I learned how to show up from my father.
My dad taught me to show up not through words, but through his effort, presence and love.
I still don’t know how he managed to do all he did, raising three children as a single parent while he worked a demanding job as an Air Force Officer,
but I do know its root was the value he placed on it.
He transmitted that value to me through his consistency of action.
He showed up for every birthday, every soccer or softball game, every parent-teacher night, every awards ceremony, every graduation, every special moment.
He always showed up, and he always expected excellence from us.
I learned that showing up is one of the greatest expressions of love.
I learned that excellence is being your word.
My father’s presence was so much bigger than he ever knew.
It was one of the greatest lessons he gave me, without even knowing
that in those sacred loving acts, he was my teacher.
So I thank you for showing up today to honor him.
He took his commitment and role as father most seriously.
So seriously, that he gave up his role as commanding officer of his base so that
we could be closer to our mother here in California. He left the military at the height of his glory and performance so he could keep his promise to his children.
Through his commitment, he taught me that consistency and being my word matter. He taught me integrity and principle. We may not have always seen eye to eye—in fact, we often did not, but I always felt the respect we had for each other, for standing for what we believe in.
For both of us, one of our greatest values is freedom. He was not about to not be free in his late years. He’d rather go fly free in some other sky.
Similarly, he was committed to his students as a teacher. He taught school for 24 years, and no doubt touched many kids with his caring and expert teaching. He told the story of a girl in his class who he knew was not being fed at home, and how each day he would pack a sandwich for her and quietly slip it to her so the other students couldn’t see, so she had something to eat. He had tremendous compassion.
After his death we found many things. We found his reviews from when he was in the military and they were absolutely exemplary. He was clearly respected and very good at what he did, which was outlined with great pride and detail by his superiors.
In his high school yearbook notes, the comments were consistent: He was always “cutting up in class”, making people laugh, and he was “such a scream!” He clearly got into a fair amount of trouble, but it seemed like good-natured trouble and he was loved by many.
He had the best sense of humor and was cracking people up every day right up until the end. Always the life of the party, he would charm the whole room through his jokes and stories because he loved to make people laugh. It was how he connected.
I think he invented “Dad jokes.” He gave little to himself and tolerated old things just to not have to spend money.
We’d say, “Dad, you’ve got holes in that sweatshirt and the cuffs are shredded. Time for a new one!”
And he’d look down at it and say, “What do you mean!? I’ve got a couple more good years in this!”
I must have heard that joke 500 times, but it still made me chuckle.
He had a cabinet full of racquetball trophies and we found a drawer full of military medals he never displayed because he did not care about those kinds of external validations of his greatness and he never wanted to act like he was better than someone else.
He cared about family. He cared about the people he was close to. That was always most important to him, and we three children truly were the loves of his life.
My father absolutely dedicated his life to service—to his family, to his community, and to his country.
Dad, I will love you eternally and underneath it all,
I believe I know the truest you—
the loving, dedicated father,
the principled citizen with tremendous dignity,
the one led by a fierce integrity every step of your precious life,
the guardian of freedom who defended your country with honor,
the one committed to always do what is right,
the care and the thoughtfulness through which you viewed the world,
the showing up and doing your very best,
the tender heart that, like all hearts, wanted only to be loved,
the constant encourager,
the one who loved to make people laugh and brought joy and kindness to others,
the humble one who would never make himself better than anyone else,
even though you had so many excellences you could have used to elevate yourself above the masses of the mediocre,
the perfect timing of almost failing out of college and then soaring into the skies where you longed to be,
the dreams you lived and how proud of you your Mother was,
the rock you were for Grandma and your family when your dad died suddenly and how you were her guardian until her death,
the disappointments and ways you were not able to fully live your dreams
because you sacrificed them greatly for the well-being of your children,
the one who told me you loved me every single night before bed
so I never questioned your love,
the loneliness you felt,
the soft knocking of your heart that sunk deeper
into its protective flesh with each fresh breaking,
the intuition and how you knew inexplicable things,
the laughter and joy I know you could have had more of to fill up your insecure heart with the genuine knowing of your lovability.
You are one I know,
the tender hearted father who was trained out of tenderness,
and brought right to the threshold of its wise knowing many times,
in illness, in heartbreak,
in raising three strong-willed children who would go their own ways,
even when it hurt you,
but who never stopped loving you and wishing more joy for you.
You held us and cared for us in life,
we had the honor to hold and care for you in death.
All deaths are rebirths and you transitioned out of here from a place of
immense power, decisiveness, dignity and true glory
just like you lived your life.
It was your last great act and it was marvelous.
Now you are reborn and belong to a new world.
May you fly the skies all you want,
free of the body that was your last betrayal,
never alone, in freedom and new possibility for what comes now.
I am grateful we got the time we did to love each other and make our way in this life, through all the laughter and sweetness as well as the challenges.
I am grateful for the ineffable imprint you made on me,
and for who I became both because of and in spite of you.
I love you dad.
Those last days with you were sacred. A true gift for all of us.
We all love you and I hope that in our showing up,
you knew how cherished you were when you took flight.
Thank you for all of it.
Every single bit of it.
You are one of the greatest gifts of my life.