My father’s eulogy

Posted on: August 30th, 2013 by Nathan E. Lilly

My father—born August 30, 1948—passed away on January 12th, 2012 of complications due to lung cancer. This is the eulogy I wrote and read at his funeral.

When your father dies, you sit down and think about what they say a father should be and what they say a father should do. There’s an unspoken measure that is held up to a man as a father. You think about what they say a father is supposed to do, and reflect on whether or not he did it. We didn’t play catch. He didn’t teach me to ride a bike. To tell the truth, I don’t think either one of us were athletically inclined. But he did so many other things…

I remember sitting on his knee watching Tarzan and Abbot & Costello and Star Trek. He taught us to be brave and how to laugh and to be excited about the possibilities of the future. He taught us how to play chess. While we were younger—before we outpaced him in ability—he would play video games with us. That eventually led to him buying us our first real computer—a Commodore 64—and he was just as excited as us to be programming it. We spent hours writing programs in BASIC and saving them to a cassette drive (and eventually a 5¼" floppy disk). For Halloween one year we programmed an animation: a werewolf baring its fangs interspersed with random flashes of lightning that we displayed in our window on a television screen. This was in the 80s, when it was all but unheard of to do anything like that. We went apple picking; we went camping; he helped us with homework and class projects.

You’re led to believe that being a good father just happens. But when you stop to think about it you realize: good doesn’t just happen. Good things take a lot of work. As a child, there’s so much your parents do that you’re completely unaware of. As a child, you’re only vaguely aware of mortgage payments and food bills and the effort of getting to and from work.

It was the things that we often didn’t see directly, things that we really weren’t aware of—that when you stop to think about it and finally realize how much work it must have taken to pull off—it was these things that eventually made the most impact. When Christopher and Adam and I were in cub scouts the Cub Master stepped down. My father stepped up to fill that position. Our father spent countless hours in pack meetings and den meetings and committee meetings and planning and training. We didn’t see all of that preparation. What we saw was father & son camping trips, and trips to nature centers, and blue&gold banquets, and skits by the campfire. We only saw the tiniest bit of time that was the result of all that work. He’d hold pack meetings outside at local parks, and teach us about cooking outdoors, and the proper use of knives, and first aid and safety. Making an outdoor oven and baking muffins with freshly picked wild blueberries while camping is something I’ve shared with my own children.

And I wonder how much more he did that I’m still not aware of. I’m absolutely sure that there’s so much more. My father’s children show only the tiniest part of the work that he did as a father: Nadine became a strong self-sufficient woman and mother; I went on to college and a career in Web Development; Christopher joined the armed forces and went on to repair medical equipment and form an army of his own; Adam is managing his own small business. I can only imagine the lifetime of work that I didn’t actually see that went into making all of those good things just happen.