Monday, June 21, 2010

Eulogy

A week ago, I came downstairs from watching the first match of the Netherlands-Denmark game to find my father comatose on the couch. An hour later, he was pronounced dead at Arlington Medical Center.

I wanted to post the eulogy I wrote on here, because I would not be writing this blog without his example.

If my computer is to be believed, I first put fingers to keyboard on this speech on December 9th, 2009. "Father.RTF" was never supposed to be a eulogy. The truth is I'm not sure my dad ever appreciated how remarkable a person he was, though those of us who knew him well could never forget it. I had hoped to show him how much love and respect we all had for him, and how much he meant to us. If all had gone as planned, I would have told him all this tomorrow, as we were polishing off the dessert course of our father's day dinner.

I'll never get to say this to him, but I hope it can be a fitting tribute.

I could spend an hour detailing my father's virtues: his temperance and self-control, his frugality, his wisdom, his single-mindedness in pursuing a healthy lifestyle on behalf of his family. But the virtue that defined his life was the greatest of the seven, according to Corinthians: love.

I'm on shaky rhetorical ground, attempting a defense of love. Not merely the most cynical among us view the word, at least, with suspicion. It's hard not to, when it's the subject of a thousand hackneyed after-school specials and a million tin-eared novels. But anyone who knew my father knows that love is not merely a dead writ or cliche. Love was anything but a platitude to him.

There are a million things every one of us does to dehumanize the people around us. Most of us only have room in our moral universe for the hundred or so of our closest friends and family, and perhaps for those like them. Beyond that, the benefit of the doubt becomes hard to muster. The rude shopkeeper is vicious, not frazzled after working double-shifts through the night; the thief is naturally evil, not attempting to provide for his family. Dad refused to believe the former narratives, because he refused to believe that there was a person he couldn't find something admirable about. He believed there was no such thing as human debris, and his moral universe was large enough to compass the world. Mom once made the comment that nothing that his kids could do could really get him angry; he was always ready with a word at our defense. It was true, but we were far from the only ones who got that treatment. It pained him to think anything but the best of anyone, because he loved everyone.

I consider myself immensely blessed to have so many wonderful and remarkable people, accomplished and loving, in my life. In my brief time on this planet I have met activists and artists, scientists and senators. For three blissful years I have lived in the most caring community that I could imagine, and of course, I have known the love of a wonderful family. Yet I have never known a finer human being than my father. And I doubt I ever will.

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