I flew home on the 27th of February to visit my terminally ill father and to say goodbye. An hour before I was to leave for the airport, while I was at his apartment, he passed away. Today we buried him. This is his eulogy.
I began writing this while seated in the dark, after the power went out at our hotel. I was surrounded by unfinished business. On my left was a stack of blank CDs waiting to be burned with the appropriate music. On the right was a bible waiting to reveal the appropriate verses. I was juggling vast pieces of the great puzzle I have found myself working this past few days.
This puzzle is called 'The Life of Gene Sinda'.
I was wondering how on earth I can tell the story of a man's eighty years when I have only been privy to forty one of them? And I honestly do not know. But I will tell you what I can.
Mom was quietly snoring, having exhausted herself working this puzzle with me. A couple nights ago I saw her dance with the memory of Dad, her arm on an invisible back, twirling around and around the floor in that awkward quirky way he used to dance. We laughed ourselves weeping. To Dad.
Anyone whose seen him dance knows that Dad was a terrible dancer. Despite the fact that he used the illusory nickname of Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, Dad was just a horrendously bad dancer. But Dad was an awesome dancer. Because Dad always did that great thing they call 'dancing like no one is watching'.
For a numbers guy, his ability to count time to music was abysmal. But he always just moved how it felt right. I got to experience this on more than one occasion - and as a child the safest way to do this meant I stood right on top of his feet and held onto his hands for dear life. This really was the only way you could follow him on the dance floor. Of course in later years, it occurred to me that this task was much easier if you had a beer or two in you. Live and learn, as they say.
I think Dad's character traits that will most stick with me are that he was eternally young at heart and that most of the time, he just didn't care what anyone thought of him. This of course brought him his share of trouble but it also meant that he was one of the most free spirited people I have ever known. High strung like a thoroughbred and stubborn like an old mule, he plowed through the bulk of his life living each day like it was his last. He just went for it. And this too is how he died.
There is a passage in a booklet given to us by the amazing Rainbow Hospice that talks about how a person's approach to death mirrors their approach to life. And this was so true of Dad - he just got straight down to business. When he was truly ready to go he didn't dawdle. He wanted to go to God's home from the comfort of his own home. He wanted to go his way. And he sure did.
I was so blessed to have eleven days - one for every year I've been away - to enjoy his company one last time. And an hour before I was due to head back to my own home he decided it was time to hit the big dance floor in the sky. I was doubly blessed to be there with him as he left this life. I like to think he did that intentionally for me, one last father's gift to his daughter. My heart will forever be full with that gift.
My Dad was never a general in the Army. Nor was he president of the banks he worked in. Dad was never voted father of the year with a four page spread in People Magazine. But he served. And he worked. And did the best he could to be a good father. And for one beautiful year, a good grandfather to my son, Rukai. He was so worried that his grandson wouldn't know him because he'd be gone before Rukai grew up. I told him more than once during our last days together that there is absolutely no way his grandson won't know him. I expect this teaching to be one of my life's greatest joys.
A few days before he passed, Dad said 'you never know how many people love you until you get into this position.' And those last few days firmed up my belief that there really are angels on this earth. Angels called Glenn, and Patty, and Wally. Called Brian the landlord and Doctor Schwartz and Father Collins. Called Anna and Carolyn and Kim and Regina and Kevin. There is a pot of gold at the end of this Rainbow and that gold is called Love.
Every man has his share of flaws and regrets and joys and sorrows. Yet every man is loved. At some point there will be love. In that we are all here celebrating Dad today is proof of that love. On this day of one of my life's greatest sorrows, I express to you one of my life's greatest hopes in that Dad and the love we feel for him today will live forever in all of our hearts.
Rest in peace Pop. I love you big time dude.