Friday, June 17, 2011

My eulogy for my dad

For J.G. Miers: 6.9.1944 - 6.2.2011
Most of us are here today because we know how special my father was – a committed public servant, a champion for people with disabilities, a devoted servant to his faith, and an engaging man whose broad, infectious grin drew everyone close to him. He could make anyone feel special in his eyes.

When he got sick, I started to think about the things I would want you all to know about him as a loving father, grandfather, and husband. Much of this might not come as a surprise to anyone who knew him, but I wanted to take a moment to share why my dad was so special to me.

My dad loved his kids - my sisters and me, as well as his grandkids and others who became a part of our family along the way.

He was especially good at charming little kids. When we were very young, he would put on shows for me and my sisters after bathtime - as a parent now, I know that's usually when we want kids to settle down, but my dad found us a captive audience! He would burst into our room wearing a raggedy bowl-cut wig, tell jokes and stories, and get us full of the giggles. And, who wouldn't want to go downstairs on St. Patricks Day to find your dad serving up green orange juice and even greener scrambled eggs? He wowed my friends the mornings after MANY sleepovers, making each girl a pancake in the shape of her first initial - I think the M's were the hardest, but maybe he just told me that so I'd be especially grateful.

Looking back, perhaps he was getting us to all fall in love with him so we wouldn't mind helping him with his never ending gardening tasks. Somehow he always got us and every neighbor kid to participate in year-round competitions.....who can pick up the most rotten crabapples? who can pick up the most sticks out of the yard? And, as we got older, who will be around for the dreaded Family Mulch Day? He was a veritable Pied Piper, charming six year olds into doing the dirty work, laughing along with him as they worked, and feeling a sense of pride in the gorgeous blooms they helped to make possible.

This magical connection with kids only deepened when his grandchildren arrived. Dad-Dad, as he was known for the first years in Callum's life, would do anything for his grandson, including hunting for a lost toy so diligently that he got stuck under the sofa and waited patiently until we all stopped laughing long enough to free him. He proudly welcomed his two granddaughters, Moira and Jane, several years later, and boy do those little girls love their Grandpa or Eepaw, depending on which one you're talking to. Not surprisingly, my dad taught my daughter how to high five at a very early age, and loved to bounce his little round granddaughter on his knee. He even found another raggedy wig that he wore last Thanksgiving to get a giggle out of Moira, who firmly stated, "You don't have hair - you just have a head!"

He had so much love to give to his daughters, he just kept collecting them. My college roommate and best friend, Sam, quickly became daughter number four. Dad and Mom even hosted her for spring break when I was out of the country one year! When she moved to DC after graduation, he decided she needed us as her local family, and Dad never let her down. He supported Sam and her husband Dave during his battle with brain cancer, and led us all in remembering Dave after his passing.

Dad was always my biggest cheerleader, celebrating everything from a winning game to a college acceptance letter to a successful proposal at work. He went above and beyond the call of fatherly duty, and even unofficially officiated at my wedding....his love for me and my partner, Meredith, was easy for everyone to see that day, and continued for the rest of his life. When our daughter fell ill after she was born, he and my mom would visit us at the hospital, helping us keep watch until we knew she would be healthy and strong. Meredith told me that, after a particularly bad night in the PICU, an embrace from him was the first time through the whole ordeal that she felt she could really let go, because she knew he would support her. He did that for so many of us, wrapping us up in his super-big hugs and letting us know how much he really cared.

As I look back, I realize one of the most special gifts he gave us had nothing to do with my sisters or me - he and my mom have a love that serves as an example for all of us. Through trials and tribulations that no one would be able to bear alone, they grew even stronger as one. After their car accident five years ago, my dad became the main caretaker for the first time in their marriage, and championed my mother along as she regained her strength. After his diagnosis earlier this year, I watched as they grew even closer, as impossible as that would seem. I had the pleasure of overhearing many stolen moments -- after a medicine dose, perhaps, or a wheelchair transfer -- when he would just say, "I love you" before the next challenge they would face together. Their marriage of nearly 43 years serves as an example for me of a remarkable partnership. Each was more devoted to the other than they were to themselves, and because of it, they celebrated joys and weathered sorrows with their best friend at their side. I can't think of a better example to guide me and Meredith through the years of our marriage.

It's hard sometimes right now to look past the last few months of my father's life, when cancer kept him from doing the things he loved to do – putter in the garden, fulfill his many volunteer commitments, and worship here at St. James. What never dwindled, though, to the very end, was the love he had for my mom and the rest of our family. When he couldn't get out of bed, he could still give Janey a great high five, and managed to eek out a precious "love you, too" to me the week before he died.

My father faced each day with optimism, keeping his eyes on the horizon and allowing his faith to guide him through the hard and happy times. He never stopped being curious, and always chose to demonstrate kindness and generosity. Without ever directing us to do the same, he led by example and I see the positive impact that he made across our family and his broader community. It is always too soon to lose someone so special, but we are all lucky to have known his unconditional love and support, and will carry that with us as we heal.

oh, boy....where to begin, again.

reading the wonderful blog of a fellow Kenyon grad today, I'm realizing how far away I've gotten from this blog that I have tried to commit to in fits and starts.

But, this process is hard for me. I'm not naturally a very self-reflective person, I've realized. At least, not in ways that I see and admire in others: journaling, regular blogging, setting life goals and plans with annual check-ins! Basically, I am pretty happy if I know my schedule for the week and I've got groceries in the fridge - otherwise, I'm not that pressed to sit down and write or reflect on a regular basis. I'm going to try, but in full disclosure: this entry is all over the dang map.

The major life event that has taken place since I last wrote here (17 months ago) is that my dad died. Two weeks ago. less than 4 months after being diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. His illness was awful. maybe I'll write about it someday, but right now it's too raw. But, as soon as he was diagnosed, I knew I was going to want to give a eulogy at his funeral. I wasn't sure what I wanted to say, but I knew I was going to want to say something so people could know what he meant to me. I'll post what I said in a separate post, but I have realized that I got a lot out of writing about our relationship and sharing it with others.

Maybe that means I'll be more inspired to write again about my life as a mommy - yup, much to my dismay, Jane labeled me as Mommy, and Mere as Momma. I real bad wanted to be Mama. But, Mommy sounds pretty awesome, too.

Jane is amazing. A firecracker of a kid - willful, strong, and also fun as all get out. She is obsessed with PBS Kids shows, which I know I should feel badly about, but you know what? It means I can catch my breath, get laundry or dinner done, and she's expanded her vocabulary greatly thanks to WordGirl and SuperWhy. If only I could go back in time and make sure she never ever ever saw Caillou. She loves telling knock-knock jokes:
Me: Knock Knock
Jane: knock knock der?
Me: tickle
Jane: (already laughing) tickle who?
Me: tickle bugs!

she also made one up herself:
Jane: knock knock
Me: who's there?
Jane: tag, you're it!

Everyday I feel like I hear a new word from her, or realize she's grown older in the past 24 hours. The last two nights we've gotten back to proper family dinner at the table, and she sits there in a real chair, feeds herself, drank juice out of a big girl cup and only spilled it once, and just sort of hangs out with us. amazing. Bedtime can still be a struggle, but unless something sets her off (like her itchy bug bites last night) she sleeps until I need to wake her up every morning for daycare. My favorite moments of the day are when I pull her (all kind of warm and baby-sweaty) out of her crib, tuck her up on my shoulder, and snuggle in the chair until I can coax her awake. She wraps her arms around my neck, and I just know she loves me.

Now, she's also very two. VERY two. can pitch a fit at the slightest provocation, is really good at ignoring me, and she and all of her daycare colleagues can hit or bite with the best of them. Since my dad got sick, she's either been a tremendous distraction and boost to my spirits, or I find myself on the edge much more quickly. I can tell she was hurting, though, when I was gone a lot at the end, and we seem to be reconnected well now.

and, though this life as a mommy changes daily, it's feeling pretty awesome.