Monday, November 9, 2009


Two years ago today, my father died.

Daddy lived an incredibly full and productive life, the kind that most only dream of. He was a minister with multiple degrees, a teacher, a writer, a counselor, a storyteller, a wit, an earthy guy, an athlete, a friend. And he was my father. Not always a good parent, but he tried hard. And the older he got, the harder he tried. He suffered with depression and heart disease. The heart disease was especially tough on him – he was so used to doing and was incredibly frustrated when his body wouldn’t let him anymore.

One thing I was especially grateful for was my relationship with my father when he died.  I had spent a lot of time in my 20's and 30's being angry at him, but after a while I realized I was just nursing my anger. I couldn't even remember what I was angry about.  So I became a grownup and let that go.  Daddy could still annoy me, but the annoyance was momentary and didn't build up.  And he and I developed a fine relationship.  We were good with each other, as he was with all of my siblings.  There was nothing left unsaid in the end; we said "I love you." often and enjoyed being with each other.  Not everyone gets that blessing.

Daddy died in his own home, in his own bed, with his wife of almost 52 years by his side. We should all be so lucky.

Many people from all over came for the funeral. There was standing room only in the church. At the reception afterwards, his friends and family got up to give speak about my father and the difference he had made in their lives.. Here is the little tribute I gave for my Daddy that day.

I’d like to read for you scripture, not from the Bible, but from the Apochrypha.

Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15

1 Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.
2 The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning.
3 Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies:
4 Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions:
5 Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing:
6 Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations:
7 All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.
8 There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported.
9 And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.
10 But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.
11 With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.
12 Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes.
13 Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.
14 Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.
15 The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise.

I am my father’s daughter.
It was not always easy to grow up as the daughter of such a man as my father. When you are a teen, you do not which to be associated with your parents, particularly when that parent is someone with such a large personality and presence and authority as my father. He was a person of enormous character and influence. He was larger than life, a force of nature. Daddy could change to dynamics of a room just by entering it. His personality and his charm would sweep through like a great torrent, engulfing all who encountered him.
Daddy never met a stranger; he made friends everywhere. Mom used to say he made converts. Nothing pleased my father more than talking to people. And he made converts every place he was, from the grocery store lines to his congregants to civic leaders to hospital staff to motorcycle riders (when he retired he was tickled to have the motorcycle guys as a new group of buddies!) – everyone was swept up in his charm and love of people. Daddy loved listening to people and hearing their story - that really gave him such a kick. And he was a great storyteller and an amazing, gifted, charismatic speaker. When I was searching for a church, I had a terrible time because I compared the preaching to the high bar that Daddy set – and no one could come close. I don’t know how he could write and preach such wonderful sermons week after week. But that was Daddy.
As my father’s daughter, I learned some important skills – including how to drink, how to swear, how to play poker (I won all his money that night), and how to tell a dirty joke. He liked a good joke, and loved to share slyly a joke or a story that folks would not expect a minister to tell.
Daddy also loved music and literature and would sometimes modify things to suit his purposes. When I was a child, as his birthday would approach in late fall, Daddy would borrow from The Fantastics and go around the house singing, “Try to remember the eighth of December, it’s my birthday!” While he was being rolled away to his second round of bypass surgery following his big heart attack, he was singing “My Way”. We frequently had music playing in the house when I was a kid – Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkle, classical pieces – a big variety.
And he loved the spoken word. During my middle school years, he was particularly fond of listening to Dylan Thomas read his own prose and poetry. So I want to read to you the Dylan Thomas poem that was a favorite of Daddy’s, and of mine. It speaks to Daddy’s struggle with heart disease and depression. He hated being sick so much, and he fought it so hard.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I am proud, grateful  - and blessed  - to be my father’s daughter.

I miss you, Daddy. I’ll see you again in heaven.


  1. My heart goes out to you. My father died four years ago today. It's a little hard to hold body and soul together today.

  2. Thank you Donna. Blessings to you and yours - I know how you feel.

  3. Lovely post, thank you for sharing.

  4. I'm sure he's proud to have you as his daughter.

  5. Memories are what we cling on to when a loved one dies, sadly some not always good ones. That poem by Dylan Thomas is one of my favourites, and of course he wrote it for his own father who was dying.