Today I am celebrating my son Luc’s 17th birthday and marking the anniversary of my father’s death. Fifteen years ago, today, he passed on my son’s second birthday. A powerful reminder that we are all a part of this circle of life.
I’m so proud of the young man Luc has become. He’s an independent, smart, and thoughtful person and is just starting the process of considering colleges to visit. As his dad, I’m excited to see where life leads him, what turns he’d make down an unseen road. I think about that someday, when Luc will be confronted with losing me and I wonder what I’d say to prepare him.
Fifteen years ago, when I was coming to terms with losing my dad, deep in grief and overwhelmed by the loss of his presence, I flashbacked on something my father always told me the night before he would travel.
The first time this happened, I was eleven years old and he was flying to Mexico City. We sat in the living room and he said, “Son, in the event something happens to me, the plane goes down and I was to die tomorrow, remember this: I’ve lived a full and wonderful life. My greatest gift was marrying your mother and being your dad. I consider myself the luckiest man in the world. And when you get sad, hold my words in your mind and you’ll be okay.”
My dad was trying to prepare me for the reality of this circle of life. And indeed, his words stayed with me. Both in the darkest of hours and in the brightest of days.
I’ve thought a lot about how to share these words of comfort with Luc. How to keep the connection of this circle going through me to him. I remembered two other things that brought us immeasurable meaning and closure.
One was that I got to say everything I wanted to my dad and got to ask him everything I wanted to ask during the last few months of his life. The second thing was, I had the privilege of giving his eulogy and felt it captured and honored his life.
My dad lived to be 83, and I’m grateful for each and every one of those years. But no matter the age a parent dies, it’s always too soon.
Today, as a way of actively remembering my dad on the anniversary of his death, and to pass on the baton to Luc at 17, I want to share the eulogy I gave at his service and some photos on this day of remembrance.
On November 10th, my father was peacefully called to join his father Frank Sr., his mother Genevieve and sister Marge. Even though my family had time to adjust to the news that he was very ill and would not recover, the reality of him actually leaving us was incredibly hard. The fact that my son’s second birthday came on the same day as my father’s passing pushed my emotions even harder. While on the one hand it was almost unbearably bittersweet, it also demonstrated the beautiful synchronicity of “The circle of life.”
And in the mist of all this emotion, I faced a daunting responsibility. As the eldest, I knew I would be doing the eulogy and somehow during the days leading up to the funeral I wanted to find a way for all of us to spend these last moments with my Dad before saying our final goodbyes here today.
Anyone who has stood up and given a eulogy knows how difficult it is…
You want to find the right words, and you want to do a really good job…
And you hope you can make it all the way through.
Looking for some inspiration I found this eloquent definition of a eulogy from poet laureate Andrew Morton — he wrote:
“The eulogy is the moment at which the deceased is brought close, and a time when he or she steps away. It is at once a greeting and a letting go.”
The word ‘greeting’ struck a note with me — in the course of my brothers and sister putting together the newspaper tribute “The Beddor Times” for my parents 50th anniversary this past June, I had read where my Aunt Bea remembered first getting to know the Beddor’s when she was dating Uncle Bill. She remembered the Beddor brothers showing up in their convertible and Dad saying, “COME ON ALONG WITH US!”
The phrase was so outgoing and so full of promise and adventure and generosity — so completely mid-century America that it stuck with me — and I came to see it as Dad’s way of seeing life, business, friends and family. Because no matter what he thought up to go do, waterskiing down the Mississippi, gambling in the basement of The Tub, scuba diving in Cozumel, drinking Christmas Lake punch while leading a Jog-a-thon, racing at Brainerd, or traveling around the world to China to build a school for families living in a cave, it was always, “COME ON ALONG WITH US.”
And people did…a lot of them. They jumped out of planes, scuba dived at night, skied water and snow, drove fast, built businesses, and hiked up a narrow mountain path deep in the south of China, because Dad had said, “COME ON ALONG WITH US.” And so many have told me that they never would have done these things without Frank Beddor, and they will always be grateful for Dad inviting and sometimes convincing them with his customary enthusiastic sales pitch, “Just try it…it’ll be fun.”
And you know he really meant every single invitation he ever extended because for Dad the reason for doing anything was the fun of having everyone he loved doing it with him. But he loved one above all others and he said to her, “COME ON ALONG WITH ME!” and for fifty beautiful years my Mom did! My Dad will be terribly missed, our family is heart broken, yet we take comfort in knowing his life was “A Life Well Lived” and after all, isn’t that what we all hope for, “A Life Well Lived.”
And now I suspect a lot of you, like my family, are thinking who will call out to us to Come Along now? And more importantly who will send the memos?
Well it’s our turn now to extend the invitations and dream the dreams that will bring us together. It’s our turn to call out “COME ON ALONG WITH US” so Dad will hear and know when we’re about to do something crazy or generous or carefree, that he can Come Along Too. Because his spirit lives on in all of us!
Thanks a Million, Dad!