TWENTY FIVE YEARS ago, 6 May 1989, my phone rang in the wee hours of the morning. It was my mother. She had taken Dad to the hospital and did not know what was wrong but felt we should be there. We rushed to the hospital in time to see him wheeled into surgery. He had a very worried look on his face as he looked directly at me from the gurney. He died on the operating table about 9:30 AM. Aortic Aneurysm. He was 63.
When a man loses his father, it hits hard, particularly if old Dad just really isn’t that old. I was 35 with a wife and two daughters. The next few weeks would be emotionally rough. The first task however was arranging the funeral. Three days later, on 9 May, we buried him. It was raining. I delivered a short eulogy and read a Baha’i prayer for the departed, though dad was not a Baha’i. He was a staunch Christian and we had his Pastor there to deliver words and prayers as well, but I don’t remember those.
I did not fully remember my own words until recently when I found, among some old song lyrics, the yellow ruled paper on which I had written his eulogy. I want to share it again in his memory and honor:
We eulogize Dad based on what we knew of him
We will remember Dad based on what we felt for him
We mourn Dad based on what we wanted to know and what we wanted to feel before our time together was done.
This ceremony is for us, a chance to know and feel the way we’ve always wanted.
We can measure a man’s knowledge by the caliber of his work.
We can judge his wit by the things he said and the quickness of his response.
But the qualities of Spirit such as Wisdom and Grace are measured by what a man chooses not to say – and are therefore harder to discern.
We can however feel that spirit in the comfort of his counsel and the soundness of his advice, in the boundless generosity that he showered on us, and all the signs of love he displayed throughout his life.
From your family,
From your children,
From your wife,
Thank you Dad.
Shortly after Dad’s passing, in fact, my first day back at work, my friend and co-worker Jim Babb, in an effort to console, said “I lost my father several years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him”.
Yes. I get that. In some ways I felt closer to him after his passing than I did during his life. I think it was because I was too busy with my own “daily grind” to pay attention to that comforting counsel and sound advice he was generously bestowing on me. But after he was gone, the import of those moments hit me and I drew closer to him in a spiritual way.
About 3 months after he died, still in the throes of grieving perhaps, I had a stunningly real dream of him. I was sitting in the snack bar of a golf course pro-shop (very apropos). I could feel the texture of the plastic stackable chair and see the bright white laminate table tops when Dad walked in grinning pulling off his glove as though he had just finished a round. I was stunned. His companion was a stout balding man with a friendly grin. Dad looked great. He was trim and fit and sat down right across the table from me, asking “how you doin’?” and grinning at me with a sparkle in his eyes. I was shocked and kept asking “Dad?” “Dad?” and he just replied with a playful “what?” “what’s the matter?”, grinning at me the whole time. It was as if he were prodding me to say “but you’re dead!”, but I would not say it. I did not want to disrupt the moment. I did not want to do anything or say anything that would end this wonderful reunion. So instead, I said “Nothing, nothing”. I was filling fast with the joy of the experience when I suddenly awoke. I abruptly sat up in bed and gasped. My wife, awakened by my commotion asked “what’s wrong?” “Nothing”, I replied, “nothing, nothing at all”. I lay awake until sunup, smiling and grateful for that heavenly visit.
Many changes would take place in the coming weeks and years for everyone in the family. It’s incredible to me now to recognize what a stabilizing factor he was in all of our lives. Today, 25 years later, we have all been through some serious adjustments and I’m pleased to say, we made it. In fact, to a large extent, we blossomed. Perhaps my siblings will agree with me when I attribute our success to Dad’s counsels and advice. So many times I hear his words coming from my mouth. And like my friend Jim said, not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.
To read a bit more about him, have a look at the blog I posted 5 years ago. https://darrellsongs.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/in-memoriam-darrell-rodgers-sr-my-dad/
I called my mom last night. We marvelled at the thought of 25 years passing by so swiftly. Mom’s 88 years old now. On her dresser, she keeps the portrait of dad you see in the upper right corner of this post. She says she feels like he’s still with her. I bet she’s right.