A Eulogy For My Father
I always knew this day would come.
I knew that my dad wouldn’t live forever, but dying alone in prison was the one thing that he and his family dreaded most and tried desperately to prevent. During one particular visit he told me, “Baby, I don’t want to die here. Don’t let me die here.”
But he did and we’re here. And I have to keep reminding myself that this is real.
What my father experienced in the last two years of his life was nothing short of an atrocity.
He was a victim of a severely broken criminal justice system yet I can’t allow this fact to overshadow the memory of my father or have it define the whole of his life, for he had a tremendous life in his 81 years.
Most who knew him saw him as a family man and a physician, but to me, he was also a teacher. He was always eager to help others learn how to lead healthier, happier lives. I know behind every exhortation and repeated directive was that intention.
So, in the spirit of this teaching I will tell you what characteristics defined him most and how he’d want you to live by them:
He was a naturally funny man. My dad rarely told a joke on purpose. He just had a knack for taking the ordinary and generating a chuckle from it. Around the time of the Clinton presidency, he’d exclaim in an exaggerated announcer’s voice, ‘Billy Clint! Billy Clint!’ throughout the house or he’d take a random nursery rhyme I’m guessing was from his childhood and start reciting it, ‘Pedro Punchy Wawa! He made the girls go caga…’
Perhaps people thought this behavior odd when he was younger since he didn’t show this side of himself to many. One thing is for sure though; he valued a good laugh and likely would have told you to laugh more.
He had a deep compassion for others, particularly those who suffered physically. It’s no coincidence that my father’s love for medicine and helping people through nutrition grew further when he learned that two of his daughters were born with a neuromuscular disease. Throughout his life when he found out that someone developed cancer, became paralyzed or experienced some other physical ailment, he’d put his head down and quietly pray, ‘My God, help them.’
He believed the more you physically suffered in this life the higher the chance of great things happening to you. Therefore, he’d want you to never lose hope for he had an unlimited supply of it even in the grimmest of circumstances.
He was tenacious. It’s safe to say that no matter how extreme and ostensibly unbearable a situation appeared my dad had the grit and drive to get through it. His tenacity got him through medical school, residency, caring and providing for a family, managing a painful blood disorder, two bouts of prostate cancer and a wrongful jail sentence. He taught all of us true resilience and inspired us to never give up.
He possessed a boyish wonder. No matter what decade of life he was in he continued to be amazed by the world around him. I remember when video internet calls had emerged he’d ask me excitedly as my friend’s face appeared on the screen, ‘Can they see us right now? Can they can hear us?’
‘Yes, dad, they can see and hear us.’
‘WOW, baby, that’s incredible!’
His face would light up when he shared what he learned about advancements in medicine, transportation and robotics. He’d want us to always keep that sense of wonder.
He lived life with great emotion. Apathy was a foreign word to my dad. Nearly everything he did he did so with great passion and feeling. Some of my favorite memories of him were when he’d wave his arms like a conductor to the sounds of his favorite concerto and hum, ‘da dee dum dum dee.’
Sometimes his strong feeling would get the best of him and he’d say something that came from a place of fear and stubbornness than one of openness and acceptance. But the one emotion that I never doubted he had for his family was love.
He always made it known how much he loved us as he exclaimed every chance he got, ‘Your dad loves you too, too much! I have great baby kids! Or simply: ‘Love you, baby kid.’
Though I don’t know if he was aware that this last characteristic was part of what made him so great, I do know that he’d want us to treasure our families by telling them ‘I love you’ often.
I’ll love you dad forever and will miss you terribly.