in his backyard haven

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Eulogy for Dad

For those of you who couldn't be at the funeral mass for Dad or who couldn't hear very well, here is the Eulogy that I wrote and shared:

Eulogy for Dennis V. O’Donnell
June 18, 2012 Funeral Mass

On behalf of our mom, Peggy, my siblings Liz, Joe, Amy & Katie, our spouses and children and all of the extended O’Donnell family, I want to thank each of you for being here, for traveling so far to come and celebrate the life of our BELOVED Dad.

We often reflect at funerals, citing them as celebrations. In my youth I had to come to terms with such an idea by reminding myself that this person is with God now, so therefore we should be celebrating. This is absolutely true. I can say with confidence that Dad is with Jesus, taking rest and dining at a banquet feast with his parents Vern and Betty and with so many others who have gone before him.

But I know now, reflecting on the events of the past few weeks and having known my Dad through many stages of life, that there is so much more to celebrate. Together we can take comfort and joy in the fact that despite whether you have known him for 68 months or for his full 68 years, we have all enjoyed a few special things about Dad regardless of his relationship to us.

First, Dad was a TEACHER. Always full of knowledge, well read and curious about anything and everything, we used to joke that if you asked Dad for the time he would tell you how to build a clock.

As his children, we suffered through this at times. There IS a right way to pick up lawn clippings, straighten your room, wash the car, position a tripod and yes, STORE your ketchup. In the small things, we were often annoyed by this trait. I remember vividly when he forced me to learn about how to care for my first car by labeling every part in the engine with a Sharpie marker and making me touch, smell and even taste some of the liquids that could come out that thing.

Yet, in the larger life issues, each and every one of us can reflect on a time when dad reserved his verbosity and wisdom for a very special conversation that would teach us something. Something about career choices, love and marriage, parenting, social responsibility, suffering, faith and even decisions about life and death.

He might have been the friend who taught you about yard care, car care, steam engines, brick laying, missile launching or even about our faith in God.

He might have been the grandfather who taught you about life in the 50s or the uncle who was your sounding board through difficult life moments.. the neighbor who helped you choose your paint color or the Small Faith Group partner who challenged you to think long and hard about your own beliefs.

For each of us, he was a teacher. This may have come in the form of a story or a pun, but it was always there – his teaching. We learned something from him when we had the patience to sit with him and truly listen.

Secondly, Dad was also a PLAYFUL KID AT HEART. The ultimate prankster, he shared his love for life by playing. Playing with things. Playing with people and playing pranks.

He loved to tinker: rockets, missiles, trains, planes, cars, kites, cameras, woodworking – you name it. He loved to ski, surf, cannon ball a pool, attempt parasailing, canoe, play in the yard and dance. He sprayed a hose through the bathroom window once in order to give mom a cold shower. He tossed firecrackers under her lawn chair to see her jump. He played kick the can with his grandchildren and always was the first in line to want a lollipop or ice cream at an amusement park.....He dressed as a nun at church! He ALWAYS pursued the opportunity to ride a train.

He enjoyed living and playing and being with toys. Even when he came from home the hospital to die, he lit up like a boy on Christmas morning to find his newest model train mounted on the wall. (Thank you, Mitch)

Dad was such a kid and a lover of life, he circumvented death more than most of us can recall. Who survives cancer, heart surgeries, strokes, pneumonia, being hit by a car and God only knows what else and continues to live with such fervor? Dad. 

And finally, Dad was a LOVER of PEOPLE. Scientists, engineers, auto mechanics, truck drivers, railroaders, ship captains, plane pilots. Priest, nun, commander, diplomat, blue collar, white collar, young, old, sinner or saint. Regardless of who you were or what you do, Dad could find the good in you. He could relate. He would engage with you and find some small way of showing interest and love. What amazes me about people like this is that they become the BELOVED. It is in giving that you receive and the people gathered here today are a testament to dad’s love for others.

Dad’s biggest love? MOM. He adored her beauty, her faith in God, her perseverance, and commitment. He loved to outdo her at Christmas, (she always got the most gifts. Always) dance with her and wine and dine her.
He was equally supportive of her family, and her needs. He helped her to help her own mom live and die. For 45 years he loved her and in return she loved him and together they were BELOVED. They loved so much - to the point where she slept holding his hand all night before he died.

So, this Teacher, Playful Kid at Heart and Lover of People and Life has taught us yet again in his dying. Ever hospitable, on his deathbed while hosting visitors he managed to squeak out, “Molly, get them all a drink.”

Dad neither embraced nor denied death. He wanted to live. And he knew when living more meant he needed to go to a different place to continue. He simply listened carefully: to his medical team, his family and God for sure and accepted quite gracefully crossing those train tracks into Heaven.

Scripture tells us:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1

A very similar photo to their wedding day

Mom shoved her bed right up next to Dad's hospital bed so that she could hold his hand all night. This was June 12th.

Mom, [Dad], Joe, Katie, Liz, Molly and Amy

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