Today I was given the honor of giving the eulogy at my fathers funeral. Below are the words I spoke. It took me around 14 minutes and 53 seconds, which is long for a eulogy. If you ask me, 15 minutes was not nearly long enough to tell his story and to remind the world of his lessons to me………….
Below is a youtube link to the audio – and then the text that I spoke. You can choose. Listen or read!
Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Lonely rivers sigh, “Wait for me, wait for me
I’ll be coming home, wait for me
Unchained Melody was my fathers favorite song – It was written for the movie “Unchained” which debuted in 1955 and his favorite performance was by the Righteous Brothers in 1965 – 5 short years after he met my mother.
With all his hospital stays, it was no wonder this song hit home to him so much as he was always asking my mother to “wait for me wait for me – i’ll be coming home, wait for me”
I am like my dad in many ways – He was however a man of few words and that is not one of the ways we are similar. So sorry Father Bob, this is going to take some time.
First off – my family would like to thank everyone for the support we have received not only today and the past few days, but over the years as my fathers health slipped away.
There are too many of you to list by name. Just know that we know who you are and we love and appreciate you for everything you have done. Thank you for being here today. They say it takes a village to raise a child but they often forget that it takes a stronger one to say good bye to a heroic man.
Before I speak too much, I want to recognize my mother and the care that she gave for my father for the past few years.
In times of strife, when we would argue with her, she would say to Mark and myself “You have no idea how hard this really is.” She was always right – We always told her. You are right – we don’t.
Statements like that always come from people who are about to quit.
People who have already given up.
People who are no longer going to honor the vows they took on the day they got married.
In sickness and in health.
It wasn’t always pretty. Let me tell you love rarely is. Everyone in this room who has seen a loved one fade can attest to the levels of stress it puts on the care givers – Add to that being his sole care taker so many times, for so many years and in the end this became the story of a woman who loved her husband so much that she honored his wishes through his final days even at the expense of her own health and relationships.
My father hated the hospital – For all the time he spent there, can you blame him?
My father hated rehab – for all the visits he spent there can you blame him?
His biggest fear was to be “put in a home.” Facilities scared him. Every single person close to my parents including my brother and me and many of you sitting here in this room today told her;
“It’s time. You can’t do this anymore, put him in a home with full time care.”
We encouraged – told – and even yelled and threatened. “Put Patrick in a home!!”
I can’t tell you the number of conversations we had on the phone where she told me with such conviction ” I will NEVER do that to him”
My father LOVED our home. He worked hard for it. He took care of it with pride. He sure as hell wouldn’t let us leave it a mess.
I might even say as a last gift to my mother he held on and fought long enough for the VA renovation to be finished so his home would be an even more suitable place for her when he passed, knowing he would not be there to take care of her.
You see, even in his passing he was planning to take care of my mom.
In return my mother gave my father the best gift she could. His home until the end. She cared for him so he could stay where he always wanted to be.
Your love for dad was evident, and you deserve recognition for what you did for him. You honored the man who always honored you. You gave for the man who always gave for you. You loved the man who always loved you. So here in front of everyone mom, even though today is about Dad, Thank you.
With that said, it’s an honor and a tragedy that I stand here before you to talk a little bit about my fathers life.
To celebrate it and remember it.
There have been and will continue to be stories told and shared among us today, so let me start it off the right way, with one of the best.
The day my father had his open heart surgery we were stressed – None of us had gone through that before. Sitting in the waiting room together – The doctors finally came out and told us surgery had gone well -They gave us the usual updates and told us to sit tight until we could see him.
They warned us he would look awful- His voice would be hoarse and he might not want to see us.
He might be in a bad mood they said –
They simply did not know my dad.
We went into his room and he was awake -He asked one by one for us to come over “Nancy give me a kiss, she leaned in and kissed him – Mark give me a kiss- Jessica, give me a kiss – each of them leaned in and kissed him- Eric give me a kiss… and then Uncle Mike… Uncle Mike was there that day. Dads voice hoarse from the surgery he mumbled “Mike”… so Uncle Mike stood up from his chair and leaned in to give him a kiss on the forehead and then in that raspy post surgery voice – but clear as day dad said “hold on, let me roll over, so you can kiss my ass.”
The tension in the room was gone – just like that. Just like it is now. You all just laughed the same way we all laughed back then. We looked at each other just like you just looked at each other. This was the gift of Patrick Eagan – to make others feel better even when he was on his death bed.
My Dad would chuckle and shake his head to think so many people were sitting in one room today to hear about him because for the majority of his life he was always the one asking about others. He had so little to say and so much to hear. Always looking for the next place to help someone out.
From the hospital bed he would call some of you and say ” I just wanted to see how you were doing” He called Patty Strong on the anniversary of Dick Strong’s death to check in on her…. He wasn’t even conscience on the day Dick Strong passed away – he was in the hospital himself. He somehow remembered the day and called to check in.
From a hospital bed – He checked in.
Think about that for a minute in an era when we rarely check in – he never stopped.
That’s who he was at his core… the man who checked in. Never with a lot of words, but always with a strong message.
In 2005 my father first started to get sick to where I actually took notice. I bought this book called “Between you and me, Dad” There were questions for him to fill in and true to his way as a man of little words, some of the questions he answered with 1 or 2 words leaving many pages completely blank.
Here are some things you might not know about him – Growing up he wanted to be a priest – Then he wanted to be a businessman – He knew for sure he had no interest in working in the steel plant – Those things though, they don’t matter as much compared to what else he wrote in this book. In this book in as few words as possible are the same lessons he taught us with a life time worth of examples.
I wanted to touch on a few things he taught me and Mark and the man he was for my Mother.
I Learned how to fight -One of the questions in the book asks What characteristics do you and I share now? “stubbornness and persistence” is all he wrote- No explanation. Over the past few years I learned what this means. He took every single medical condition you could throw at someone and fought on.
Luekemia? Check. Diabetes? Check. Open heart surgery? Check. Stroke? Check. Kidney failure? Check. Loss of eye sight? Check. Amputation? Check. Check. Check. Check. He fought.
He would go to work while going through chemo and bring a bucket with him so when he needed to puke he didn’t have to leave his desk. In an era where most of us justify a day off of work with a headache, he carried around a puke bucket and never even mentioned it to anyone.
On day 6 of hospice care- The day they told us he would be gone by, April our nurse was helping him drink some juice. He should have been asleep or passed already. He looked at her, and yelled “let go” and took the drink with his own hands. Shoulda been dead – was drinking apple juice on his own. On day 9 he was still at the breakfast table – even if he was telling us to go f ourselves as we tried to give him his pills. On day 11 everyone came to say goodbye. On day 12 he left – when he was ready. Twice as long as they said. Just like everything he did- It was on his terms.
The list went on and on. So did his fight. He never gave up. He just flirted with the nurses and constantly told jokes.
He fought. With honor, class and humor till his last day.
We learned to complain less – It wasn’t until about a year ago that I ever heard my dad complain. Through everything, he always said things like “I’ve been worse” or “i’m still looking down at my feet” which became funny when he didn’t have any feet anymore.
I think he knew if you spent today complaining about yesterday it wouldn’t help make tomorrow any better.
I learned from my father how to be a father. These lessons apply to future fathers – fathers of young kids and fathers of adults.
- Put your kids even more first than first. I can’t imagine the times or things he must have given up so he could be there for mark and myself. He was at every event. Every concert. Every party. Every track meet. He missed nothing. I cannot think of one single important moment in our lives that he was not there for.
- Every time I left to go back to college, after mom would hug me he would shake my hand, say “drive safe” and hand me a 20 dollar bill with no other words attached to it. 20 Bucks at Fredonia went a long way on a Thursday night – Thanks Dad!
- My father called my mother upset from work one day- He had been going through his wallet and looking at all of our photos from when we grew up – He called her crying saying “they don’t need me anymore” which of course was not true – but also is a sign that he did a great job.
- Every decision he made was made for either his children or his wife.
- Part of being a great father is reminding your dumb kids to always call their mother. Every single important day to my mom would be preceded by a phone call from my father “Don’t forget to call your mother for” (insert day) valentines, birthday, anniversary, holiday etc. Always making sure we didn’t forget her.
- Always forgive. Im not sure what Mark or I could have done to not get his forgiveness. Everything we did was forgiven. Always, no matter our age.
- The single greatest lesson a man can show his children is how much he loves his wife. You will hear about this in a minute because that man loved that woman with every piece of his soul.
So yes we learned how to love from him. This was perhaps the easiest thing to learn. Love is so little about words, and so much about actions, this man of few words was a man of consistent actions.
What did we learn from Patrick Eagan about love?
- Put your wife first (yes, even before your children who were first). I never in any interaction with anyone ever heard my father not take my moms side. He would call after any argument I had with her, and no matter how RIGHT I thought I was he would say “call your mother, fix this” I would be exasperated WHAT? I would break in to my argument to explain MY side…He would cut me off “Damnit Eric, just do it”. He took her side. always. With family issues, with friend issues, with her wants and with her needs. He took her side. He never stopped doing that. The last time I spoke him alone (Jan 27th) he made me promise to be there for mom – to take care of her. Always putting his wife first.
- In this book I brought him there are questions that prove my dads understanding of love 1. what do you remember most about being a kid? Answer: “Meeting your mom” 2. What are some of the favorite things you did as a kid? Answer:“Dating your mother” 3. What kind of student were you? Answer :”I went to night school for college because I was working to support your mom, mark and you” 4. What were your teenage dating years like do you remember your first date? Answer: “It was with your mom” 5. What was your dream when you were a kid? Answer? ” I wanted to move out of the projects- go to college, marry your mom, buy a house and live a long happy life” 6. When did you meet my mom? Answer: “My mother was your mothers brownie leader. We met at our house. It was raining. The date was March 6th, 1960. Your mom and I have been together since fourth grade. There was never. Anyone. Else. I. Was. Interested. In. I always planned to marry her. Someday I hope you meet a girl who makes you as happy as your mom makes me.” Mission accomplished Dad.
We learned all these things about life and about illness and fighting, but we also learned how to live though – Through all of this he never stopped living. He was so FULL of life. Every story you will hear or have heard is about his life. Not about his death. That will be his legacy so let me tell you a few stories about his living.
If you ask Sheila what her favorite memory of my dad is. I can think of a few things other than the silly jokes and perserverence that she might bring up.
One of our favorite stories is from our wedding night
At our wedding I had just ordered a pitcher of beer to drink at the head table during dinner. No one else could get beer because weddings are stupid and they close the bar during dinner But the bar is not closed to the bride and groom…. My dad knew this, watched them deliver the fresh pitcher, walked up to us, balanced his cane across the head table and picked up the pitcher and chugged almost the entire damn thing. All without a word. Then he said “Thanks” and walked back to his table. What a way to start what turned about to be an incredible party.
We learned how to be men – Not necessarily the macho comacho tough guy, “man”. I mean how to be a man. The “When to admit when you are wrong” kind of man. One thing he wrote about in this book was that I had not yet learned how to compromise to get my point across. Basically saying to me that you can be right, and you can be stubborn, but being both right and stubborn won’t make anyone think you are a better man.
So now for some advice that I took from all of the above and hang on because you might not love everything I have to say, but that’s alright because today isn’t about you –
It’s about a man who taught us the lessons we all need to be reminded of from time to time.
Fight, But when you fight, fight for the right things – Life, love, friends and family.
Complain only if you have it worse than anyone else- And someone else always has it worse.
If you are fortunate enough to have kids – Shut your damn mouth and put them first. Once you have had children you have one job. Make their lives and future better than yours.
“Selfish parents create selfish kids.” he used to say.
Love and love hard. Love with your soul. Love the person you married with everything you have, and I mean everything. Do not cheat. Do not lie. Love. You took vows when you got married, honor the shit out of them and then when things get tough, honor them even more. My parents have been together since March 6th, 1960.
Life is not easy. Your relationships will not be easy. Love will not always be easy. But you should honor it the same way these two did. They showed us love. The least we can do is prove we learned something from it.
I could have saved everyone in here 15 minutes of your time if I had just read the final paragraph he wrote to me in this book. So I will end with it instead.
“Always, always keep your sights on your goals. Be honest. Respect other people. Do your job to the best of your ability. Your name is what people will remember – Good or Bad. So do your best to make it a good memory. When you do find a girl you want to spend the rest of your life with – Treat her with love and respect. Always be honest. Lies kill relationships. Always remember I will always be here for you. Love Dad.”
I love you too Dad, thanks for the lessons, you were the best teacher I ever had.