Friday, January 23, 2009

Dad's final farewell

We laid my Dad to rest today. Fortunately he'd had a chance to discuss his wishes with my Mum so we were able to give him exactly the send off he wanted.

Even though it was incredibly hard to keep myself together I felt it necessary to deliver a eulogy to my Dad; there were things I needed to tell the world about the most influential man in my life. Here's what I said:

How do I sum up my Dad’s life? I can’t really stand here and tell you the story of his sixty-nine years because he lived far too full a life for me to do that in just a few minutes. And whilst Dad had strong opinions on many things, and was more than willing to share them (‘like father like son’ I can hear a few people saying), I don’t really have any pearls of wisdom he shared with me.

But I can tell you how he lived his life and that’s what matters, because ultimately the measure of man is not his words but his actions.

If you’d known Dad in his youth he would have seemed a pretty typical working class lad from the inner west of Sydney; he left school at 15, completed an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner, meet my Mum and married and started a family in his early twenties.

True to his roots Dad enjoyed life’s simple pleasures; a beer or two, or more; throwing a line into the water and pulling out a fish, even when all anyone else was catching was a cold; eating too much of one of Mum’s roast dinners; growing a ‘few’ veggies in the back yard; and most of all just spending time with his family.

Yet in a sense Dad was also ambitious; not for fortune or fame, but simply to make the best life for himself and his family that he possibly could. He never complained that he didn’t have an ideal start in life. He simply made the most of what he had and got stuck in to making it better.

One of the most enduring lessons I learned from watching my Dad is that there is always something you could be doing to improve your circumstances. All you needed to do was gather a few bricks and bits of tin and wood and whatever else you could pick up for a bargain, and there wasn’t any reason you couldn’t turn a two room shack in Dunalley into a palace. In fact I can’t ever remember a time when Dad wasn’t building or fixing or improving something.

He had an amazing range of practical skills that he’d picked up over the years and he was always acquiring more. I don’t recall ever seeing my Dad reading a novel, he didn’t watch much telly and wasn’t a big sports fan, but if he needed a new skill or to fix an unfamiliar piece of equipment he’d bury his head in technical books until he found the answers, and before you knew it he was an expert on some new subject.

Dad was a bit too rough around the edges to ever be called a “sensitive new age guy”, but the other thing I learned from my Dad’s example was how to treat other people.

In my forty-five years I never once saw him say or do anything that indicated that he thought for a moment that someone’s nationality, or race, or gender or anything else like that was important.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of people he didn’t particularly get along with, but he always judged individuals as he found them.

He never resorted to or advocated violence as a solution to problems. I never saw him take advantage of another person or abuse his authority or power over those weaker than him.

And he was a great role model as a husband, creating a true partnership with my Mum and always treating her as an equal in whatever plan or project or journey they were embarking upon.

By the way he lived his life Dad was a man worthy of respect and admiration. But most of all he was a man worthy of our fondest remembrance.

Good bye Dad. We love you, we’ll miss you terribly and we promise we won’t ever forget you.

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