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.
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.