What follows is the eulogy I wrote for his memorial service, delivered to my home church by Pastor Fawn Mikel.
You asked me what is one thing I want people to remember about my dad. I told you it was his self-sacrifice, and it’s true, but this splinters off in so many ways.
One is how charming he was with everyone. When I visited him in the hospital/rehab center the staff loved him. You have to understand, most of their patients are ill tempered because of pain, losing their minds, or unable to communicate at all. But he had such a report with the nurses.
One of the nurses called him Tom Tom. She said she would come in the door, say hello, and he would say, "is that my Jackie?!" When I was there they acted so clinical with everyone else, but they would come in and start catching him up on all their personal lives. Everywhere he went he made friends and made people feel at home in their own skin — which I think is a rare and beautiful gift.
Another dimension of his self-sacrifice that I want to re-emphasize, is how important it was in my formation to watch him talk to people who would come up out of nowhere to tell him their life stories. His obvious outward signs of suffering bred solidarity among other people struggling to survive. And he was so kind; we'd be on our way to run errands or catch a movie and these people would just talk and talk and talk, and he would just listen forever...
And he would listen forever to me. He was my best friend. We talked about everything. There wasn't one experience he didn't help me verbally unpack, and that's why now it’s so painful. Because I want to sit down with him and discuss how hard this has been, how sorry I am for not having come down sooner, how much I miss him already, how perfect his love was and how grateful I am for it.
You asked me about dad's faith, and I can tell you that he lived with an expectant hope and honest trust in God. I have a number of letters he sent me and in every one he says things like: pray for us, I hope God hears me, and “I trust in God's love to get me through this or that.” I also know this because we talked about it a lot. He believed in the power of prayer and in the love of God. He was so very grateful for Christ Church because of how it fostered my relationship with God. In one of the letters he says: “My life is so hard, I sometimes feel as if I am cursed; But then I think of you and that all goes away. I realize how much God must love me because he gave me you."
On Monday, I told him how honored I am to be his daughter. How I love him more then life itself and I will love and miss him until my very last day. I told him that heaven is a reality I participate in now, and therefore we would be able to participate in together. That love would keep us together and that he should not be afraid of anything that could happen because love drives out fear.
His whole life he gave and gave and gave and gave to me. He would call me up randomly just to tell me how much he loves me and send me cards that said,
"I love you, guess that about sums it up."
His love was the greatest gift I have ever been given, because he allowed the love of God to flow purely and abundantly through him. I will miss every moment we spent together; how in those moments I knew how much he loved me and was so grateful for it.
On Tuesday I had a major break down because I knew my dad fought through more pain then he could handle to wait for me to say goodbye. I asked David, "How does someone fight off death? How is that even possible?" And he said: "Love."
My dad loved me so much he gave me life and then fought off death. His love was THAT powerful. It shook my world and made me happier than I ever deserved to be.
There are only so many people in this world who love with the love of Christ — and he was one of them. We cannot afford to lose these people, or miss out on experiencing their incredible light. His love surely outshines mine, but I love, I love, I love him...
Truth be told, my faith is being tested in this time... But the other day I was thinking about what people might bring to the memorial service — things like food and cards, simple gestures of condolence. Then I thought about what Christ would bring, and I realized he would bring a cross. He would drag the cross down the aisle and place it beneath his picture and say a prayer. He would talk about how he was there with him the whole time, when everyone else was caught up in his or her own worlds. How he suffered with him and for him, and how unfair it was that he had to suffer at all. He would shed tears and show us his scars, but then he would have to leave as quickly as he came. He would leave our world to find my Dad in another one and he would hold him close to his chest, tell him about the service, and how much we all miss and love him. And they would smile and talk of old times. And in that moment I hope with everything that is in me that he would understand how deeply I love him and how his love meant the world to me. I will never forget it, because it has carried me.