It's been a difficult last few weeks. We said goodbye to my Dad this week. It's hard to know what to say so I'll just excerpt some of the remarks I wrote for his memorial service:
Last week, on the day that Dad passed away, I was wandering …and found myself out in my workshop. I think I went out there to take my mind off what was happening, maybe a chance to forget for a little while. There a was project I've been meaning to do lately. I found a piece of wood and I reached for my toolbox, took out some tools and it suddenly struck that this was the box my father had built for me and I was holding in my hand, a tool he once used. Then I realized, why I was in there. It was not to forget, it wasn't to take my mind off things. It was to remember him.
When I was younger, if somebody asked me what my father did, I would tell them he was a lawyer but he was also a carpenter and an architect who built the house we lived in. I was so proud of that. Dad was also a blacksmith who built his forge out of parts from a washing machine and the wheel hub of an old truck; he was an inventor and a gardener and a cook and a lot of other things. And all of this enriched his life and everyone he loved. The lesson I learned from watching him was that the work put into all these pursuits was its own reward and that doing things for others is its own reward.
There was a time when I thought I'd had a pretty typical, ordinary, happy childhood. And then at some point I realized that not everyone had a father who… built them a 3-story tall playhouse in the backyard… complete with a drawbridge and a crows nest. Not everybody's dad would just decide, one day in the middle of winter to build his kids a skating rink. Not everybody's dad built the family a cabin in the woods and all the furniture in it.
I think what he was really showing us was that if you have the resources -- the materials or the time or the talent -- the single best thing you can do is to use them to create an experience for the people you love. And now it's these moments, these experiences, that I will never forget.
I'll remember the love, and I'll remember the laughter. I'll remember the time we laughed so hard we both fell off the couch.
I'll remember how every dog and cat would instantly trust him. They can recognize the kind ones.
I'll remember this political fervor and his courage in standing up for others.
I'll remember his pride at being a Williams College alum -- not because of its prestige, but because he was proud when the college stood up for equality and opportunity.
I'll remember how he met the good times with openness and joy, and the hard times with grace.
I know we're meant to say "goodbye" but I don't want to. And I'm not sure we need to. Dad's life will continue to echo through the life of his community and everyone who loves him. In a way, he will always be with us.