Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Beautiful Tribute

A reader, knowing I love the inspiration of a "life well-lived", sent me this beautiful tribute she read at her beloved father's funeral.  So inspiring and touching and a reminder that life is not all about the awards and accomplishments and accolades, but about the way we make people feel.  Thank you, Mary Lynn!

I wanted to share some things about my dad with you.  Some you may know, some you may not.  To the world, he was a 73 year old husband and father, grandpa, uncle and brother.  He would’ve turned 74 on Monday.  He was born in Springfield, Illinois (home of Abraham Lincoln) and was the oldest of 4 children.  He joined the Navy in his younger years and was a hospital coreman.  He then went back to school and after earning his MBA he took a job at GE in Finance which brought him to Cincinnati.  It was from GE that he retired after over 32 years.  Those are the basic details, what you could read on paper.

What I’d like to share now are things you may or may not have known about him, but what certainly made him the person we all loved.  He loved oysters on the half shell and seafood and crème brulee. He loved escargot from the Maisonette but also the “senior rootie tootie from IHOP.”  He loved music.  He’d sit in the living room with his green ear phones and listen to everything from Bob Dylan to Patsy Cline from Manheim Steamroller to the 1812 Overture.  He loved good music. 

He loved his Irish Setters – he and my mom both.  My mom often said he would be able to determine the length of their marriage by how many Irish Setters they had.  And they had a lot.
He loved taking pictures. He was into photography before it became the hip thing to do. He was always behind the camera and all our albums at home are because dad took his camera with him everywhere and always took the time to walk around to take pictures of his friends or family laughing or talking, rarely just posing for a picture. From slides to reel to reel, film and flashbulbs to his digital camera and trusty Nikon around his neck.

He was the ultimate handyman. He spent countless hours at his tool bench, in the yard, and always tinkering with things. He built the kids 3 different treehouses (complete with windows and painted cool colors), a sandbox with seats, stilts to walk up and down the driveway on, Dave’s pinewood Derby cars, the bookshelves in the living room, toy shelves in the basement and just countless other creations.  If something needed to be fixed, he did it right away.  He made a big wooden twinkling star for Christmas and put it on the roof every December– his favorite part was having the grandkids over and turning it on for them at night to hear their little “oooohs and aaaaahs.”  What a good man.

He loved grilling and cooking – steaks, hot dogs, chicken, shish-ka-bob, veggies – he believed in hot meals for the kids before they went to school – making pancakes and eggs and bacon or hot cereal with a little brown sugar on top, making breakfast for his kids at 6:30 in the morning before he went to work.

He would never let his or my mom’s gas tank go below ½ full (and most times when it was a quarter down he’d run up to “top it off.”  When we got in the car on Monday, mom asked if the car needed gas and dad must’ve filled it on Sunday – it was full to the top.  He enjoyed camping and took so many trips to state parks and campgrounds.  He’d meet his family from Springfield, Illinois ½ way and camp with everyone.  We especially loved Camp Kick-a-Poo State Park –(supposedly because it was the ½ way meeting point from Springfield but mostly because we loved saying that name). He loved camping with David and the Boy Scouts.  Those trips were always very special to him.
He had a love of grammar and when I was at work, I’d often call home to ask dad a grammar question or how best to write something.  His favorite joke “you never use a preposition to end a sentence with…”  Oh, Dad.

If you needed something done, he did it right away. Friends would stop over and while they were busy, he’d go out and turn their cars around, wipe off their windshield and put Rainex on it.  Just because that’s the kind of person he was.  He was the ultimate gentleman.   He would ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS hold doors for my mom, for all of us.  He was so thoughtful.  Always asking my mom what she needed or arranging her things just because he knew she’d like it that way.  He was SO KIND.  Today is our mom’s 70th birthday.  He had told her he bought her a birthday present (and did she want to know what it was) but that he hid it in the garage, but hid it so well he couldn’t find it.  We did end up finding it – he bought her Romance – her favorite perfume.  He was so thoughtful.

He taught me and my brother David so many good lessons. He was such a good dad.  He was always protective of us and one example  - every year he’d paint a red line at the end of the driveway that we couldn’t ride our tricycles or bikes across (of course we’d always toe the line). But that red line and him wanting us to be safe is just ingrained in our minds.  He loved us so much – he was so proud.  He wanted us to be happy and healthy and was so very happy to see us with such good partners and children. 

He was so loyal to our mom. So loyal and faithful, loving and totally devoted to our mom.  He doted on her and went everywhere with her (except when she felt like shopping by herself!!!).  He was patient and when mom went to do physical therapy or water aerobics, he’d bring his Kindle and just read while waiting in the pool area, ready to help my mom when she was done.

Speaking of reading, he loved books. He was a voracious reader and while he had a nice collection of books, he learned to love the Kindle and downloaded and read all the time.  He loved history and WWI and WWII and the Civil War.  He LOVED the book To Kill A Mockingbird and would stop us every once in a while to read one of the quotes from the book – what he called gems.  And he had certain books – Shackleton or the Frontiersman or John Adams that he probably read and reread 6 or 7 times.

He loved to travel.  Every summer he took the family on a trip – most times to the beach in Destin or Hilton Head or North Myrtle Beach.  They went to Washington DC and Gettysburg and so many other places.  He traveled a lot for work in his early days – to Paris over 18 times and to Germany and Amsterdam.  But the travel he really enjoyed was with Mary Lou.  They took countless cruises – to the Caribbean to Alaska many times and enjoyed their recent trip to Europe. 

He went to mass most mornings at Glenmary and usually with mom (unless she was babysitting!)  He felt a real connection with that small, intimate chapel and when we went to mass on Tuesday, the priests and people hugged us and Father Charlie even had part of his homily about dad.  He and my mom regularly volunteered at the Drop Inn Center and made and served food.  He did this quietly but often and did it without hesitation.

He loved his family in Sprinfield, Illinois.  He would pack up the station wagon and for almost every holiday they’d make the trek to Springfield to spend time with everyone.  He went back for Alan’s surprise 60th birthday party, he made trips to visit his mom – sometimes by himself when he needed to help out or just be there for her in her later years.  He loved his nieces and nephews. What great memories the cousins had playing together, camping together and spending summer vacations together.  Family was so important and those memories they have, he helped create.

He was PROUD without reserve.  He’d talk about his grandchildren – “that little Arleigh is just so attentive – look at how she notices everything….Lily, listen to hear read – and her vocabulary!!!, she’s amazing…Griffin is such a good boy and just so smart.”  He loved his little grandchildren and always had a treat stashed in a little bag to give them. They knew they could count on grandpa to sneak them a snack.  He’d be so patient and enjoyed watching a cartoon with them.  We’d walk by and there’d be Lily and Griffin sitting with grandpa watching Care Bears or My Little Pony – and he just enjoyed it.  Most recently mom and dad went on a European cruise – from Istanbul to Athens, Paris to Venice. At dinner with a table full of strangers he said, “you know my daughter-in-law Rachel won the Flying Pig Marathon!”  I’m sure they had no clue, but it didn’t matter – he’d talk about his kids or his family any chance he had.  He loved Rachel and loved Greg like his own.  He was proud of them and happy to be in their company. 

There are no words to describe how much he was loved and how much he will be missed.  It hasn’t sunk in, it doesn’t seem real, but we trust in God’s plan.  We know it’s not goodbye, but that we will see him again one day. 

Every morning before their walk at Winton Woods, mom and dad would say this to each other.  Dad would say “This is the Day the Lord has made” and mom would say “let us rejoice and be glad.”  And dad would end with “Alleluia.”