Two weeks ago today, my father died unexpectedly. My sister and I, along with our husbands and children, were vacationing together in Breckenridge, Colorado, when we received the news from our shocked, grieving mom.
About a week before he died, I told my dad about my intention to start freelance writing when I returned from Colorado. I’ve been 100% focused on my kids since 2010 and it is high time I start using my brain in other ways again. This site is in its absolute infancy, and I never intended to release it until I had accumulated more writing samples, published a fee schedule, and written more than two sentences in my “About Me” section. I certainly never intended on my first post being the eulogy I gave at my father’s funeral, but I feel compelled to share on this anniversary. I hope you will stick with me, and with my site, as it evolves.
I still cannot believe I managed to speak at my dad’s memorial service without completely falling apart. Here is what I said:
For those who don’t know me, I’m Wayne’s youngest daughter, Lara. It will be a miracle if I get through this without crying, so please bear with me. I wanted to speak today because I want you to know some things about my dad.
I talk to my dad almost every day. He was madly in love with his grandkids, and I’m a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t get a ton of adult interaction during the day, so I’d call my parents pretty much any time one of my kids did something funny or cool or different. I’d call my dad’s number and he’d say, “How’re the stinkers?” or “How’s Robert-bo-bobert?” or “What kind of trouble has Jonah gotten into today?” I’d tell him the story of the day, and he’d laugh and then say, “Hold on, I’ve got to go tell your mom. Trisha! Robert got into Lara’s makeup and put mascara on his cheeks again!” Then, he and mom would laugh, we’d chatter a bit, tell each other I love you, and hang up. A lot of times, though, he’d have a story to tell as well, and I’d listen to that, too…which brings me to one of the main things I want you to know about my dad.
Mostly, I want you to know this: You were important to him. All of you. I know you’re here because he meant something to you, but I want you to know you meant something to him, too. You all know how much my dad loved to tell stories. Well, if you’re sitting in this room, he has probably told me, my sister, or my mom a story about you. You probably did something funny, or said something inspiring, or goofed around with him when y’all were kids, or did something impressive. If you went to school with me or Lisa, he asked us what you were up to now or if we had talked to you lately or how old your kids were. It’s obvious, from the outpouring of support our family has received upon his death, that my dad was important to a lot of people, but I want you guys to know that you were important to him, too.
The other thing I want you to know about my dad is he was happy. Genuinely, truly happy. He adored my mom. He loved me and my sister. He loved his grandkids. He loved his work and his friends and meeting new people and helping people and traveling. He loved using that incredible mind of his. He loved a good joke. Actually, he loved a bad joke, too, and then if you laughed at him for thinking his bad joke was funny, he thought you were laughing at the joke itself and he’d tell it again. He was happy to wake up in the morning and he was happy to come home, have dinner with my mom, read the paper, watch some truly terrible TV, and go to bed and do it all again the next day.
I’ve pretty much thought about nothing but my parents these past few days, and the thing I keep marveling at is how happy my dad consistently seemed. And I think we should all take a lesson from Wayne Armstrong and take a good look at our own lives. If there’s anything that doesn’t make us happy, then we should change it, or find a way to change our perspective on it. These beautiful, wonderful lives of ours are just too short not to.
I’ve spoken too long already, so I’ll end with this: my dad was one of the best, smartest, kindest, funniest, most generous, most compassionate people I will ever know, and I am going to miss him every day of my life.