My Dad’s life celebration, funeral and burial were 12/27/17. My brothers and I delivered eulogies in his honor. Each one was vastly different, yet all touched the heart deeply. We decided to speak in birth order, which left me last, as I am the youngest. I practiced my speech a few times and became tearful about half way through. What I had not taken into account was that I would be listening to the heartfelt messages of my brothers beforehand.
When it came to my turn to speak, I was already crying. As I took my spot on stage, attempted to compose myself, and looked out into the chapel pews to find kind eyes on me. I smiled, took a deep breath and thanked my brothers for setting the stage for me to bring the house down. As the crowd laughed as I expressed my concerns and a promise that went something like this, “I am Kristin, the youngest. You may or may not be able to understand word I have to say today. I promise to post this eulogy on my blog so you can read it if you desire.” They all laughed as I looked down at my speech, wiped my tears, took the deepest inhale I had all day, and began to read the following:
I have been saying a slow goodbye to my dad for the past 7 years due to a disease that was caused by exposure to Agent Orange while protecting our freedom in Vietnam before I was even born. Doing the right thing for what you believe in is not always easy and can bring about side effects you can’t foresee. In that long goodbye I was gifted with the opportunity to help in ways I would never have had. My college education which he and mom paid for in occupational therapy actually paid off literally in his care. Being his advocate after being taken care of by him was an amazing experience. After I received the call that he was in hospice care, I drove down to be with him thinking I have said everything I wanted to say. Peace washed over me, and then I walked into his room only to realize I had a lot more to say.
Everything he tired to tell me that truly mattered over the past 7 years were highlighted in the last 48 hours of his life. I will cherish the precious connected moments for as long as I live. Love is all that matters! Love is in connection that is best found small moments and shared experiences.
Your body fails, your bank account becomes secondary, your status doesn’t make a bit of difference in the end of your life journey. The body is just a shell that carries around your amazing spirit. Yes, take care of it so it can carry you on this great planet to connect with others, but don’t get too attached to it. Because, some forms of love can only come into your life when your body fails you. The care dad received at the VA and Trinity Oaks proved that many times over.
2 yrs ago I took a trip to Zion National Park and completed the most strenuous hike of my life, Angel’s Landing. Roughly 20 years early Dad and Uncle Alan did that hike together on a trip out West. After I complete the hike, I stopped by a rock shop and a purchased a heart shaped stone made from the local sedimentary rock. Dad and I shared many stories of that shared accomplishment. In true hippie fashion, I brought it with me and placed that rock on his heart and told him the story one more time as I lay next to him. At one point, he reached up and held on to the rock, took a deep breath and finally rested peacefully. The sound of his breathing was beautiful.
At another point in those last days, he whispered “Cold” to me. I placed a blanket over him and leaned close to ask if that was better. He looked at me, lifted his head and kissed me. As he held my gaze better than he had in months, I told him how much I love him, how proud I am of him, how amazing of a man he is and how thankful I am for his love. He looked at me and cried as I continued to tell him all the ways I adore him. Tears flowed down both of our cheeks as I spoke from my heart to his.
One evening while mom held his hand, he reached with his other hand to draw her closer to him. Witnessing this raw authentic love was a precious gift and reminder that the simple gestures of love and connection speak volumes.
He showed me that we just want to be seen and loved for who we are, yet sometimes we get in the way. You are loved more than you know. Mountains were meant to be climbed not carried. I strive to finally let all of the worry go so love can rush in, for love and connection to others makes this life worth living.
I looked up as I concluded and there was not a dry eye in the house. The rest of the ceremony was perfect and then concluded with full military honors at the grave side burial. The 21 gun salute brought about faster flowing tears. The presentation of the flag and 3 bullet shells to Mom brought about uncontrollable sobbing.
The reception, story sharing, love and alcohol rounded out an incredible day to honor Dad, his life and the love he created. If your Dad is still breathing, call him and tell him you love him for all of us who can’t call our dads!