(What follows is the text of the eulogy I wrote for my father's funeral...)
When I think of my father, I think of his voice.
Trained by the Church in a day when priests had to reach the back pews without microphones, my father's voice was a wonderful instrument. Deep and rolling, the pure low rumble of it calmed my childhood fears. Allowed to boom, his voice could rattle the windows. A sudden sneeze in a department store when we were kids was so loud a salesgirl was startled into noodle-limbed terror.
His voice was lively, agile. Tales told around the dinner table had the whole family laughing until our sides ached and tears streamed from our eyes. Stories of his childhood and family, of life in the priesthood, of his coworkers at the bank... In his hands, every voice acted out, his timing so perfect, all of these everyday stories became so funny we forgot to breathe.
His voice, for me, will always be the voice of the Bible. Every year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas and Easter, there would be after-dinner readings of scripture. Those readings, and the discussions that followed, were a door into the world of his faith.
Dad saw churches-- whatever the denomination-- as human institutions, mortal and flawed. But God's love was constant and absolute, bigger than man's frailty. For him, faith wasn't something you do for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning in a special building. It was the bedrock his life was built on. His love for his wife, his children, his grandchildren. All were different expressions of his relationship with a kind and loving God.
His love of God was his life. He and Mom met when he was still a priest. Their mutual faith brought them together. It united them in forty-eight years of marriage.
Once, when Tania and I were little, he woke to the sound of someone breaking into the house. I can't imagine how he felt. No baseball bat in the closet, no gun in a drawer. That wasn't my father. Instead, with two sleeping children and an intruder forcing his way into our home, my father walked naked out into the lounge to talk to him.
That voice worked its magic. By the time the cops arrived-- hours later-- Dad and the burglar had shared a pot of coffee and some serious conversation. He sent the police away and took the burglar to rehab.
That was faith-- his faith-- in action.
It was how he lived every day. Secure in God's love, and living the message of compassion and Christian charity.
As we grew, his children made choices he didn't always approve of. Choices he sometimes didn't understand. But he had faith in us, faith that the paths we walked were part of God's love.
Looking back, despite all the twists in the road, he may well have been right. :)
Over time, my father's voice softened. Chelsea and Kristen, Cameron and Brennan and Brandon, may have missed out on the lively entertainer and firebrand preacher. But they had the joy of growing up with a wonderful and soft-spoken grandfather. His church eventually forgave him for falling in love, agreeing that a family was in fact God's plan for him and welcoming him back with open arms. My father was happy. Truly happy. His voice grew more gentle now, often little more than a low murmur.
As the years wore on, his voice became a whisper. The last time I saw him, he spoke so softly I had to strain to hear him at all.
On May 18, at 12.24am, that voice fell silent.
I miss him. We all do. It's hard to think that we've had our last good talk, whether about serious matters like books we enjoy, or something silly like politics. It's hard to think that his voice is gone.
Except, it's not. I still hear him. We all do, everyone here today, can hear him right now. Whenever I face a choice-- between selfishness and love, between fear and doing the right thing-- it's his voice, his faith that guide me. And when I hear myself laugh with my daughter, it's his voice I hear.