On February 4, 2018, my Dad passed away after a long illness. The past few days of funeral planning has been in a word: exhausting. But with the sadness has come many good memories, laughter going through old pics, and relief that my dad isn’t sick anymore. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions.
As we planned the funeral, we met with the pastor of the church I grew up in. I had written out some words I wanted him to share. He carefully read them, looked at me, and said, “This is a eulogy. It will be a lot better coming from you. I think you need to deliver it.”
I didn’t want to do it. I prayed and prayed about it. But then. I knew he was right. I needed to say those words. But how? Even though I’ve spoken in front of people many times, it wasn’t at my father’s funeral. That’s a whole different story.
I logged on to Facebook last night and I saw that one of my friends had just changed her cover photo. It said, “God is within her. She will not fall. Psalm 46:5”. It spoke to me. I kept repeating it. I also kept repeating, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13” My friend Heather delivered an amazing eulogy at her mother’s funeral and I asked her for pointers. I knew I would only be able to do it with God’s help.
Today, somehow, I made it through. Here’s what I said:
It feels a little like I had two Dads. The first one was manly-man George that I had up until 2005 when he nearly died from an aortic dissection and subsequent stroke. In true manly- man style, he fought and survived something that most people don’t.
The Dad of my early years was a tough, motorcycle riding, booming voiced, hard-working, a little rough around the edges kind of guy. When I wore too much blue eye shadow in middle school, he let me know (which in hindsight was actually really good advice). Once, when there was a worm on my Mom’s salad, he didn’t just let the waitress know, he complained loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear, much to my teenage embarrassment. He taught me to ride a motorcycle before I could even touch the ground on one. When my brother was racing bicycles at a local track, my dad had me racing Big Wheels. We used to roar through the neighborhood on our three-wheelers, much to the delight of our neighbors. He wasn’t raising me to be a sissy. When I’d go out with my friends as a teenager, instead of telling me to be careful, he’d say, “Don’t stick any beans up your nose!” Also good advice. When I moved out on my own, he gave me a toolbox of everything I’d need to fix anything in my apartment that was broken and I did. He taught me to shoot a gun, respect my elders, to do the right thing, and to love the Lord. He tried valiantly (and failed miserably) to teach me to drive a stick shift. Sorry Dad. He used to go camping with his family and friends to a place called “Deer Camp” but I don’t think they ever even looked for deer. It was just an excuse to get away and do “man stuff.” Since he was a manly-man he didn’t exactly wear his heart on his sleeve but he showed he loved me by always keeping my cool Mustang convertible in good working order, getting up when it was still dark to go to work hard for our family, and mumbling that he loved us kids every once in a while.
After 2005, my dad was different. I don’t know if it was his brush with death that prompted the change but he became so sweet and kind. He worried about me when I’d travel for my job and always wanted me to call when I reached my destination. He told me he loved me ALL THE TIME. Our joke became that I was his favorite daughter and he was my favorite daddy. He told me that he was proud of me. So even though the past 13 years during his illness were so tough, in a small way, they were a gift. They showed me the softie that my dad was on the inside. They gave us a Dad who could more easily share how much he loved us. He didn’t quite lose his feistiness, though. When I would wear my favorite distressed jeans with holes in the knees, he’d say, “You look real pretty, Jennifer, but can’t you afford nicer jeans by now?”
I’m thankful for the 13 bonus years so he could meet my wonderful husband Justin, 9-year-old son Griffin, and see my 17-year-old son Kyle grow up. He loved being the “World’s Greatest PaPa” more than anything.
I’m so grateful for all of the years I had with my Dad. I’m thankful that he expected a lot of me as a kid because it made me strong. I’m happy that he pushed me to try challenging things when I was growing up because it made me tenacious. I appreciate that he taught me to try and try again because failing is part of life and so is getting back up. I’m even thankful for the past 13 years because it showed me what true love looks like- my mom lovingly stuck by my dad with kindness and grace even when times were unimaginably difficult. They showed me that you never give up on those you love. I’m most thankful for the gift of all the time we had with my dad because he was truly one of a kind.
I’ll miss you, my favorite dad.