eulogy for Dad
Before we get rolling, there are
three things to say about this blog post. First, this is a paraphrase of the
eulogy that I delivered about my Dad at his funeral service on November 4,
2015. I used my typical approach: bullet-point outline format for my notes with
extemporaneous delivery. So, I didn’t say everything I’ve written here and I
didn’t write everything I said, but it is faithful representation of what was
said that day. (It also led to an appearance on Kurt and Chad's radio show, Solid Steps Radio.)
Second, the pastors and funeral
folks expressed gratitude that Dad was eulogized by someone who knew him well.
In his particular case, Dad was not so active in church (beyond worship
services) that the ministers would have known him well. This was exacerbated in
that all of the church’s ministers (other than the minister of music, who
preferred not to lead a funeral) have only been there a few years. The pastor for the service opened with Dad's obituary, which was helpful. But (well) beyond that, a strong eulogy from a family member or friend will often trump what a minister
can bring to the table. It is my hope that this post inspires you to deliver
eulogies as appropriate in the future.
Third, of course, there are many other things to say about the planning of the relevant events: visitation, funeral and burial/cremation. This article by Gary North is helpful as a resource on the financial aspects (and the economics) of these questions.
many small things to know about Dad.
-Dad was a proud Marine,
especially over the last decade or so.
-Many of you know Dad as an avid
golfer. But Dad was an active tennis player earlier in life. When he began to
have frequent trouble with “tennis elbow”, he switched to golf.
-Although Dad never owned a
motorcycle, he was a big fan of Harley-Davidson. The last pair of underwear he
wore in hospice was his HD boxers. And for his 60th birthday, Cath
got him an hour on a bike with a “Harley chick”. Awesome!
-Dad loved ice cream, especially
Blue Bell Vanilla Bean, Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip, and anything from
Graeters. I remember him eating a half-gallon in a sitting—and not today’s
3/8ths of a gallon! We’ll celebrate tonight in part by eating ice cream!
-Dad was a big sports fan, especially
the Celtics and the Yankees. (I never asked him why he happened to root for big
winners!) He went to the 1976 Summer and 1980 Winter Olympics, since we lived
between Montreal and Lake Placid for four years. And he was good at predicting football
games; he won our NFL “confidence league” once and was near the top the other
-Dad was into cars and this leads
to a number of memories. He was arrested twice for drag racing—once as a teen
and then one last time, a few months after I was born! He delivered Cathy in
the back of a police wagon, on the way to the hospital. Our home was only a
mile away from Baptist East, but Cath was in a hurry to get out. I don’t think Dad
had a catcher’s mitt, but he caught Cath on the way out. I also remember the
one car accident I’ve had that was my fault: After my parents had separated, Dad
came for a visit and let me borrow his car (one of his most prized cars). It
was a minor car accident, but I thought he was going to be really upset.
Instead, he told me to pay for the damage and the higher insurance rates—and
was really cool about it. (Update: I realized, almost a year later, that the accident was on October 30th, the same day Dad died!)
Dad’s life: four larger things
was a worker. In Genesis 2, we’re told that the first
thing God gave Adam was work to do. The first institution established by God
was (kingdom) work; the second was marriage. (Of course, marriage and family
are often part of our Kingdom work, but the institution of “work” is primary.)
In other words, we’re built to work and Dad took that seriously. He wasn’t a
workaholic, but he enjoyed his work.
After “The Fall” in Genesis 3,
“work” would often become “toil”. But Dad was good about “redeeming” his work,
avoiding drudgery and finding purpose in his work life. Dad loved working with
people, especially the customer service aspects of it—wanting to find products
and services that would make them more effective in their work. And from what I
understand of Dad’s career as a newspaper publisher, he would go into difficult
situations and try to turn things around or transition them into a new phase. I
like to think of this as “newspaper redemption”.
So too, we’re to work through
difficult situations at work, find purpose in our work, and redeem the time and
the opportunities available to us. Colossians 3:23-24 says: “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the
Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will
receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord
Second, Dad was
good with financial advice; he had a good sense of humor; he had a ready smile;
he was a good encourager; and so on. But he
modeled a lot more than he ever said—in many areas.
Dad enjoyed work and play in
balance; more broadly, he enjoyed life. Philippians 4:8 says to meditate on whatever is true, noble, just, pure,
lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Dad did that in
spades and showed us how to do the same.
Dad was friendly—gregarious is
the best word, I think, but also quirky and personable. And he did this with
everyone, most memorably with those serving him in a retail environment. In a
word, he extended dignity to all people—even to those who had nothing to offer
him. Many of us treat people well when they have something to offer. But even
the pagans do that (Matthew 5:47). Following Dad, we should treat all people
with respect and dignity, especially those who are not used to receiving it.
Part of Dad’s affability was his
corny sense of humor. For example, he would routinely introduce himself as my “older
brother”. At the visitation last night, a lady introduced herself to me and
asked if I was his brother. So the joke continues from beyond the grave! He
would often ask cashiers: “Do y’all take cash?” His sister Mary gave him a
visor with blond hair sticking out of it; he loved wearing it. I won’t steal many
of his lines or props, but I’ll definitely use his approach.
In all of this, he lived out Colossians
4:5-6: “Walk in
wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the
time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with
salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Dad was saved
by God’s grace and he was quick to extend grace to others.
Putting it another way, Dad was a
“good guy”. The word “guy” is funny. Often, it’s a term used as a criticism of immaturity—someone
who’s being a guy rather than a man. Or one can be a “nice guy”, but that
implies getting trampled and being bland milquetoast. What you want is to be a
“good guy”—and Dad was that.
Third, beyond merely
a “good guy”, Dad was a hero with
respect to marriage. Dad was saved by Jesus at 16, but was not walking
closely enough to handle marriage with my mom. They separated in 1980 and
divorced in 1986. They usually got along well enough after the separation,
which was really helpful, but it wasn’t a marriage. After moving to Northern
Kentucky, he re-dedicated his life to Jesus in his 50s; his walk deepened; and
his character strengthened. He continued to pursue my Mom and eventually, they
remarried in 2004.
The Church is worried about
marriage, saying that it’s under siege from recent events. But the fact is that
marriage has been under attack for 50 years—often from within the Church, as
marriage has been diminished by people who claim to revere the institution, but
have treated it and its covenantal commitments in a cavalier fashion. Dad did
something about the decline of Marriage—not for the sake of Marriage, but for
the sake of his marriage and his family—and it’s changed everything for us.
Our family tree doesn’t have a break in it anymore. We didn’t have to explain a
fractured family to the grandkids. And we have the model of a man who was
devoted to his wife, even when things got really difficult—within a culture was
telling him he could walk away. Who does that? A hero.
was a really good Dad, but he was a great “Papaw”. He didn’t
live long enough to be a great-grandfather, but was a great, devoted grandpa. He
stepped up his game as a grandpa. This is the biggest loss—and the saddest
aspect of his passing: for the grandkids. Joseph said he would miss Dad at
birthday parties. Brennan said he would miss his jokes. He was the “ultimate
babysitter” for Reagan and Maddy, living just down the street and willing to
play with them until somebody got too tired to continue.
What to do
with our loss?
Yes, we would have enjoyed
another 10 years with Dad, especially for the grandkids. It’s tempting to be
mad at God and really sad at the situation. But as an economist, I’m trained to
think about alternatives—what we call “opportunity costs”. Let’s think about
some of those with Dad.
How can I be sad, compared to other
sorts of life? Dad was comfortable with the grace of God and
the goodness of God’s Kingdom. Could I ask for anything more? Dad could have
had a greatly-abbreviated life. My friend Kurt lost his amazing wife Kristen at
age 45. My son Brennan had a brain tumor that could have killed him at age 12.
Dad got 76 years! And Dad could have lived a profitless/empty life (I Pet 1:18,
NIV). Goethe said that a worthless/wasted life is only an early death. But Dad
lived a full, profitable life. I’m so thankful that he was the sort of person
who will be sorely missed!
How can I be sad, compared to other
sorts of death? There are three basic ways to die. One can
have a long, painful death. One can die in a moment, surprising everyone. A man
at the visitation said that he had lost his father in this way. His dad didn’t suffer
at all, but there was no time to say goodbye. With Dad, we had seven weeks for
goodbye and he had very little pain. There’s no better way to go!
So, I have no complaints about
how he died, but I might be tempted to complain or quibble about “when” he died.
The timing does seem a bit strange, but presumably it’s providential. And God
has already given us clues: it happened just as Dad was selling the business.
He had a massive stroke on the Monday before his Wednesday appointment at MD
Anderson, which eliminated all possibility of treatment. And when Phillip (the
music minister at their church) visited us at hospice on Friday, he concluded with
a prayer, asking twice that Jesus would “give David what he needs”. I had laid
hands on Dad and his breathing changed dramatically during the prayer. Within
15 minutes, he had passed on.
All that said, we don’t know the
answer about the timing of Dad’s death. In any case, in God’s economy, we hold
to the promise of Romans 8:28: “all
things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the
called according to His purpose”.
Any funeral should do a few
things. A funeral should encourage us to number our days well. A funeral should
remind believers that our eternal life in Christ Jesus has already begun—and that
death marks the passage into the next phase of that eternal life. And as we’ve seen
with Dad this morning, a funeral reminds us that we get to write a good bit of
our own funeral message.
But let me close with particular lessons
from Dad’s life. First, strive to enjoy your life and your work. Life is too
short—and life is too long—to spend it in drudgery, missing out on the joy and
peace that God wants us to have. Strive to find those in your life too. Second,
love others and invest in them: family and friends, but also with those in your
everyday life—particularly with strangers and especially with those to whom
dignity is not always extended. Third, persist in the important things, even
when they’re really difficult. Dad modeled this well, especially in his
I thank God the Father for my Dad.
I hope and pray that I can emulate him where he most closely followed our God.