I miss you! I miss you every single day. Life without you seems less full, but I am adjusting and I am learning to be a stronger woman every single day. You would be so proud of me. I wish I could hear the pride in your voice for all the things I am working on in my life, and my new-found love of writing… if only I could share my little short stories with you. You had so many amazing gifts. I always told people I am a creative, I just have not yet found my outlet. Well, Daddy, now I know I have; it’s writing.
And to think, I did not know of my gift to write until after you were gone, because God moved me to write a speech for your memorial service. I know you were there, sitting in that only empty chair between your Southern family and your West Coast family, center stage to the lectern. We all felt you. I know you know the words I spoke on that day and I wonder could you also hear my thoughts in my mind? I know God and Jesus can hear words and feelings; desires unspoken, but can our lost loved ones hear them too?
On the drive to the service I told Dianne that I was nervous. I had never been able to speak in front of a group and I was concerned, because of cultural differences between the South and the West Coast that some of my thoughts might not go over well, perhaps they might even offend people, I had no idea. She seemed suddenly alarmed by my comment but calmly asked me, “Well, do you think you wrote anything offensive” — or something of that nature. I spoke from my heart and told her that from my perspective, of course, I had not. She seemed to relax and assured me that I should not worry about it then, it would be fine.
But of course, being me – the old, insecure me – when my turn to speak arrived and I stepped to the lectern I was flooded with nervous energy. As I said, talking in front of a group of people, especially a huge group of people, was really scary and for an instant that fear of offending popped in, though I was able to push it back down. I was there to do what I had to do. Period.
I had written my speech, printed it out and highlighted the areas I wanted to emphasize in yellow and the places I wanted to look up and make eye contact in green — that was a huge help! However about midway through I became extremely uncomfortable because the entire time I spoke not a single person shifted in their chair, not one. There were no isolated coughs, shuffling of the feat or giggles from the children. Just dead silence. And Dianne, well she never made eye contact with me though I tried so many times. I did my best to push on through, hoping no one could tell that I was feeling frightened and vulnerable to alienation or perhaps even hatred.
It is funny how our minds try to destroy some of us. When I was done I quietly returned to my seat. When the service was over, Daddy, you know what happened, people came to me, strangers mostly, hugged me with tears in their eyes, telling me what a wonderfully moving speech I had made. I remember one person I spoke with, a stranger to me, I confessed my unease because the room was so silent throughout my words. She said, “Oh, no, Memee, it wasn’t that at all. Your words were so moving, so sincere and your love flowed through that we were on the edge of our seats, unable to move, hanging on your every word.” Others wanted to comfort me and others told me that my ideas and thoughts were true.
Daddy, you couldn’t hear a pin drop, and that was GOOD. I thought it was bad, but it was GOOD. And then after the service, those 40 or so people who had decided to come back to the house, well, they approached me too, this time your close friends and of course family members. All told me how moved they were by my words and gave me positive feedback about my skill of writing, that I should keep at it and one person even told me I should join Toastmasters because I was a great speaker! Me!!
Anyway, Father’s Day is here and I want others to know how incredible you were and I want to honor your life again as I did on that sad day last September… and of course, selfishly – or maybe it isn’t selfish at all – I want to be sure that my Eulogy to you is in a safe place. Safe from destruction from fire, water, computer crashes, children, pets or even just lost over time and so I am sharing it here on my corner of the web.
I love you so very much and have to remind myself every day that you are no longer here to walk with me, but sometimes I do feel you and know you’ve joined me for a few quiet moments together. It’s not as fulfilling but it helps me to feel not so alone.
And now for the Eulogy:
“Looking out at all of you who could make it here today to honor and remember my father warms my heart so much because it means that he touched your lives and your hearts with his amazing talent, warmth, compassion, love, intelligence, and yes, perhaps even with his dry West Coast sense of humor, which I inherited.
“Hello, I am Memee and I am my father’s first born child. Most of you here today do not know me well and I want to tell you that despite the states that sat between us I have always been and always will be a ‘daddy’s girl.’ I loved my father immensely and feel such joy in knowing that when he came here to Louisiana he found an incredible love and an amazing family to become a member of. He lived a very blessed life. I had not planned to speak, however by Saturday morning I knew that I must and you will see why in a few moments.
“Now, I know that we all come from different backgrounds and may not share the same beliefs, as for me, I believe in Heaven and I want to share a few anecdotes with you about my daddy that I hope will bring you as much comfort as they are bringing to me. These are not stories of the past but stories of the last three days. Please bear with me here, I am not going to be trying to convert or change anyone’s personal beliefs or views. I simply want to share with you what I have been experiencing, stories that assure me that although he is no longer walking beside us on earthly feet he is very much with us in our hour of mourning, and helping me personally to cope with this loss that has come much too soon. Just four days ago, Thursday, my wonderful stepmother Dianne telephoned me within the hour of dad’s passing to tell me the news. We both did our best, of course, to hold it together as we both tried to console one another, sending love and hugs across the telephone lines. When I hung up the telephone I found myself overwhelmed with sadness… crying, screaming, and even vomiting, my body wreathing in agony and my heart shattered to a million bits. Still sobbing, and needing comfort, I called an older female friend, a Christian, and asked her to please speak with me about Heaven and how the Lord loves us and takes care of us after death. She told me that although he is no longer on this Earth with us he is experiencing what most of us spend our entire lives searching for: peace, joy and love, a freedom from pain, stress, and fear. She told me that Heaven is the most beautiful place we could ever imagine with colors and a vibrancy that has never been seen by us. I know that he must love that, being such a gifted set designer and a landscape painter! These ideas brought me the comfort I needed to get ahold of my emotions and rein them into something manageable.
“And then it happened, the first sign that I will once again, someday, be cradled in my daddy’s arms.
“Please continue to indulge me as I explain.
“Earlier this year when my dad learned he was going to be needing surgery he decided, along with Dianne to do the most thoughtful thing for everyone… postpone so that he could fly out to the West Coast and spend a few days with me and my son, Dane, in Washington, and then my sister Jennifer and her four boys, Logan, Jon, Andrew and Zach in California, a trip to Mexico with Taylor family relatives and then, with his Sweetheart, he got to take a much anticipated 30th Anniversary cruise so they could make more incredible memories together, you know, ‘just in case’. When dad flew out to see us it worked out that Dad and I were unable to connect up with my son due to work and timing issues which meant that Dane really only received one full day of quality time with Dad.
“This trip was very different than every visit I had experienced before. Dane and I both had our own high expectations or stress surrounding this visit. I know that for me it came from the fact that I knew there was a possibility that it would be the last time we’d be together and I wanted him to feel prideful of us. I don’t know for sure, but I think that my son’s stress was due to the fact that his Papa would be, for the first time, meeting his girlfriend of 3 years and really wanted Papa to like and approve of her—which by the way, he did. These stresses we were both experiencing caused unfortunate friction between myself and my son, taking away from all, some of the pleasure of the four of us being together on that day.
“Don’t worry, I am about to get to the point of the story.
“I apologized to my dad for our behavior and told him I did not exactly know why things were going so wrong. And he told me, ‘I know exactly what the problem is.’ In utter wonderment I said, ‘You do? Please, tell me.’ And he said very simply, ‘Dane needs to move out.’ This was wise advice that both Dane and I took seriously, however, despite spending a year now looking for steady employment that would not conflict with his college schedule and submitting résumé after résumé there came no offers for interviews. I had spoken to dad on the phone the night before his surgery last week and he had inquired about the job Dane had been most hopeful about hearing from; it had been almost two weeks since he had submitted his résumé and application and so I gave Dad the update.
“Now, here is the exciting part… while I had been on the phone talking to my friend about an afterlife in Heaven a telephone call came through to my voicemail… it was an interview offer for Dane… the very same job my dad had asked me about during our last conversation, a job with a full benefits package! It’s true we could simply call this a coincidence however it would be the first of many signs to come.
“As I mentioned previously Dane and I live in Seattle and we are each other’s only family out there. As a result there were few to turn to for comfort, companionship and distraction. However, a wonderful friend in a nearby neighborhood invited us to dinner and some much needed comfort, a shoulder to cry on and an ear to just listen. And then it happened again.
“Once dinner was ready I took a seat at the kitchen table, my back mere inches away from the stationary panel of a sliding glass door. I don’t know why I had felt compelled to sit there. I never sit with my back to a door and yet I felt I needed to sit there, in that specific chair. I had even consciously questioned my decision to place my plate there and felt strongly that that was where I must sit. Within minutes of sitting at the table and everyone getting dished up suddenly and without warning the rain began falling hard and fast — all of you living in the South know the kind of rain I am talking about – and despite the small overhang that typically keeps the raindrops from falling upon it, this rain was literally running in sheets down the pane of glass I sat beside, only that pane! Everyone grew silent and my friend asked, ‘Memee, did your dad especially like the rain?’ I told her that I had really never asked him about that, however he did know that one of my very favorite things about Louisiana itself are the extremely heavy tropical rains I would experience every summer when I would come to visit. ‘Well’, she said, ‘there you go! He is letting you know he is still beside you.’ My daddy had brought me a second sign to comfort me and let me know he is still with me. And just yesterday I read in the obituary my sister Lisa so kindly wrote, and I quote, ‘He always loved the hills and climate of the great Northwest.’ And although she may not have been referring specifically to Washington state, it is indeed part of what is considered the great Northwest and so I have learned the answer to the question: Yes, indeed he did enjoy the rain, perhaps as much as I do. I see this as an affirmation that he is indeed still loving me and looking out for me and all of the people he shared his life with.
“Now briefly, on Friday when I once again began to fall apart my telephone rang and it was an aunt in California and in some personal stories she shared with me regarding her family members who had passed on, I received evidence of consciousness after death. Then later that evening, once again I began to lose control of my emotions and the phone rang, it was my cousin Stephanie ringing from Montana. She shared with me some of her most loving memories spent with her favorite uncle, my dad who we are all here, remembering today. Stephanie really wished she could have been here with all of us today, as they too had a special connection. During our conversation she also shared with me personal stories, this time regarding grampa after he passed on which proved to her, and once again, to me that Dad’s loving soul lives on.
“And then even later that same night I discovered what I view as the third sign… this sign showing that his spirit is still at work in our lives, and this sign from Dad came via his wife Dianne in an email sent to me and Jennifer and I quote, ‘I can’t believe it, but you are on the same flight into Baton Rouge from Dallas tomorrow!’
“I know many of you don’t view these things as I do, and some of you might even think I’m a little crazy and that’s okay by me as well, but here’s the thing: Jennifer and I grew up in California, I was in Eureka at the northern end and she in Redlands, the southern end, which meant when we would fly over here to visit at the same time we would be coming on two different planes from two different cities on two different ends of our state, but Dad always made sure we would be on the same connecting flight from Texas. We would always fly that final leg together and now on our final trip to visit our dad we would once again be flying into Baton Rouge together.
“And now for yesterday, Saturday: there occurred 7 obstacles that most certainly should have made me miss my scheduled flight or possibly even prevent me from getting to Louisiana at all. So there, standing just inside the airport doors I sent Dane ahead so he could come even if I didn’t make it. And after he was gone from my sight, and what seemed like at least an hour I found myself boarding a plane and there was my son, sitting right at the front of the plane. I won’t go into more details now though I do plan to write the story down. Suffice it to say, all 7 obstacles were overcome, not by me but by something more powerful than I making it possible for me to fly to Texas with my son and catch that final leg into Baton Rouge with Jennifer. Call it a string of coincidences, call it luck, call it Providence… think whatever you will. Me, I call it a Miracle.
“And lastly when everyone was settled and the plane had reached altitude the Captain spoke over the speakers telling us the route we would be flying to Dallas. I haven’t personally experienced that before, but then again I hadn’t flown on that carrier before. When the Captain had finished speaking my son confirmed that I did indeed hear correctly: We would be flying over Montana, my father’s birth state where his mother and father, grandparents and past generations of [name withheld] have all been put to rest… I think this sign was from my father and meant for Cousin Stephanie. She had posted on Facebook and I quote, “Uncle Michael, you will definitely be missed! Thank you for all the wonderful times together and give grandma and grandpa a big hug from all of us!” I like to think that dad, grama and grampa did just that as we flew over her and her family.
“And so here I am, standing before you with total and complete certainty that my dad and his beloved Dianne will someday once again be walking hand-in-hand in Heaven and we will all eventually be reunited in the peace, love and joy God has waiting for us. Thank you for coming and thank you for listening to my heart. It is my sincere hope that in sharing this I have brought at least one of you a tiny bit of peace or comfort over this or other losses or even questions from your own mind, as these occurrences have for me. Thank you.”