Friday, December 11, 2009

Oddly comforting.

I've been sort of elected to write my dad's elegy. See, he wanted his funeral at the family church - which is fine, and the folks at the church have been lovely about it - but they got a new minister about a year ago. While the new guy had been out to visit my dad a couple times (and I really respect him for that), well, Dad's been in really bad shape for the last four or five years and so the new guy really had no sense of who Dad was, whatsoever. The minister was very kind about the service and is going to run it and do scripture and all that. But how could he really say the right things about someone he never knew?

So I said I'd do it.

My brother was relieved, because he had been thinking much the same thing, and he considers me a "really good writer" and hoped I would do the job.

Which leaves me here, trying to write this thing for tomorrow's funeral. I thought it would be difficult, but instead, it's been a way for me to sort of make peace with this whole thing. My usual method of writing something important is to brood for a day or two, jotting down ideas and points I want to be sure to include. Then I arrange all those notes into a coherent order and write up whatever I'm working on. Yesterday was spent thinking about Dad, memories of him, and the way he was, and the things he said.

I'm going to share, here, the stuff that's totally inappropriate for a funeral in a church.

-In my early teens, there was some outfit of the season that I desperately wanted, and my mother wouldn't let me have one, because she thought it was too racy. The whole family was out somewhere, and a women went prancing past wearing the outfit that I so desperately wanted. My mother told Dad "Julie wants one of those." Dad looked thoughtful for a minute, then said "Julie would sure look better in it."

-After I was married, he once brought up the subject of sex and me, before I was married. I asked him "Dad, are you SURE you want to have this discussion?" He nodded and said "You're right. I lost my head a minute. Forget I said anything."

-One night at about three AM we bumped into each other in the dark, both headed for the bathroom. I screamed. He started laughing hysterically. Mom got up and yelled at both of us.

-He loved watching Benny Hill. For Christmas one year I got him the complete Benny Hill box set.

Back to the elegy. I'm really not sure how much god stuff I'm supposed to put in this thing. I'm tempted to leave it all out and let the minister deal with that.


quiltaroo said...

So sorry for your loss!

Your Dad sounds like a fabulous guy and you seem to have had a good relationship together. That's so cool.

I don't think you should stress about 'God stuff' in your eulogy - you're simply paying a tribute to your Dad, and what he meant to the people most important in his life. Sounds to me like you'll do a great job!



Emily said...

I don't think these anecdotes are at all inappropriate for church. They give a good sense of your relationship with him & the kind of man he was.

You can leave the God references out, too, if you like; in my humble view, God will be there anyway. And it IS the minister's job.

You'll be adapting to the pain of his loss for some time to come, traditionally a year. I hope the year goes quickly & easily for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of a lurker but I wanted to say I'm really sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like a really good man with an awesome sense of humor (so that's where you got it!). And I agree with Emily – the congregation at my church would LOVE these stories.

Barbara said...

Oh, how lovely. Those anecdotes really give a sense of your dad.

At my father-in-law's funeral the priest had known Pappy for 40-some years and it still sounded like they'd never met; I wish we'd have asked someone else to talk about him.

I'll be thinking about you and your family tomorrow.

ChiaLynn said...

Those are wonderful stories. Thank you for sharing them.

Bunny Queen said...

((bunny snuggles)) to you and yours. I agree with the rest of the commentors - say what you think is important about your dad. If he was very religious that might include God, but otherwise let the minister deal with that aspect.

Unfortunately I've been to far too many funerals over the years and the best eulogies, the ones that really connect with the person, are usually written by family or friends. I still remember laughing through my tears when I heard that "Lois is probably making popcorn for God and the angels, and is certainly telling them it has to be done by 8"; which is when her favorite show started. It was just so *her*.

Roxie said...

Laughter heals.

God stuff? Will it comfort you? Was it important to him? Those are the things you want to talk about.

When my dad passed, those of his old buddies that were still alive started telling stories about him and things he did even before he was married. It was wonderful!

What a great dad you had, to be able to acknowledge that you would look better in hotpants than the passing flossy did!

amy said...

I gave the eulogy for my mom, and I agree with the others--your stories are your stories; don't think about "appropriate." Only include god stuff if you would anyway, not out of some thought that you must. The only nod I made to being in a church was to change my mother's advice that "all men are fucking babies" to "all men are babies."

Strength to you. It's not easy to do, but you will do it and do it well, I'm sure.

debsnm said...

My extended family is quite large, and really strange. When I was young & people died, we/they always had a party. I really resented it for a while. Then, somewhere in my teens, I went to one of these family things, and realized that how they/we dealt with our grief. Sometimes it helps to remember the goofy/stupid stuff our loved one did. As they say in Steel Magnolias: Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion. I hope you always have wonderful, funny, inappropriate memories of your dad. And yes, put some in the elegy. It'll help.

Linda said...

So sorry for your loss. Those are great stories - thanks for sharing them with us. Your dad sounds like a cool guy.

Rose Red said...

I'd like to agree with the others who've said that these stories are totally appropriate for your eulogy - I always think the best eulogies are ones which make people laugh while remembering the person who has gone. I think you should say things about your dad that you want to say, not what you think you ought to say (eg the god stuff). Hugs to you for the funeral and afterwards, it's a difficult day but I think your sense of humour will help see you through.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the stories - I too think there's nothing inappropriate about them.

I'm still chuckling over the 3am incident, having had that episode a few times with my parents. ;)

You're celebrating your Dad (who sounds like he was an amazing guy), and how special he was to you and your family.

It sounds like you're going to do him proud. *hugs*

Galad said...

Great stories and sounds like a great guy. I'm with those who said to share what is important to you. I didn't think any of your stories were inappropriate and they made me smile :-)

vakessen said...

Hopefully you're resting and won't read this until after the service but as a pastor, I'd tell stories like yours that family shared with me if I were doing the eulogy. Talk about what's comforting and meaningful to you and your family. As someone else said, God is indeed there all ready and - it is the pastor's job to witness to our faith.

Susan said...

Laughing through my tears, your Dad sounds a lot like mine.
We were damn lucky to have had such cool Dad's. I can remember looking at my mother standing alone at the funeral home and thinking, "Where the heck has he wandered off to now?" and then it struck me......

Amy Lane said...

I love your dad, with only what you've written here.

You know, I've been to a couple of funerals lately, and the thing with the God stuff is that it always seems inappropriate. (Okay--kill me for this--I know someone will.) A person's relationship w/God is PRIVATE--it's their relationship with humans that a funeral is supposed to cover. If you make your Dad real for his family and friends, that will be enough. (I have the feeling you were going in that direction anyway. Forgive me if I overstepped something.)

And I'm glad you got to write the elegy. When my grandmother died, it didn't feel quite real-- or quite closed--until I wrote about it. I'm so sorry for your loss--but I think you'll do justice to what sounds like a truly kind, good life.

Donna Lee said...

My feeling is say what's in your heart and let the minister worry about god. Let your love shine through and it'll be terrific.

NeedleTart said...

Writing on Saturday, just to let you know I am thinking of you. I know this part can be really hard, but someday you will realize that you only remember the fun/good stuff about your dad (hmm..does that make this the reverse of childbirth?).
{{hugs}} to you and anyone in your family that needs it today.

bobbins said...

Thank you for introducing us to your Dad and sharing your memories. I hope you included other stories just like those to remind everyone of who he was, that he MATTERED, and he was important to many.

Alwen said...

It's got to be far better to have someone talking about him who knew him.

At the funeral of one of my husband's grandmothers, the priest had collected stories about her, which was great, except he kept calling her "Grand Maw". (That was exactly how he pronounced it!) No one ever called her that - she was "Busia" or Reggie. It felt like we were attending the wrong service by mistake.

winslowd said...

I'm sorry to hear about your dad. I think the memories of your dad are the best to use. You might want to ask your brother for some of his moments.

My thoughts are with you.

dawn said...

Just wanted to let you know that I'm thinking of you and so sorry about your dad. One of my sons (then 16) spoke at my dads funeral about what a fabulous grandpa he'd been, how he'd taught him all sorts of things from washing a car properly to how to dress formally and most importantly of all - how to get served quickly at the bar!

I hope that the funeral went as well as it could and that you were able to fully celebrate a live well lived and a person who was and will be loved my many.

Many hugs
dawn in the uk who you once sent some superwash purple trainwreck to (and I'm wearing the socks now!)

K said...


Been there, done that. The t-shirt sucks but... I know the family appreciated hearing your words, since they're appropriate for you, them, and your dad.

My thoughts and love are heading your way.

You do appreciate that I NEVER post on blogs, yes?

Bells said...

great stories! He sounds like a character.

I'd leave the God stuff out if I were doing that job because God means nothing to me. Elegies are supposed to be meaningful to you and to your memory of the loved one.

I hope you did ok. When Sean gave an elegy for his best friend in January, he knew it was a really important thing to do.

historicstitcher said...

I love the anecdotes - they made me smile, and they made me think of my Pop. Pop might very well have said the same thing your dad did about the racy outfit!

As so many others have said - it's your writing, it's your talk. Let the minister write his own. If people smile, and maybe giggle a little in thge midsts of their grief, then so be it. It is not a sin to remember good times, nor the wonderful person you are all gathered to remember.

And I think you're incredibly strong and brave to get up there are read it yourself. Not an easy task.