Sunday, 11 September 2011

Farewelling my darling Dad

My lovely friends, now that the dust is settling a little following my Dad's Thanksgiving Service, I just wanted to let you know how the big day went. You've been patiently and caringly supporting me for months now as his health deteriorated and I started to write his eulogy, knowing the end was in sight. I will be forever grateful for your compassion during this difficult time.

Finding the words

As you know, I was troubled that the words wouldn't come for my eulogy and that I wouldn't be able to do adequate justice to distil the essence of the man I am so immensely proud to call my Dad.

But you all urged me on, reassuring me that the words would come when needed. Your encouragement and support meant the world to me, keeping me inspired as I typed away. I had written about two-thirds of it by the time he died. I just couldn't finish it while he was still alive, however perilously.

With his death, the clarity finally came, allowing me to finish it. There's nothing like death to focus the mind, I discovered. 

After consultation with my family, the final version was completed, to my utter relief. I was ready.

The Committal Service

The sad day dawned and the events unfolded one by one. We dropped the pixies off at school and daycare before heading off to Dad's committal service with close family and friends. It was brief - about 15 minutes - but lovely, throughout all the pain and tears. 

Mr PB helped my brother, my brother-in-law, my cousin, my godfather and Dad's godson act as pall-bearers, taking Dad's casket  to the hearse. We walked out into gentle sunshine, surrounded by daffodils, and mingled with our family and friends, united in our grief.

We then collected the pixies from school and daycare, taking them home to be cared for by nannies we had hired, together with their little cousins and our friends' children - 8 under 8!

The Thanksgiving Service

The memories of what followed will never leave me.

We arrived as a family together at St David's Cathedral in Hobart, the site of many family occasions over the years, most recently here. I was moved to see the Prefects of Dad's old school lined up outside as a guard of honour and acting as ushers. 

We walked together up the aisle, the very aisle my Dad had walked me up for my wedding nearly 12 years ago. I was overcome. The Cathedral was  packed full - what a tribute and honour. We took our seats in the front pew.

The service was just glorious. Heartbreakingly, achingly sad but glorious. Just as Dad would have wanted, with a few rousing hymns and Bible readings which had provided him with great comfort in his last days. 

Then it was my moment. 

I walked that long and lonely walk up to the lectern and took a brief moment to survey the extraordinary crowd of Hobartians from all walks of life, gathered in my Dad's honour. I felt immensely privileged.

And then I started. You were all correct. The words did flow. 

And somehow, in the midst of all that emotional turmoil and the tremendous weight of expectations which sat on my shoulders as everyone looked upwards to me, I felt a calmness I hadn't expected. 

The words poured out, with their cadences and pauses, as my fingers calmly followed the words down the page. I felt the emotions of the congregation swell as my stories unfolded and saw the nodding heads as people connected with adjectives, words to describe my darling Dad.

My eulogy is too long and personal for here but I'd like to share some parts of it with you. This is how I began.
The poet Mary Oliver asked, “What is it you wish to do with your one wild and precious life?” After reflecting on Dad’s 75 years of vibrant, jam-packed life, I think he filled his wild and precious life to the brim with deep friendships, countless achievements and interesting experiences.
After summarising his life, I focussed on several of Dad's numerous outstanding attributes.
He was a man who loved deeply, although he rarely expressed this in words. In knowing the real Dad, you felt his love and respect for you. Dad loved his family, friends, community and life’s challenges and adventures. He had a powerful presence and loved living life.
To me, Dad was the embodiment of loyalty. He was always Mum’s tireless supporter in all her varied interests. The many people all over the world who had the privilege of calling Dad their friend can attest to his loyalty. Dad was the man you “always wanted to have on your side”. Whatever the school, organisation or charity, if Dad committed himself to it, then he was its undying and faithful supporter.
Dad was unfailingly honest. The need to “tell the truth” was drummed into us children from an early age. A deep thinker, Dad had a strong opinion on most topics. When asked (and sometimes even when not), he would tell you unflinchingly what he thought. Whether you agreed with him or not, you were never left in any doubt as to his opinion. He wished there were more straight talkers like him!
Dad was probably the most meticulous person you’ve ever met. Near enough was never good enough for him. Everything had to be done properly, no questions asked. Being a surveyor was the perfect profession for a man who valued accuracy and details so much. It also flowed onto his trademark courtesy and good manners. He was a gracious gentleman.
Dad was a 6th generation Tasmanian and an upstanding Hobartian, a place he loved passionately. As a surveyor, he was dedicated to its development and improvement. Since a youngster in the 1940s, he had had an idea of building a tunnel under Hobart. He could imagine the heavy log trucks and traffic being taken off the main streets, leaving the surface open for the development of parks to link the city centre to the wharves. A humble man, he didn’t see the idea as a legacy he could leave but more as a worthy project for us all.  Hopefully, one day his idea will become a reality.
And lastly, Dad was a visionary, a man who always looked to the future. He wasn’t that interested in the past. He wanted us children to plan ahead, always be positive and ‘have a go'. In his last months, he willed himself to keep going so he could see his sixth grandchild born in February, celebrate his 75th birthday in May and visit our new house in June.
I think he left us, happy that his affairs were in order; Mum was doing well and surrounded by loving family and friends; and we children were well educated, happily married, owned our own homes and had our young families. He left us on his terms in that respect.
And then I walked the interminably slow walk back to my family's pew, tears spilling down my face. I had done it! I was so relieved and grateful. Relief flowed through me. We then heard another two eulogies from Dad's oldest friends which were very emotional and moving. The Dean of Hobart gave his sermon. My sister did a reading and my brother read a poem.

Then it was over. We filed out of our pew, the Dean taking Mum's arm to walk her back down the aisle, accompanied by us in our pairs. Tears streaming down my face, I smiled through them at familiar faces, etched with grief and pain. I was just so immensely proud of Dad. When we reached the back of the Cathedral, I saw that extra seating has been brought in so about 700 people must have attended.

We stumbled out into the bright sunlight and were comforted by countless family members and friends before repairing to the local yacht club for the wake. 

The wake

Dad had sailed there for over 50 years so it was fitting to celebrate his life there. A photo montage of Dad's life which my brother had cleverly put together rolled on. Family friends sought me out to comfort me and share their memories of Dad. All the children arrived and had great fun, larking about together. Dad would have loved to see that.

And then it was time to take the pixies home for dinner and bed. I fell into bed, exhausted, relieved and honoured to have been part of it. It had been a day for the ages. 

Now it's time I dragged this weary body back to bed. Thanks for sharing this with me. Have a wonderful week, my friends.


  1. You ARE inspirational Jane, I honestly believe that. Sounded like such a fitting farewell to a great man, I am so glad the sun shone and that you and your family had such incredible support to get through the day. You should feel very content in that you honoured your lovely Dad with such touching words and a beautiful account of the man you knew. Thank you for sharing such a tender, precious memory Jane. I found it both moving and uplifting xo

  2. Oh remember and honour your Dad the way you have is so beautiful...T

  3. Hi Jane..thank YOU for sharing this with us. When you mention that he was a gracious gentleman it reminds me of my own friends used to ask me whether he was a priest or vicar as he never used foul language and treated them with politeness and respect. In the photo I can see kindness and humour in your dad's eyes and just know that you have much in common with him in your own character.

  4. Wow Jane,
    what a great post this has become,you sharing this on your blog,I could feel your emotions through my screen..... Your dad had a great sense of living, we can all take an example...
    Now it's time for you to heal and rest hon,
    take care, talk soon,
    Maureen xx

  5. I feel sure I would have liked this man!
    You write amazingly poignantly - and I hope it is a good release for you too.
    You have done him justice (no mean feat by the sounds of it!)
    fee x

  6. This is so touching... and you are so strong...
    hugs, Iris

  7. Wow, I don't know how you did it. But you did it beautifully! Possibly the hardest thing you'll ever have to do. He sounded like a wonderful man, and I love his vision. XOL

  8. Oh Jane, how brave you were and how proud you must be. Of everything, your courage, your Dad, your strength. You have brought me to tears with your words and the images you have created for me of the day, of the respect he comanded and of the love he created. he was indeed great. I love that he was a straight talker and agree there should be more in the world. Take care Jane. The family he created sound strong and supportive and together. What a wonderful send off. I trust he would have loved it immensely.

  9. A day for the ages alright Jane. You did the most incredible job. Your dad was no doubt watching and thought the same. What a brave woman you are to have done that. I doubt I'd be strong enough. You dad would be so proud of you xx

  10. I agree with fee, your Dad would have been a man I would have loved to meet and spend time with.

    The honouring of your Father through your thoughtful and beautifully crafted eulogy would have been a gift to all who heard it as it enabled them to connect their own recollections and thoughts to man they knew.

    The way that you have recalled your Dad's special day here makes me think that it was a true celebration of his life.
    To envisage all the children playing in the sunshine at the yacht club at the end of the day as the adults gathered to share their own personal memories is wonderful and I'm sure it would have been just as your Dad would have wanted it.

    Thank you for sharing this deeply personal day with us.

  11. I know for certain Jane, that your dad would be oh so very proud of you. No words, other than I admire your strength and courage - you're truly an inspiration. K xx

  12. Jane that is such a beautiful thing you have shared here and what a wonderful way to celebrate your Father's life and honour his love. I am sure he would have been proud of you.

  13. Bringing so much emotions here Jane,sending you hugs.xx

  14. Such a beautiful recount of a day that sounds like the perfect send off for your dad.

  15. Your Dad would have been so proud of the wonderful job you did Jane, your words in your eulogy are so beautiful x

  16. Thanks for sharing your journey Jane. I think we all grew from your generous disclosure of your feelings and emotions... being faced with a similar situation is very possible for many of us and we can gain strength from the way you dealt with your situation. Hugs. x

  17. What a beautiful tribute. Thinking of you.

  18. Well done Jane, you are such a credit to your Dad and your Mum.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Hi Jane

    Thanks so much for dropping by my blog.

    Your eulogy for your Dad is beautiful. He sounds like an amazing man! :-)


  21. Your beautiful soul just radiates from your posts.
    You are doing your lovely father proud.

  22. Jane I know how diffcult this has been for you. You spoke straight from your heart and what a special tribute to your father.


    Art by Karena

  23. Jane this is just so heartfelt and beautiful- you loved your dad and he knew it. He sounds like an amazing man - like his amazing daughter:)


  24. Dear Jane, I feel
    so honored to have
    been at this very
    special service with
    you, via your words.
    Your pride and love
    come through in each
    and every sentence.
    What a wonderful,
    wonderful celebration
    of a man you held so
    dear. Everyone should
    be as lucky to be
    remembered and celebrated
    in such a loving and
    positive way.....
    Sending you big hugs
    for not only getting
    through that day, but
    being able to recall
    it with such love.
    xx Suzanne

  25. Jane, what a gorgeous man and how lucky you both were to have each other. Your words are heartfelt and sincere, I could feel the pain, having been there myself. I wished I could have expressed myself as eloquently as you Jane. You have a special gift with must have been passed from father to daughter.

    What I cherish most is the memory of my father. He is with me everyday, as yours will be. Look into your children's eyes, hear their voices, look at their attention to detail....he is living in every one of them and most importantly, he is living in you, loving you always.

    Take heart, get lots of rest, hug those precious children and husband of yours and be well.

    Much love Jane...

    Jeanne xxx

  26. Jane, thank you for taking us through this incredibly emotional day. Your words were so heartfelt and I am amazed at your strength for being able to stand up and express them at the service. Your dad would be so proud and deeply touched and I know that he was smiling down on you with love. xo

  27. Oh Jane, well done, it's a long walk up to the pulpit, your father sounded like a wonderful man.
    A couple of years ago I gave one of three eulogies at my grandmother's funeral. Like you, we had known what was coming for a little while, but it wasn't till I stood up and looked at all those faces that had known and loved her, that it hit me. I actually started to talk, and then broke down and sobbed. I really thought I'd have to stop (so did my husband from the pew). But a few deep breaths and I started and like you the words flowed. Afterwards, I felt a little embarrassed, but a friend came and told me how brave I had been.
    It is a courageous act, and I'm sure your father would have been very proud.

  28. Oh my. Your support, empathy and compassion have moved me beyond measure. Thankyou to every one of you for leaving such heartfelt and touching comments.

    In particular, I'd like to thank Danielle for 'coming out' and writing about Dad. I'm so delighted by your words about Dad and description of him. That has moved me beyond words. And would you believe it - that was the poem my brother read at Dad's service. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Beautiful.

    J x

  29. So heartfelt, Jane. My thoughts are with you. Your Dad would have been very proud.

  30. how sweet to find that connection with the woman who worked with your dad ! thru your blog and all ... your dad's gifts will keep on giving for years to come Jane, hugs le xox

  31. Jane your words were beautiful, so full of love and pride for a Father you adored. Your Dad would have been watching and would have been so proud of you. xo

  32. Thanks Anna, Le and Catherine - you all have huge hearts. J x

  33. Jane I am so very sorry to read about the loss of your Dad. You are so brave to not only have been able to stand up and deliver a beautiful eulogy, but to share it on your blog - how lucky we have been to read the special things you were able to share about your lovely Dad. I have read all the lovely comments from your blog friends and I hope they have eased your saddness just a bit....x

  34. Thanks, Bec, you kind soul. And welcome aboard this busy planet! J x

  35. Jane...after reading this post I feel like I would have loved to have gotten to know him...what a remarkable man...what a remarkable heart...what a remarkable life he lead..and what a remarkable daughter you were to him.
    He would have been so very very proud of you honey.
    Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life with us.

    Anna x

  36. Oh Jane what beautiful words and beautiful memories. You are very brave my love and even though I haven't been around you've been in my thoughts lately. I hope the pain is easing slightly for you xx

  37. Thanks, Anna and Beck - you have huge hearts. I truly value your comments and compassion. J x


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, you gorgeous soul. You've just made my day! J x

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