A Living Eulogy to My Father on His 70th Birthday

I’ve only been to one funeral. A Father who was taken from his daughters, way too soon. I was struck by the powerful stories that his two young daughters, both still in college, shared about the way he had shaped their hearts and lives. I wondered if he knew. I know he knew the satisfaction and pride that comes with watching his kids grow into who they were meant to be, but did he know how much he contributed to that?

So you’re turning 70. I figure you’ve got a good 15+ years left, with plenty of vitamins and tequila to embalm your old organs, you could get a good 20-25 more. But since your old eyes won’t be able to read this small text, and your memory will eventually go to pot, I figured I’d just lay it all out for you now. I hope you’re amused by the tact of my dark British humour.

Since mom got to care for my more practical needs like keeping me fed, washed, clothed, and safe from imminent danger, my first memories with you are enjoying life.

I remember a lot of dancing. Not just a little butt wiggle or shoulder shimmy, but the blasting music, climb on tables and couches, all-out party, kind of dance.

I want you to rest assured that I have passed this ritual onto my daughters. Nathan was opposed at first, but our family room table has now become a platform for Bree’s and Elyse’s after dinner dance performances, ending in the nightly ritual of me leading a conga line throughout the house.

I remember you talking to me like I was an adult when I was as young as five-years-old. I never questioned if you were feeding me a lie, and you certainly didn’t bother with dumbing down words. The most obvious and memorable example, of course, is when you refused to play a silly game with us kids, responding, “I will not engage in your childish endeavors.”

We would have serious conversations about life, and I never felt like you were belittling my feelings or talking down to me. I see the conversations I now have with Bree, and they remind me of our talks. I don’t think I realized how much I was becoming like you, until one day during one of Bree’s tantrums, I threw up my hands and said, “Bah! You’re being grossly overreactive!”

I believe I am a writer because of, and in spite of you. Because of course, you weren’t afraid to tell me that my writing was crap. Every good writer needs a good editor, and you were mine. From the first poem I wrote at ten-years-old, when you read it and shook your head, “No, this doesn’t make any sense,” to the hours you put into poring over my high school papers, you were always willing to spend time with my work. I remember the smug pride I felt my senior year of college when you told me for the first time, “this doesn’t need a single edit, I don’t know if you need me anymore.” You didn’t just approve of my writing because I was your daughter, but you challenged me to look at my work honestly and pushed me to tirelessly improve.

You are my spiritual mentor. This isn’t because you are some kind of saint. Hardly. But that’s the beauty of it. Through all your cracks, you let God shine through. You went to church in the best of times, and in the worst of times. When we didn’t go to church you would have us all gather on the floor in your bedroom and read the Bible with us and pray. I remember poking you in church one time because your eyes were squeezed shut. I thought you’d fallen asleep. But you put a finger to your lips and shook your head, “Shhh. I’m praying.” Then I put my elbows on my knees, squeezed my eyes shut and tried to pray. I think I fell asleep.

You talked openly about guardian angels, and Satan, and God’s return and new creation. I still remember sitting on the faded grey, velvet couch when you tried to explain that I shouldn’t live like I was, “of this world.” It sounded ridiculous. But I trusted your words were seeds of wisdom that I tucked away, hoping someday they would make sense. Now as I read my girls the Bible and teach them about our faith, your words come back to me. The truths that you sewed in me when many would have thought I was too young to understand, have been growing roots, that now support my faith—faith that I now share with my daughters—knowing that though I’m not a saint either, but I trust that there’s power in speaking God’s truth to them too.

As you can see, you’ve had a bit of an impact, because of, and in spite of who you are. God is good like that. So now you think you get to rest? No. Since this is a living eulogy, I get to say a word of prayer over the next 20+ years.

Father God,

I pray my dad’s soul would dance.
I pray that he could let go of agendas, expectations, and to-dos,
That he would dance with joy before you.
I pray He would delight in you, and invite others to do the same.
I pray he would find soul-filling rest,
That he would challenge those around him, in a spirit of love and unity.
I pray that he would find a place to use his gifts and share your truth,
Even when it seems like no one understands and is listening,
That you would use him to sew seeds deep within hearts.
I pray for satisfying work, for abundant fruit, and joy.
I pray that he would lay his fears before you,
That you would break the chains of self-doubt and need for control,
So that he can walk in step with You on the path You have already carved out for him.
Lord, we know he wants to leave a legacy.
Help him to see the legacy he has already left,
Help him to invest in them.
Help him to show up, to be honest, and available,
To continue to be the living example of imperfect progress,
Of human weakness and contradiction that’s redeemed by your grace,
As a living sacrifice and testament to your power and truth.

In Jesus Name
Amen

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