, he will.

Misssy M said...

I spoke at my Papa's funeral and it was the hardest thing I have ever done but it is one of the things I am most proud of.

And so should you be. That was wonderful.

Motheratlarge said...

He sounds like such a nice man. He must have been very proud of you. Anniversaries are so difficult. This brought tears to my eyes. Take care of yourself at this special time.

Dee said...

Gosh that is beautiful!! What lovely words you said about your dad.
I couldn't have spoken about my mum at her funeral, couldn't compose myself.
We're both lucky to have had such amazing parents in our lives I think.

The Good Woman said...

Hi Misssy. I am proud I did it. I hope he would have been too.

Mother at Large - he was a thoroughly decent man. Thank you for your thoughts.

And Dee, I think we are lucky. Thanks.

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