Here are the notes from the thoughts I shared at Dad’s memorial service yesterday. Thought it would be good to share it here.
There’s no other way to say it: losing Dad is the hardest grief I’ve faced. I know I’ll never stop missing him and I’ll never stop wishing we had all had more time with him. Especially my kids.
But I also know I’m profoundly lucky that for 35 years, I got to see his humor and kindness and generosity firsthand. As his daughter, I feel like I got front row seats to a large part of his life, and I’ll always be grateful . . . because I got to see what it looks like to love well.
I’ll never do him justice properly here today, but a few things come to mind:
In Dad, I saw what it meant to work hard for your family — I remember the squeak of the front door at 5 a.m. as he left to catch the bus to the shipyard each morning. He’d come home tired from long days of submarine cut-ups, but he rarely complained. And despite his long days at work, he seemed to have a lot of time to give us and others — he was completely generous with his time and energy. If we had a game or a concert, if people around him needed a hand, he showed up.
Dad was my earliest example of love and loyalty — it was always clear to me how much he loved Mom. Some of my earliest memories are of them skating face-to-face, Dad twirling Mom around the rink, like ice-skaters without the ice. They were terribly romantic.
Though we all agree Dad was the world’s worst Christmas present giver (the Snuggie was a real dad-classic), Dad was good at doing thoughtful, consistent things during the rest of the year to let Mom know he was thinking of her. Before he’d leave for work, he’d make sure her mocha was there on her nightstand. After she made dinner, he’d do the dishes, and then he’d rub Mom’s feet while they watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy together. As a kid, I wondered about their quiet evening routine. Now, with kids of my own, I totally get it.
A few nights after Dad died, Mom and I found a check that Dad had written Mom on their wedding day. It was made out to her, and in the amount line he’d written, “All My Love.” They were married 39 years, and I know she’d say he honored the check he wrote and the promises he made that day.
As his daughter, my mind jumps immediately to the things he taught me to love: the ocean. The woods. A good cup of coffee. A long book. The sheer joy of singing loud to a good song with the window rolled down. A good road trip.
When I was seven, my family drove from California to Wisconsin in a minivan. Because for some reason that sounded like a good idea. One morning out on the road, it was still dark and Mom and Kevin were asleep in the back seats. I was sitting up in the front seat and Dad was explaining time zones to me between slurps of black coffee. I’d never thought about sunlight hitting different parts of the world at different times, and was floored by this newfound information. What didn’t my dad know? I pecked at him with every question I could think of until I began to notice the first rays of light coming up over the horizon. This was my first Midwest dawn, and we both fell silent at the shared sight of the huge sun rolling alongside us. It’s one of my favorite memories with Dad, even now.
My dad showed me how to savor things, how to really pause and enjoy a moment.
I’m tempted to stop there, but there’s one more thing I want to share about my dad — a memory that I’ve come back to over and over again this past 3 weeks.
If we’re lucky, each of us have a moment we can point to when we were loved much more than we deserved. This is mine:
When I was in my early 20s, and knew everything, there was a time I felt like maybe my Dad and I weren’t so close. He’d done nothing wrong — I was just a girl who needed a lot of words, and Dad was always more of a doer than a talker. Somewhere between time zones and my twenties, we’d gone a little quiet.
The moment Dad realized I felt this way, he reached out. He called me and took me out for coffee in downtown Poulsbo. He walked with me out onto the gazebo, where he took a deep breath and nervously asked me what he could do to make our relationship better. He must have cleared his throat about a dozen times. He looked so earnest. And so uncomfortable.
As we stood there, I remembered Dad showing up to every recital, every musical — closing his eyes and smiling like he’d never heard anything sweeter. I remembered Dad teaching me how to put a worm on a hook, then spending the next 20 minutes pulling fishing line out of a tree. I thought of all the times he’d rescued me after flat-tires or dead batteries or car accidents. All the times Dad snuck a 20 into my wallet even though I hadn’t told him I was low on gas. I remember him calling me at work: “Just wanted you to know I stopped by and mowed your lawn for you.” I remembered him helping me move. Thirteen times. Up and down flights of stairs.
It’s downright painful for me to think about now. Here stood my dad, for whom words were so difficult, humbly meeting me where my immature heart needed him to.
He was saying with words what he’d been clearly showing me all my life. He loved me and would do anything to show it — not because I particularly deserved it in that moment, but simply because I was his girl. It was as clear a picture of generosity and grace as I’ve ever seen.
That moment is, in some ways, one of my dad’s biggest legacies to me. It makes me want to be better at giving and receiving love. I want to be good at stepping out of my comfort zone. I want to be good at seeing love — even when it’s not perfect.
It was hard for us not to get to say goodbye to Dad — he went from Mom feeding him soup in his hospital room straight to whatever comes next. We talked about it and we all feel like we’d have said something more, stayed a little longer, had we known. But in the end, there was nothing that needed to be said, no apologies that needed to be given or received.
Our only real regrets are that we ran out of time. We all loved each other a little imperfectly, but we loved well all the same.
I think Dad’s memory will inspire us to keep loving each other as well and as much as we can.
He’s also inspiring in me a new appreciation of classic rock.
Pretty sure he’d be glad to know both those things.