After a six-month battle with cancer, my dad passed away on November 28th, one week after his 65th birthday. I may one day write more about his battle with cancer and how Dad seemed invincible, but today, I will only share my eulogy that I was honoured to read at his funeral on December 2nd in the presence of 200 people who celebrated his memory:
I’m kinda of twisted. I actually enjoy going to funerals because I learn so much about a person and I almost always wish I knew that person better. I hear about the great things they did, their talents, and funny stories.
But today, it’s much different. Today, I’m up here to share a bit of my heart with you, to give you a little bit of the Derek that I will forever call my dad. The Derek that a lot of people just didn’t know what to do with at first.
My dad didn’t teach me how to fix cars. My dad didn’t teach me how to build a shed. My dad didn’t teach me home renovations. My dad didn’t teach me to ride a motorcycle.
I looked back and I realized that my dad didn’t fit the mold back then any more than he did in recent times.
My dad was, truly, a one of a kind guy.
But I can’t paint a picture of a perfect man, because he wasn’t, and neither am I, and neither are you. But my dad made decisions to be honest and accountable, even if the repercussions could hurt. My dad taught me to do the right thing because it is the right thing.
I was able to share a bit on Father’s Day 2012 when I stood up here and thanked my dad for choosing to love me. I’m adopted. I was chosen. Dad chose to love me. My dad taught me that family isn’t always blood, and it doesn’t have to be.
We lived in an old farm house back in public school and times for us were very difficult. I remember that we heated half the house with the burners from the stove and electric heaters because we couldn’t afford oil for the furnace. My aquarium actually froze in the living room and fish were stuck in time. But I also remember a Christmas when my dad brought home three men from Ark Aid, a street mission in London, to share in a dinner and receive gifts with us. My dad taught me that no matter how bad I think I have it, I will always have something to give and to bless another person.
As the years went on and Dad’s business ventures had success, he gave more to more people. He enjoyed helping people, even if he didn’t particularly like them. Because feelings didn’t matter, and it was about opportunities to bless others as he was blessed. My dad taught me to care for others regardless of how I feel about them.
When Dad was first diagnosed with cancer, he told me that he was very confident in his salvation, but regretted that he hadn’t been a better evangelist and shared God with more people. He was admitted to LHSC in London and was sharing a room with a Muslim lady. I knew he would be stretched in his comfort. He built a relationship with her and her family. He was able to read scripture to her and pray with her family before she passed away. My dad taught me that differences don’t make a difference and that it’s good to step outside of our comfort zone.
My dad met a young man on the streets of London many years ago. He was newly saved and needed some guidance and direction in his life. Darren was his name. Some knew him as “Bubba.” Dad helped him in his early walk with the Lord. Today, Darren is a missionary in Columbia and reaches thousands of people. Darren wrote on Facebook on Thursday, “Mourning the loss of one of the men that made a difference in the life of this young man; when I really needed people to care.” My dad taught me that we don’t need to see the potential in someone before we decide to help them, we just do it.
My dad was generous. He gave more than he maybe should have. He gave a lot that people will never even know about. He gave a hand up to so many, including my family. My dad taught me to give without expectation.
In late summer, Dad tried to go for a bike ride. He hopped on his mountain bike and headed out. He got just out of the garage and fell in the driveway. He laid under his bicycle and called to my mom for help. Yet, he insisted that I give him my Honda motorcycle in the spring so that we could ride together. In the hospital as he laid in bed, barely responsive, I told him that I still had my bike in the shed for him to ride in the spring. He smiled at me. My dad taught me not to give up on a dream.
My dad wore the tough guy front, and he wore it pretty well…and there was little something in there to back it up, too. But the Dad I knew was gentle. He loved animals. He loved his pets. He loved his friends and neighbours. He loved his family. He loved my Mom. My dad taught me that image isn’t everything. He taught me to love others.
My dad was pretty soft under the image he presented. He cared about what people thought. He cared about what people said. He cared about being the person that people needed him to be. And my dad was easily hurt by people. Through it all, he remained steadfast in doing the right thing. My dad taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable.
So maybe I can’t fix a car, build a straight shed, and maybe the drywall seams aren’t perfectly smooth. So what. My dad taught me that there are very few “things” that matter in this world. People and relationships matter, though. My dad taught me to be a little more like Jesus and I hope that my children will carry his legacy.
Thank you Dad for all you taught me, without ever having to teach me. I already miss you.