Last Tuesday my dad passed away. He was on vacation in Niagara Falls, so needless to say, it was pretty unexpected. Here’s what I read at his funeral…
Our dad wasn’t what you would call a thrill-seeker. He didn’t climb mountains or ski or go on safaris. He played golf and tennis…a lot. He liked card games and shows and live music and the Miami dolphins. And he loved his family.
No, he wasn’t much of an adventurer or even a trendsetter. He was, however, a fighter. He fought to stick around for as long as he possibly could. Over the past several years he had battles, some bigger than others, and there were times we weren’t sure he would win. But over and over again he did.
Our dad was the kind of man who served as an example for others. An example of honesty and loyalty and devotion. Simply stated, he was good.
When we were children, he was the dad who took his son to every football game and carried his youngest daughter around on his back. And he was the dad who encouraged me to be a dreamer, even though he had his feet planted more firmly on the ground than anyone I have ever known, and had absolutely no patience for nonsense or frivolity.
As adults we all continued to look to him for approval and advice, although his famous words still echo in my head. Whenever I had a particularly challenging issue, I would go to him. Not because I expected him to solve it but simply because I wanted to hear the words. He would say, “Trace, I’m not worried. You’ll figure it out. You always do”. Doesn’t seem too helpful, but it worked! And he was right. I always did “figure it out”, because for as long as I can remember, he urged me to by standing back, giving me space and making sure I knew I could do anything I set my mind to, but on the off-chance that I couldn’t, he would be right there to save me.
That was his way. And he knew his three children well enough to be what each of us needed, even though we all needed something vastly different.
And there was his role as grandpa. Five boys, enough for a basketball team he would say. Whether it was grandparent’s day, graduations, school plays, soccer games or just an afternoon at the driving range, he was always ready and willing. And the proof of his success was in the love and admiration that each of them had for him.
Who wouldn’t want to fight to stick around for that?
As I stand here today, I can’t help but ponder what my dad would be thinking. In my heart, I know he would be touched and proud. And hopefully he wouldn’t be surprised that I was able to write these words. I wonder also, did he know how we felt about him? Was he sure we knew how he felt about us? I don’t know for sure, but I come back to my original thought.
Our dad fought and fought hard to be here as long as he could. To live every last moment that was given to him. For himself but also for us, and from him I learned to never give up, never give in, and never ever accept defeat.
The poet Dylan Thomas wrote these words which today seem fitting:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage 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.