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Friday, September 24, 2010

The Eulogy I Gave For My Dad

NOTE: This week, I came across my hand-written notes of the eulogy that I delivered at my father’s funeral nearly four years ago – he died two years after my mother. Upon re-reading it, I thought it might be helpful for anyone who has experienced a similar loss.

It feels surreal and unnatural to lose both parents within such a brief span of time – little more than two years.

I went to church and sat next to my father this past Sunday and did not expect a phone call the next day saying he was gone.

I did not expect that my parents would not live to see any of their 12 grandchildren get married. I did not expect that they would not live to see their great-grand babies. And I certainly did not expect that they would not live to see the age of 65.

Up until this past Monday when he passed, I did not expect anything less than another 15 or 25 good years to share with him.

But the thing I expected least of all was the deep peace of mind and spirit that I have knowing that he’s reunited with my mother.

Ever since she passed away in 2004, he had not been happy. My sisters, brother and I tried to spend a lot more time with him. Our respective families took him out to meals, coffees, worked around his house, took him on walks and drives around the lake to improve his spirits – to little avail.

At one point, I was so frustrated with his listlessness that I selfishly and angrily confronted him to “snap out of it” and get on with his life. Questioning him whether or not his surviving family members and extended family were enough?

He quietly replied that he deeply loved each and every one of us. But he shared that all the extra attention and effort we applied to him, was bitter sweet because Gwen (my mother) wasn’t there to share it with him.

He quietly shared further that no matter how much we loved on him and spent time with him – each of us ultimately had to leave him to return to our own families and homes each day. It seems that our daily departures from him unintentionally sharpened the painful void of my mother’s memory.

That was an unexpected insight into grief for me. Without minimizing it, such a loss is somewhat akin to a painter losing their sight; a musician losing their hearing or a chef their sense of taste. Everything they love to do and experience in life is affected and changed, because their point of contact that helped define each moment was no longer there. My mother was that point of contact for my father.

My dad loved us five kids and deeply loved his grandkids – but I now know that he was sad that he could no longer share those moments with my mom.

Trust me as I tell you, I miss them both – but as I said, I did not expect the peace I now have in their absence knowing they’re together.

Some kids get from their dads a love for baseball and can quote player statistics all day long. Some develop a love for hunting and fishing that lasts a lifetime. Still others develop a passion for cars and working along side their father restoring a classic engine.

While my dad never had a passion for baseball, hunting or cars – there is a passion that he had that transferred to me and that was a passion for the word of God and an eternal faith in Christ.

Everyday I’m grateful for that gift of faith my father imparted to me, especially on a day like today.

Earlier this week, my wife came across an email from a woman who attends our church and at the end of the email there was a quote that I’d like to share, it reads:

The true measure of a man’s wealth is what he has invested in eternity.”

That quote has lingered with me, because it was a standard that my dad could measure up to. Anybody who truly knew my dad would agree that by that eternal standard – he was one of the wealthiest men they knew, and that’s evidenced by the overwhelming number of us here today to honor his memory.

My dad was always ready to listen, pray and offer words of wisdom through the scriptures to anyone who sought him out.

During calling hours last evening, I can’t tell you how many people – some were family friends, others were complete strangers – who came through the receiving line telling me, that my dad was a “father-figure” to them when they did not have one; or the incredible role and impact that he had on their lives; or how his faith and family had been an inspiration to them.

“The true measure of a man’s wealth is what he has invested in eternity.”

Having said all that – after losing both parents so close together with decades of life still ahead of them both – it’s easy to point an accusing finger to heaven and claim that such a loss is unfair and is a cruel cosmic joke.

The knee jerk reaction is to demand an answer from God to the question – Why????
  • Why are they both gone?
  • Why should I go on without them?
  • Why did this loving couple of such demonstrated faith have to die so young?
  • Why our parents?  
All of those “why” questions and many others came flooding into my mind when I heard that my dad died – because I loved him as much as I loved my mother.

Interestingly, those questions about “why” it happened, reminded me of a passage I read in a book titled A Grief Observed.

After my mom passed, I shared the book with my dad. It’s written by C.S. Lewis – an avowed atheist who became one of the greatest Christian writers and theologians of the 20th Century.

Lewis wrote the book shortly after the death of his wife, Joy Davidson, to cancer. To be honest, I don’t know if my dad ever read the book I gave him – but I’d like to read a bit of it to you about the “why” questions we all experience when we lose a loved one:
When I lay these [why] questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He (God) shook His head – not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’
Can a mortal ask questions which Gods finds unanswerable? Yes, because all nonsense questions are unanswerable. Questions such as, ‘Is yellow square or round? Or ‘How many hours are in a mile?’ – have no answers. Probably half the questions we ask – half of our great theological and metaphysical problems – are nonsensical questions.

What that passage suggests is that all of our “why” questions about tragedy are the wrong types of questions to ask.

After last night’s calling hours - considering the hundreds, possibly thousands of lives my parents positively touched – I was thinking about what are the correct or right-type of questions I should ask. Questions that are not nonsensical to God and that He wants to answer for me regarding the death of my parents.

After the long line of people from last night’s calling hours who shared story-after-story about my dad’s positive impact on their lives – there was one question that came to my heart,

“HOW can I be more like my father?”

And the answer from God came to my heart as quick as the question,

“The true measure of a person’s wealth is what they invest in eternity.”

Despite the pain, the loss, the grief – I had an answer from heaven that brought me true inner peace. I had an answer and direction, that I’m to continue in this life and my faith until I’ve reached its end and finished well – just as my father did.

I will continue to purse the true eternal inheritance of dad and seek to have a positive impact on those lives I happen to touch – just as my father did and continues to, even in his death.

Having answered the question of “why” and why there's a better question to ask when faced with tragedy, I ask if you’re rich in the truth, wealthy in faith and fully invested in eternity? On the other side of death's veil, will you know that you finished well?

Allowing your life to become the answers to those questions, is worthy of life and ensures a life of worth.

The Eulogy I Gave For My Dad


  1. Tor,
    Wow. I know it has been years, but, yes, I can honestly say that your dad influenced MY life too, in a quiet, Godly way. I am so sad I was not there to hear you deliver this personally. Thank you for sharing it on your blog. You have a full, WEALTHY heritage from your father in the faith and example he left for you and the generations to come. Be blessed.

    Debbie (Attix) Ensing

  2. @Debbie, you're very kind for reading it and making such a profound post - thanks. I found the notes and felt prompted to share them. We all experience loss, so I thought it might be helpful to someone else who might be going through it for the first time. Anyways, thanks again!

  3. I have no idea who you are...I accidentally stumbled across your blog a couple weeks ago. I appreciate all your insights, but this essay was particularly meaningful. I lost my husband at the age of 46 and while I have managed to carry on and find happiness in so many things, I understand a bit how your father must have felt. I enjoy so much the time I spend with my children and grandchildren, but a part of my heart aches to share it with him.

    Thank you for your are an excellent writer.

  4. Hey Tor,

    I just finished reading your latest post. It's really good that you thought of sharing this.

    Excellent thoughts.


  5. That "peace" you wrote about (that the bible says surpasses all wisdom and understanding), still carries us through on the days we miss them most.

    And you ARE walking the walk and investing in eternity every day..I see it, and am blessed to live with your example.
    Thanks for sharing this, my love.

  6. @whatnot, I'm sorry for your loss but happy that you've managed to continue moving forward despite your devastating tragedy. I've found that the pain doesn't go away, it just gets more blunted and less sharp. My prayers are with you.

  7. @Ash, thanks for the supportive feedback - your comments are always appreciated!!!

  8. @wife, you know me better than anyone and I'm truly blessed to have you by my side through all of these ups and downs. Your love and loyalty inspire me each day.

  9. Tor,
    Thanks for sharing the eulogy you wrote for your
    father. I am so sorry for the loss of your parents within a short span of time. Years ago my father shared a verse from Isaiah with me (57:1): "Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come."
    What a gift to know that your parents are reunited and that you will join them one day!

  10. Wow, Tor - thank you. Thanks so much for sharing the vantage point and perspective shown here. Powerful insights and thoughts - there are a lot of strength and wisdom in these words. Thanks again for sharing.

  11. @Shelia, thanks for the great scripture - that's powerful and a blessing!

  12. @Laura, thanks for your kind and positive feedback - it means a lot!

  13. Oooh, you’re such an inspiration. I love this blog