Saying Goodbye

Years ago, when these things were notional and far in the future, my father in law asked me to give his eulogy. He’d just read a memorial I’d written for my grandmother, because I’d never got to say goodbye to her, and I can only grieve — or do most things to be honest, being fairly useless by nature — in writing. And he thought he’d like to be remembered like that.

He was then younger than I’m now, probably by ten years or so.

Time does go by very fast.

I met my in-laws when they served as my liaison to the local AFS (exchange student program, now called something else) chapter. I used to go to their house, because my future mother in law (though neither of us knew it) let me play with ceramics and paint. And besides, I used to hang out in case Dan came from college. I could never figure out when he’d drop by, but if I stayed long enough, MIL would ask him to drive me home. (Yes, it was like that, though it took us four years to figure it out, because we were 18 which is a sort of disability of its own. Like a certain kind of teen romance trope, we argued a lot.)

Dan’s dad was a very gentle man, but with an imaginative streak. If you got him to talk about technology or what the future might hold in computers, or strange, far out theories of the world, his eyes lit up, and he could talk forever.

When I got engaged to Dan, it was a relief to finally call his father “Dad” because well…. he was. Sort of a distilled essence of dad.

We didn’t see him too often in the next years. We moved a lot, and finally moved across the country to Colorado, where they only visited three times.

But when I heard he had died, things came to mind.

Whenever he visited us, he spent his time organizing and cleaning our house. I’m by nature clean (bleach is a SACRAMENT) but not organized. He also used to help me wash up after dinner.

I remember him in our kitchen, in Columbia, South Carolina, teaching me to sing “They’re coming to take me away.” Trust me on this, he voluntarily exposed himself to my singing. Greater love has no man. We were so loud that Dan came to see what in heck we were doing (Which gives you a measure of my singing) and ended up joining in.

Later, when we visited, I came out of the guest bathroom at their home, after putting a beauty product on that briefly (very briefly) turned my face green. I actually startled him enough he sort of screamed (I didn’t know he was out there) and then teased me about being secretly an alien the rest of the visit.

When Dan went on work to France and dropped me on his parents for two weeks (I couldn’t drive, and we didn’t have an extra car anyway, and staying alone for two weeks in a city where I didn’t yet know anyone wasn’t even safe, let alone pleasant) we stayed up late into the night — of all things — designing these ideal houses with all sorts of ways to go off the grid. We’d stay up till late in the night, until my mother in law came and chased us upstairs.

When he visited us in Colorado, he went to a parade of homes with us, and I found out that he and Dan have exactly the same sense of humor. Some of the decorating choices, not to mention floor plans loaned themselves to entire impromptu skits about weird families.

When we bought our house he reserved the front bedroom which we used as a TV room as “That’s my room when I need to stay with someone.” Well, it didn’t happen that way. When he needed it, he didn’t want to move that far from his friends and his church.

After that life got complicated, and yes, we feel guilty how little we visited. I think the last time we spent time up in Ohio was when my brother in law died. We went up for the memorial, but also for that first very difficult Christmas, and my father in law got to spend time with his grandsons.

He liked that we’d given Marshall his middle name, and was flattered when Marshall started to go by it. He was very proud of his youngest grandson.

The last time I saw him was at my mother in law’s memorial. He spent the entire service holding my hand. He told me that for so many years I’d just been a voice in the phone, and it was good to know I really existed.

Afterwards we visited with him for some hours, and I petted the little mini poodles he loved.

We meant to go up again. We did. But the last two years have been fraught, between moving and health issues.

Dan did go up, but we couldn’t manage the money/time combination.

His passing hit me very hard. There are a lot of unspoken stories, a lot of things we could have air-dreamed about. And just time to sit and pet a fuzzy while being silent together. Time ran away from us. In retrospect, it seems so fast, even though I know it wasn’t.

I’m sorry dad, that we didn’t spend more time together. I will miss your gentle humor and your kindness.

Perhaps we’ll meet again in eternity, with time and better understanding, and a fuzzy or two for company.

Goodbye dad. Until we meet again.

43 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

  1. My condolences to you and Dan on your loss. Your father-in-law seems to have been a great guy [and a bit of a character]. And yes, as you noted Tempus fugit.

  2. Oh, goodness–you had me laughing hysterically, and now–I’m crying. (((HUGS))) Sarah, and prayers for you and your family as you grieve this precious man’s loss and celebrate the joy he gave you.

  3. You can pull heartstrings. You make one realize how much a departed soul is loved.

  4. Blessings to the ache in your heart and thank you for the beautiful words.

    Hugs for Dan.

    1. Yes, humidity is medium high, but it’s gotta be dust.

      (Yesterday would have been Mom’s 100th birthday, but she passed last May. Lots of memories the past day or two.)

  5. Nice remembrance eulogy. I am sure your FIL is reading from heaven with his miniature poodles by his side. (I presume the poodles predeceased him?)

  6. When, very many years from now, you do pass, I fully expect you to find your dad, Dan’s dad, and RAH waiting just inside the Pearly Gates holding off the mob of kittuhs intent on reconnecting with mommy.

  7. That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a personal and intimate tale.
    Prayers for you and yours.

  8. That was lovely, Sarah. The Reader just has to do something about the dust around here.

  9. Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord
    And May perpetual light shine upon him
    And May he Rest In Peace
    And may his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed
    Through the mercy of God
    Rest In Peace

  10. I’m very sorry for your loss, and I’ll keep you and your family in my prayers. Your post is a beautiful tribute, and I hope the memories help bring you solace in the days, weeks, and months to come.

  11. I’m trying to find adequate words, Sarah, but I can’t. After reading, all I could think about was what wonderful gifts of friendship and family you gave each other — what a blessing, what a divine blessing.

    Cybersqueeze from me and Mrs.!

  12. My condolences. He sounds like an awesome part of your family, and thank you for the reminder to spend time with our loved ones while we can.

  13. I have listened to (dang it!) some good eulogies. I’ve delivered (damn it!) a couple of decent ones myself. A great eulogy, though, I define as one where you have never met the person – and deeply regret that fact.

    This is one of the greats. (And I am imagining Sarah singing “They’re coming to take me away!, Ha!, Ha!” while peeling potatoes…)

  14. Respects and condolences to you and yours; I lost my dad a few months ago, so I may have some inkling of how you are feeling…

  15. For you, in your grief:

    A memory in a bottle,
    A day where time stands still,
    And we cast our gaze behind us,
    At what became their last hill.

    Its gentle slope still whispers
    With every memory,
    Yet there is no more presence
    And nothing left to see.

    They have traveled onward,
    We turn to do the same,
    Though grief and bitter sorrow
    Try to bind us in their chain.

    But the road still wending forward,
    Calls our feet to move once more,
    And ghosts and spectres watch
    As we begin to move once more.

    And tales come to the speaking
    As thoughts come to the mind,
    Each tale a gentle hillside
    That has been left behind.

    May his memory go with you,
    Through long and happy days,
    His soul will once more meet you,
    Amid songs of heavenly praise.

  16. My condolences! I really appreciate learning about those who pass away, whether from eulogy, from funerals, or just from sharing stories, but I’m always sad that I didn’t get to meet them — or rather, “hang out” with them in meaningful ways, because I’m shy and I don’t “get” meeting people just to meet them — but there’s too many people to meet, so I have to be content with those who I have been able to meet, or will meet someday, and be content that after we all pass away, we have an eternity to meet and hang out with each other!

    I would have to confess that I was initially worried when I first read the title — I was worried that this was your last post, and you were closing down the blog — but I had bittersweet relief when, upon reading the first sentence, I remembered we lost someone important!

  17. The sadness of such partings is unmitigated by their inevitability. My condolences to Dan, you, Robert and Marshall and my prayers you will be united one day in the sweet bye and bye.

    May your singing be cured by rebirth and your arrival on that beauteous shore be joyous.

  18. Beautifully told, and the love shines through.

    Having written and delivered the eulogies for both of my parents (six years apart), I remember how it seemed daunting at first, how to explain in just a few paragraphs who this person was and what I thought was important to be remembered about his or her life. But when I sat down at the keyboard, it just kind of flowed. Probably not as eloquently as your words, but I think I honored them both.

    Reading your thoughts brought back memories. Thank you.

    May I add my condolences to you and Dan and the rest of your family. Take care.

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