Today is the Memorial Service for my Dad and because not everyone could be there, I thought I would share the little Eulogy that we put together for the service. I’m even leaving in the flipping grammar stuff up in the first line, because real life.
There is so much I could tell you so much about what my Dad has been through in his 66 years of life.
Born in 1947 and growing up in PE, he could be found getting up to mischief, like throwing his boarding school food through the window (only just escaping being caught) and terrorising his mother and sister with countless pranks, before heading off to the army. I don’t know much about those days because we didn’t ever really talk about them, but I know that this is where he developed his smoking and alcohol addictions. I guess that one wouldn’t really want to talk about the days that you found yourself in and out of rehab and dealing with a divorce.
But that is life for you. Things don’t always go exactly as you may have planned them to go. But the Lord was so graceful in changing his heart shortly thereafter, in preparation to meet my Mom. Shortly after meeting each other they were engaged and then married in 1984. And shortly after that I was born (1986) and then trouble was also born in 1988, also known as my brother Shane.
Growing up in our little house in Kenwyn was so very normal. And in its normality it was perfect. We had regular braai’s with family friends who declared Dad to be “The Braaimaster”, we went on outings to little dorpies on the outskirts of Town, we watched movies and laughed until the coke almost sprayed out our noses and then promptly watched them again, we played cricket in the back garden and we built go karts. Obviously not every moment was picture perfect, but we dealt with it like families tend to do – together.
My Dad had a bit of a wicked sense of humour. Finding the strangest things funny – not the least of which would be not being able to control the laughter when seeing other people get hurt in funny ways (a trait that he swiftly passed onto me). I still often think of the time my brother got shocked by touching the borehole cord that went outside. His arm flicked back like lightening, he turned white and freaked out. It looked beyond funny! My first reaction? To burst out in uncontrollable laughter which I eventually followed up with an, “Are you OK?” Needless to say, Shane was not impressed. He ran inside to tell Dad what had happened and got the exact same response from him as he got from me.
I could tell you how his diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy and more specifically Inclusion Body Myositis (a 1 in a million kind of disease) in 2000 shook our household. How it made us question so many things and adjust in so many ways that we never thought we would have to.
It wouldn’t be fair to brush over the rough bits. The gritty bits. The real bits. The period from diagnosis to falling and not being able to walk again was rough. Coming to terms with the fact that you can no longer get up when you are on the floor, or not being able to drive anymore or not being able to walk anymore. Those “milestones” were the hardest to deal with, for him especially. Slowly losing independence, freedom and hope is not even close to being easy. There were dark and sad days that we all dealt with as and when they came.
A particularly bitter sweet day that stands out in my mind is my wedding in 2007. Unable to walk me down the aisle he waited at the end in his chair, watching with tears in his eyes as Shane had to do it instead of him. His speech on that day still brings me to tears every time I hear it, even more so now.
His working career varied so much since his days at the mushroom farm. He was a salesman that sold everything from irrigation systems to car parts to tiles. It wasn’t until he quit the rat race and started his own business that he found his niche. Advanced Tilers was his baby that he nurtured and grew. He was known for excellent service and attention to detail. Having to close the business after unsuccessful attempts to keep it going without him was a very traumatic time.
We joined St Timothys around about 20 years ago and we realised that we had found our new family, my Mom remembers him saying, “I think we can be used here”. Shortly after that Dad started Alcoholics Victorious. But not only that, they also joined the choir. I fondly remember going to choir practise with them every Thursday night. Both my Mom and my Dad loved singing in the choir and I know that he was very sad that he could no longer get up onto the stage and sing with them as the disease progressed.
As the years passed on I noticed a change. Although the disease remained and deterioration may have gotten worse, he seemed to have accepted it. Obviously it was still ridiculously hard, but in accepting it he seemed to let go of the anger and bitterness. He was more positive. He trusted in the Lord more fiercely.
The birth of his grandchildren Kyla (2009), Riya (2010) and Knox (2012) brought him such great joy. He adored their presence, although they were more concerned with watering Nanas garden or drawing than they were with actually talking. As he was not much of a talker himself, that was just the way he liked it. And their love for him was ever present and evident.
Although he may not have been able to (or wanted to) leave the house that didn’t mean that he lost contact with the outside World. Quite the contrary in fact. It was on Facebook that he made real connections with people in our new neighbourhood, where he brought a little community together and helped them to look out for each other. He was always posting funny little quips, sayings and pictures and even though sometimes they may have made me cringe a bit, he made people laugh every day.
When he wasn’t entertaining everyone on Facebook he was watching rugby. If they ever had a “super fan” competition I am sure he would have won it – he hardly ever missed a game. But his sporting knowledge was definitely not only limited to rugby, he knew just about any score or result of any kind of match that happened, from cricket to soccer to the Tour De France.
Despite the disease itself he was always in good health with only a cold here and there, so when the pneumonia hit, we knew it was a problem. By this point he was unable to move much more than the wrist of his right hand, his neck and a few other little things. His lungs just didn’t have the power they needed to get the gunk out and lead him on the road to recovery.
And so on a very windy and stormy Saturday night on 24 May 2014 at 8.10pm our Dad went to be with Jesus. It was almost as if the weather knew what was happening in that little cordoned off section of the ICU, it could tell that we were rejoicing that he didn’t have to suffer any more but that we were so very sad that he would be leaving us.
Dad, I know you can’t read this and that you are far too busy running and jumping and dancing with Jesus to be too concerned with what’s happening over here but, we all loved you so very much and although you may be gone, you are very far from forgotten.