It’s been a little over a month since my father passed away, and I’m still processing just what’s happened in that short period of time. I’ve spent so much time with my family and close friends, but I also moved in with the love of my life, and got promoted. I think about the things I’ve already missed him for, the conversations I’ve already wanted to have with him, wanting to gloat that the Phillies are above the Mets. It hurts immensely that I can’t. It’s been so much, but I’ve realized that I seem to be the type of person that grieves publicly.
So that brings me to this: I wanted to post the eulogy I gave to my father at the church online, as I know that not everyone who wanted to attend could be there, and because people have asked me what I said. It’s in full below, and the only note I will make is that the reference to Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken is because before I spoke, my wonderful sister came up with me and recited a poem that we know was close to my father’s heart. She memorized the poem in less than four days because she was afraid of looking up and falling apart when she saw any face she recognized. She read it flawlessly.
Below is the full text of what I said, barring a brief introduction mentioning my cousin’s excellent rendition of Amazing Grace that floored me right before my sister and I spoke.
My father was a man of deep faith my entire life, which is probably why we’re all gathered here right now. I can’t tell you how many different countries and different languages I’ve heard the Catholic mass in on vacations with my family over the years.
But still, I think that cancer, somehow, deepened my dad’s faith. While many would’ve likely shied away from the church after receiving a prognosis giving them a few months to live, my dad started attended mass every day. He took time to sit in silence, and pray, on his own, every day. I put his ability to survive almost 11 years after his first diagnosis both down to medical marvels, and his own determination and strength of belief.
When Father Cannon came to the hospice to deliver my dad ashes and the last rites last week, he spoke briefly from the book of Job. I can’t think a better book to represent my dad. He never complained, not even at the prospect of his life being cut short, or when the chemo treatments wreaked havoc on his body. Even some family members didn’t know how dire things really were, because when they spoke with him, he shrugged it off as if it were nothing.
And he was inherently Christian in his life. I’ve heard, just this week, about flights he paid for so people would get to job interviews, computers for college, and even college tuition he covered. He just wanted to help everyone see the best in themselves and remove any barriers that would stop them from achieving that.
I’ve heard so many stories about what my father did for people at work and in life, and I’m still learning about the breadth of influence that my dad on people’s lives. He was so humble that I truly never knew just how deep his kindness ran. Many people over the last week have joked that dad was in the fast lane up to Heaven, and I can honestly say that I’ve never met a single other person quite like him. His loyalty, intellect, respect, and kindness, were unbridled.
When someone dies, people tend to speak in hyperbole, out of respect for the dead. With my dad, these are just absolute truths about his character.
I think about the road ahead — the road less traveled — that I have ahead of me, and how scared I am facing it without with my father’s wisdom and guidance. I think about decisions in my career, life choices, big family moments that I won’t have my father for, and I struggle. But as a family friend reminded me recently, my father, along with my wonderful mother, raised me. Any time that I fear that I don’t know what to do — where I’d want to talk to him — I will sit for a moment and think, and I will know exactly what my dad would have done in that situation. And above all right now, that gives me hope.
Last Sunday, I sat with my dad for a little while before the ambulance came to transport him to the hospice. Half of his face was already paralyzed and he could barely speak. I talked to him about a night six or seven years ago, when he came into my room in London while I was messing around on my computer. He sat on the edge of my bed and told me that his father never told him outright that he loved him, and he wanted to make sure that he didn’t do that. I reminded him of that night, and told him that I loved him too and that just about everything good about me was because of him.
In a soft, struggling voice, he said back, “I’m very lucky.”