A Tribute to My Dad

Originally written for his funeral, i thought these words might help other people who had lost their fathers recently, especially on Father’s Day.

My dad was man who accomplished and created a lot of things; tools, furniture, shelves, props, shelves, sheds, lamps and even a pair of old time stocks. People often remarked he could fix or build anything, his work as a mechanical engineer from the age of sixteen may have given him that edge or it may have always been there. Either way the result was personally on professionally he was someone who could solve problems and create something where there was nothing. The one tangible thing he never finished in his life is sitting in his front room, a single DIY project; a table that was stripped down but never sanded and re-varnished. He was waiting for the summer. The summer will still come but I’m not sure he’ll be up to it this time. He’d taken to enjoying and organizing Barbeques on warmer days and remarked that he didn’t know how much longer we’d be able to do this for. I always presumed he meant the weather might not hold, but deep down I knew he was keeping one eye on the clock. Before his cancer treatment he made sure to get everything sorted, cleaned, in order. He feared it might be a hard road ahead but quietly he made sure to plan for no road at all.

My dad was a man who many people knew: people he had worked with he’d run into from time to time, his neighbours and friends, his family and the people at the church. He loved this church and served on the stewarding team, even when he was probably too ill to do so, because he loved being here. He knew many of you who came here regularly and I remember his shock at the announcements of passing of people in the church he knew, as im sure many were shocked and saddened by his passing.

My dad was a man who was determined: determined to walk again after losing much of his feet after major illness and some of his resilience to osteoporosis. A man who faced his third different cancer diagnosis head on. He was determined to play the guitar, even though he never really had the ability for it as am sure anyone who heard him play will tell you. It was something he himself he admitted he had no aptitude for and, as he put it, “The wrong kind of hands”. But he amassed and cared for instruments anyways and was the impetus for me to being playing, something he was very keen on and very proud of, even when I doubt my own ability. He told me he loved to hear his guitars played, and I’m sure he hoped they would continue to be long after he was gone.

My dad was a man who wasn’t perfect: he could drink like a fish and scream like a toddler. In those days there was disquiet about him, a distance and frustration we never knew the cause of, something he seemed to hate about himself but couldn’t stop. But in recent years he seemed more content, more at ease after his retirement. He’d often want to busy himself with projects, to replace his work, but he settled down into doing things he enjoyed.

My Dad was a man who was funny; you could hear his laugh for miles around and he had an intelligent wit and sharp mind about him.

My dad was a man who was most of all proud, proud of his independence and self-reliance. He carved things out for himself and didn’t suffer fools gladly. But most of all he was proud of his children. Most recently was beaming at the wedding of his daughter, an event he kept many pictures of around the house.

But all of these are just anecdotes, stories or slightly faded memories. You can’t express a person, a whole person, in words. The idea of that whole body of sixty nine years of life, a whole universe and wealth of experience, being gone feels like a cruel injustice. It’s often said “I’m sorry for your loss” but the loss runs deeper than sorrow, it is a true loss, a loss of something that took a lifetime to create and that cannot be replaced in any number of lifetimes. In the truest sense of the term there will never be another Adrian Sweeney. So as we gather here today let us bring the little pieces and moments we remember and cherish together and build a picture of the man we once knew. Some close and vivid, some distant and faint. And together we create something that does justice to a life, a full life, lived in the end with little regret and apology. Something more than a coffin, roses, some photographs and an unfinished table.