Lauren's father passed away last week on December 17th. His funeral was Friday December 21st.
I was honored to give the eulogy, which is what follows.
Whenever I needed to describe my father-in-law. I always used the word simple.
The word simple , when describing someone, always carries a bad connotation. Most people do not want to be considered simple. They want to be complicated. They want to be considered a person of depth and knowledge and of complex thoughts.
Ray was not complicated. Ray was simple. He was simple in his devotion to his wife and children. He was simple in his pleasures and joys. He was simple in his faith.
He led his life according to the simplest of rules. The Golden Rule. There are people in this world of great depth and complex thoughts who cannot, no matter how hard they try, understand the Golden Rule.
The Golden rule. Treat others, as you would want to be treated. Ray lived that way.
Simple to do? I don’t think so.
Ray only loved one woman in his entire life, they got married and had children. Simple.
Ray worked hard for most of his life, two or three jobs at a time, just to provide for his family. From what I could tell he never really wanted anything for himself. He found satisfaction in his work. But he worked to provide for his family. Simple. Even after his daughters were grown and able to provide for themselves he continued to support them in other ways. Changing oil on their cars, helping them with home projects or just offering moral support. Simple.
He found pleasure in spending time with his grandkids, fishing, building birdhouses, gardening and yard work.
This past summer, when he started his Chemo I offered to help and mow his yard. He refused. He enjoyed working on the yard and found satisfaction in doing the job. After a few weeks of me offering, he finally conceded.
He took the time to explain to me how his old rider mower worked. He tinkered with it for so many years that the mower had its own little quirks and he explained that he wanted me to be safe. He made sure I knew every nuance of the machine. He then got on the mower to show me how it worked. How it bucked in 2nd gear, how the blade mechanism could get stuck and how to maneuver around the obstacles in the yard. He showed me for so long that by the time he was done teaching me, he mowed the back yard himself.
He told me was concerned for my safety.
Who am I kidding I sure he was worried I would break the mower.
He found joy in just talking to people. Ray always greeted every one with his big toothy smile; his eyes would disappear into slits. You knew he was genuinely happy to see you. He never offered his opinion or advice unless asked. He was a quiet man but he enjoyed listening. He just enjoyed the conversation. Simple.
I consider myself lucky because I think that Lauren inherited that smile. She said to me the other day, “I can’t believe how much I look like my father.” I looked at her and I agreed. Which means one of two things. My wife would make a very handsome man, or that Ray would have made one really attractive woman.
He was simple in his faith in God. He believed. He never forced his beliefs on other people. He never got into huge philosophical debates about the meaning of life.
I remember one time after a spirited conversation about what church can offer, he said, “I don’t need to hear other peoples opinions on this, I believe in God, I believe in Jesus and I just know I am in good hands.” Simple faith.
There were many times I heard Emily say that Ray could fall asleep anywhere. His response to her was always the same. “What can I say? I have a clean conscience.”
I truly believe that he did. He was just that good of a person. Simple.
Ray was the type of person that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He would also tell you about where he bought it, when he bought it, what function he wore it to and that he would look for the receipt so that you could return it if you wanted to.
Ray did have some faults, which I want to cover.
He was Caring to a fault.
He was nice to a fault.
He was generous to a fault.
He was friendly to a fault.
…And he liked polka music.
I wish I had those faults. Except for the polka music.
Shame on me for pointing out his faults, because one of the most admirable qualities I see in Ray is the fact that he never, ever, pointed out anyone else’s faults. He lived his life by the Golden Rule. And I know that a lot of people sold Ray short and judged him for being Simple, but Ray Simply never judged anyone.
Anybody I have ever talked to about Ray always said the same thing,
“He was the nicest man in the world.”
It sucks that that space is now vacant.
Ray’s birthday is December 30th. In a little over a week he would have been 70. I like to think that his birthday has now changed to December 17th. The day he died. He is now celebrating a new life, in heaven.
In an effort to move to past the sadness of his death and the mourning that comes with losing him I want to be the first to say, and I can’t think of any other way to say it but to put it simply:
Happy Birthday Dad. Happy Birthday.