What I Said


My father passed away March 3rd.  I spoke at his funeral Monday.  This is what I said.

This is the sort of life changing event that knocks the breath right out of you, doesn’t it? We hear about an illness and never seem to comprehend the difficult times ahead. We try to understand, but, it’s hard to even imagine a day like this will come.

And yet, it has. And here we are. The one thing that came as no surprise is that when Allen and I talked about what we would say, we discovered we both had a common theme to our messages about Dad. His gentleness. And his simplicity of life.

That old saying “salt of the earth,” is so fitting for him. It’s a phrase used to describe someone who is a very good, worthy person.

In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus tells his followers, who were mainly fishermen and simple people, “Ye are the salt of the Earth.”  Dad’s gentle simplicity is what stood as a strong and unwavering fact in the way he lived his life. He spoke quietly, he lived quietly. He was non-confrontational, and would rather not say a word than react. He was calm and even tempered, and I honestly can’t say if I ever heard him raise his voice.

He was a no fuss kind of guy, preferring things to be easy going. He was practical and sensible. He didn’t want or need a lot of things. I mean, most of you here would know how he liked to re-use items.  He’d say things like, “Awww, it’s alright, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with it. I can use this.” I mean, this could have been referring to just about anything. Minute items like nuts and bolts, or bigger things like tires, wood, air conditioners, lawnmowers, car parts, the list goes on. You all know how he was, a genuine recycler, a McGyver sort. He could take just about anything, and turn it into a working object. He made an aerator out of an old drum, some spikey things, and then fashioned a homemade hitch to pull it around. He brought home the body shell of a Corvair from the junkyard. That car is now completely restored, with an engine built by him. It runs today.

Dad and restored Corvair

Dad and one of his restored Corvairs

And speaking of cars and his mechanical ability, he could also remember things from his past as if the event had taken place just yesterday. One day he was talking to Blaine and he began recollecting each and every car he’d ever bought. He knew what he’d done to each one to fix it up, what kind it was, what year, and later, who he sold it to, and how much he sold it for. Blaine told me about that conversation later on, and said, “His memory is better than mine.”

Dad also loved going to Maine, and to the beach. He loved going to Allen’s house in Pleasant Garden, and to our house in Dunn, but we all knew he was happiest at home. As he got older, and when he was no longer able to putter around in the garage as much, he’d sit outside on the screened in porch, always in his chair, watching the comings and goings of birds and squirrels, and simply enjoying being outside.

He never cussed.  He’d say, “That ‘John Brown’ car is giving me a fit,” and that was his way of swearing.  I did hear him say a cuss word once and that was recent actually. He said, “Damn.”

I’m pretty sure that was in association with THOSE DOCTORS. As you know, he had kidney failure, yet he didn’t want dialysis. Too much fuss, no port in the arm, no sitting in a clinic for hours on end.   He wanted no part of that.  Dad was always a bit at odds with doctors.  He loved his chiropractor though, and all other white coated individuals could take a hike.

The fact he was able to spend his final days at home, in the house he built, inside and out, was really the only choice for him, and mom understood that. She was prepared to care for him, do whatever it took to keep him here. She made sure he was where he wanted to be, in his home, and in familiar surroundings.

The second week in February, I went with him and Mom to see the kidney doctor.   Hospice had been recommended, and Mom wanted to verify just what that meant. How much time did we really have?  I’d been reading stuff online, because you know you can just about find anything using Dr. Google. It said, generally, six months.  She’d talked to her friends at the spa, and they’d said the same.

The doctor also confirmed, “Six months or less.”

While we tried to get our heads around that, I asked Mom, “what about me giving him a kidney?”

She said, “He’d never allow it.”

We’ve come to the conclusion he kept a lot of how he felt hidden, never letting on how bad it was, and I’m sure it was intended to lessen the burden on Mom. Because, again, that’s how he was.  As I think about Dad, the most persistent thought I have is that he was so quiet. Yet, when I think about the effect he had on my life, it’s profound in the fact he was always there, a constant, stable, and continuous presence.   I think of it like this; he was like a shadow, and, if I looked back over my shoulder, there he’d be, quietly letting me find my own path, never in the way, simply a part of me. And while we understand our time here is finite, recognizing the impact a person has on us is never so obvious until they’re gone. We have the nagging awareness of it during an illness, yet when reality comes, it’s overwhelming.

We know he didn’t want to go. He would have rather stayed here, with Mom and the rest of his family, more than anything, and he just couldn’t.

So, it seems fitting he left us in the way he lived his life, gently, slipping away quietly, without a fuss, like the sun disappearing behind a cloud. Now, there is no shadow of him with me, with us. Instead, we have to look forward, not back, because he has moved on. We believe his presence will be felt when we remember and look back on his life, his capacity to love quietly, yet immensely. He wasn’t the demonstrative sort, but if you went to him, he would always welcome you with gladness.

These are the things I will always remember.  That and our love for him and each other.

DadDavis, Claude pic Younger

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22 Comments

Hello Donna.

I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s 2 ½ years now since we lost my dad, and while some of the pain has eased, it never really goes away.
We’ve been moving house. Yesterday I bought fish and chips to feed the masses, and thought, Hmmm, I’d better get some Coke — and in my head, a familiar voice spoke up loud and clear, “Get’s a bottle o’ ginger beer while you’re there, eh?”
When I got back, everyone went, “Ooooh, ginger beer!” I didn’t tell them where the idea came from.

May you too always hear the voice of your own precious dad, as I do mine.

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    Thank you, Mr. ipants.

    It’s funny how you mention hearing the voice. That’s the one thing I’m afraid of losing, but, I don’t think I will, I can hear him clearly as I type this – all of those crazy, quirky little sayings he had keep replaying over and over. My mom would sometimes ask him to do something and he wouldn’t really answer, he’d just say “Ayuh?”

    It’s a blessing to hear them.

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Donna, your Dad may have McGyver’d many things in his life, but the most important thing he put together was the life he built for his family. He lovingly created a beautiful and caring daughter and the love that he had for you and you for him is so very special – it will live on your children and your children’s children – this is the most important thing that any of us can do.
As you go on to create (McGyvering your stories) for others’ enjoyment, remember where the desire to build and to share came from. It was his gift to you.

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    Thank you, Ginger. What a thoughtful and accurate way to view his influence on me, and the rest of the family.

    I sure enjoyed our conversation the other day. Stay in touch and I will likewise.

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Donna, I am sorry to hear of your family’s loss. You had one of the great ones; such a blessing, in a painful time. Be well.

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I too am sorry for your loss. I know that there are too many things that need done at this time but give yourself a few moments to make your peace also. Time is the only thing that can build a curtain to hide your grief. Let yourself grieve until each new sunrise isn’t also a heartbreak and then build on what you feel your father would have liked of you. Steel yourself for those offhand moments when it catches up with you. If I can help just let me know.

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    Thank you, Craig. You are right on both accounts; so many things that need to be done, while trying to find the time to let what’s happened sink in, distill it, and then store it away. It’s a process, a difficult one at that, but necessary.

    Your offer is much appreciated and it helps just knowing…

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Your words are beautiful, Donna. Your love for your father shines through. He sounds like a wonderful man. I’m sorry for your loss.

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Donna, I am so sorry for your loss. Love the words you spoke about your father. You could almost have been describing my own dad, who is still here but dealing with a compromised liver. So I guess we learn live each day, one at a time, treasuring each precious moment, storing up the memories whether the loved one is slowing down here on earth or has passed on. My sympathies are with you and your family.

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    Thank you, Lisa. Do treasure the time with your dad.

    I had planned to visit him Wednesday and I never got that visit. If I had but one last thing I could say to my Dad, it’s this; “You didn’t need to tell me you loved me. You showed me every day.”

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Beautiful. So sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what I’ll ever do without my parents.

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So sorry about the passing of your dear father, Donna.

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Beautiful words for a ‘salt of the earth’ kinda’ guy. I’ll bet he would have been honored by what you said but wouldn’t let you know he was. Sounds like my father. Tinkerers make damn good dads.

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I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing with us, what you said. I’m sure he would have appreciated your words (and did appreciate your words, if that kind of view is your religious bent. I don’t like making assumptions).

My father passed away in 2008. His birthday was March 9, so I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. Though really, I think about him all the time. I did not speak at his funeral.

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    Thank you, Jen. My dad’s birthday is May 24th. He would have been 81. I’m sure going forward I’ll do just like you, think of him all the time, and even more on those key dates. Lots of firsts to get through.

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Lovely words, Donna. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

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