Monday, October 12, 2009


The Memorial Service turned out to be more of a blessing than I could have hoped for. The family wanted everyone to wear Hawaiian attire. I was fixated on being sad and sat on my bed for a long time trying to figure out something I could wear. Nothing seemed right. Then, I started laughing, as I remembered the big floppy hat we bought in Maui when I was pregnant with my daughter. My friend T had also just sent me a beautiful dress that would also be lovely. It wasn't at all what I would normally wear to a funeral, but it was airy and bright, and I enjoyed getting ready.

I picked up my grandmother and enjoyed our ride together. Normally, I hate driving. But we had a nice visit. She told me some stories about Dick and my grandfather that I had not heard before.

The music at the service was beautiful, but the stories were just amazing. I had always sort of seen Dick as sort of this goofy, but helpful guy at church. I had written up something to give to his family, which I will share in a minute, but the stories I heard about him during his service blew me away.

First of all, I had no idea he was a PhD. Secondly, he had adopted 2 girls as babies and raised them. One was later killed in an accident, as was his wife, I believe. He was a high school counselor and took in what looked to be about 10 other high school kids, making sure that each of them finished school. Several of them spoke. One said this, "There have been only three people I could count on and believe in in my life: God. My grandmother. And Dick." She went on to say that Dick had been the only father she had ever known in her life.

Another story that caught my attention was about him helping a single mother who I know in our church. When she moved from Hawaii, her daughter had trouble with the lack of diversity in the school where they lived. So he drove all the way from his house to theirs every morning (about 15-20 minutes) and then back to his school (at least half an hour) - EVERY MORNING - FOR A YEAR - until she graduated from high school. That really humbled me, given all my grumbling lately about driving my own children.

His dedication to children and to education really inspired me, and I was really, really glad, that I made it to his service.

And now, for what I wrote beforehand, about what he had contributed to my life.

The first time I remember seeing Dick, he was singing at a funeral. It was Wind beneath your Wings and he was rather off key. I was a teenager at a funeral for one of my grandparents friends with my family. My sister and I sat next to each other and giggled a little bit.

Growing up around a perfectionist musician father was in some ways excruciating for me. I never felt I was good enough, but I was also very hard on other people. Every single note stuck out to me, even when a professional sang.

But Dick did not seem to mind a bit. In fact, he sang out strongly and vibrantly. And in the years I later heard him sing, what I later came to appreciate was his total enjoyment of singing and his willingness to always step forward to do it.

In everything I had tried to do in my life, I had tried to do it perfectly. In fact, I didn't really think I sang good enough anymore so I had given it up almost completely in college. But my life seemed to not be working anymore and I went back to the church my grandparents had gone to for over 30 years.

At first it was hard. I could barely walk into the sanctuary without tearing up. I'm not sure why I had such an emotional response. But one thing that always made my journey back easier was Dick. I was often alone, or rather without a man, which is what I was brought up to consider being alone. And, I had two young children with me who were always rather restless. But every Sunday that we made it, Dick always made it a point to come over and say hello and bring some sort of joy to the morning. I don't think he had any idea how lonely or sad I felt in that church, but I was always very happy to see him.

I was very sad to hear of Dicks illness. It seemed too soon for such a vibrant man to go. But the Sparkling Cidar toast and Hawaiian shirt celebration of life service seemed like a perfect way to send off a man who always seemed so full of life and happiness.

I never had a chance to tell Dick what he had meant to me over the years. But I no longer want to try to do everything perfectly. In fact, I might even try to sing again, someday. But I really do feel happy to have known Dick and I smile whenever I think of him.

What I really learned from him was that it's time to give up the idea of perfection and time to embrace living - and living is about the people you touch with your life.

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