The Memorial Service for Dad was today. What a lovely celebration of his life. Thank you all who came to honor the life of my most wonderful father. And thank you for dressing, as we requested, in bright colors to celebrate life eternal. The Sunnyside staff even met people with a box of Hawaiian leis for people to wear. Dad would have loved it!
Below is the eulogy that I delivered. It was the most difficult speech I have ever given in my life
Eulogy – Compassion and Joy
Thank you all so much for coming here today to honor the life of my father, Howard Davidsmeyer. Dad had a wondrous gift for life, and he lived it abundantly. To me, the two words that best characterize his life are: joy and compassion.
Dad was blessed with a quick wit, a sharp mind, and an unbounding sense of humor. And though I dearly loved him, I have to admit, he could be trouble. Even at the end. Do you know the terrible time we had just trying to find a picture for Dad’s obituary? You try to find a picture of Dad where he wasn’t wearing a funny hat, or carrying a fish purse, or wearing a lobster bib, or clutching some slightly naughty dancing and singing mechanical toy to his breast. This was a man who couldn’t open a present without taking the ribbon from the package and attaching it to the forehead. We have precious few Christmas pictures of Dad without his head being covered with bows. And I love every one of those photos.
JOY was the wonderful gift he gave to our family. We’re a family that laughs together. We even laughed at the funeral home. I’m sure many here have gone through the experience of the Funeral Director trying to UPSELL you, buy extra stuff. In the office, we were surrounded by product displays. When the funeral director asked if we were interested in mini-urns, so all his loved ones can have a bit of his ashes, I started giggling, especially when my brother asked if the mini-urns were what looked like the salt and pepper shakers. We tried not to laugh as she continued listing the products, but when she got to the “eternity lamp”, we lost it. The thought of Dad — who was so non-mechanically inclined that he had trouble changing a lightbulb — the thought of his ashes being interred in a desklamp and spending eternity as an appliance was ludicrous. And then my brother suggested attaching it to a clapper. Hey Dad …. Clap-clap. What can I say – Dad raised a family that just can’t help but laugh.
Dad’s humor could manifest in unusual ways. For instance, when he was Chairman of the Building Committee in New York. The existing church was an early-century home, which would now be connected to the new church building by a long corridor. The renovation utilized classic, conservative earth tones, yet Dad decided to paint the wall on the end of the connecting corridor a bright fluorescent neon red. Oh, my, when the church opened, you should have heard the complaints. All anyone could talk about was that dreadful red wall. Oh, the building was wonderful except for that wall. And no one noticed any other problems, or any imperfections. Dad gave them something to focus all their negativity on, and, when he demurred just before the dedication ceremony, to paint the red wall to match the other colors, then everyone was united in enjoying the beauty of their new, perfect church. He often applied his “red wall theory” to other businesses and endeavors in his life.
Dad was a man of many accomplishments: he was a highly respected businessman, a church leader, a phenomenal athlete, a philanthropist — but above all, he was a devoted family man. He was an awesome dad to me and my brother and sister. And he was my mother’s best and dearest friend.
Perhaps you heard him tell the story of how he met his future bride in the second grade. He said he came home from school that night and declared at the dinner table that he had just met the girl he was going to marry. Well, Mom says that they didn’t actually meet until 8th grade, but the story sounded so good and Dad so loved to tell it, that she never corrected him.
It wasn’t always easy for Mom. As Jarvis mentioned, Howard was a sports enthusiast. Mom spent her life being dragged to every sporting event: NASCAR, baseball, lacross, and, of course, the BUCS games. Dad would go, rain or shine. During one game, a typical Florida afternoon rainstorm started that sent many fans home early. And then the storm turned into a torrential deluge which seemed to clear the stadium of all but eight fans — Mom and Dad among them. Finally, Mom, dripping wet, turned to Dad and said, “You know, I must love you an awful lot to be sitting here through this downpour. But Howard, unless we leave right now, the marriage is over.”
The BUCS were not the end of their marriage, and they enjoyed a blessed 68 years together. Wow… Dad and mom were together 68 years. If you want to know what love truly looks like, then look no farther than Jean and Howard Davidsmeyer. So many people spend their lives looking for their soul mates: my parents were blessed in that they found their perfect match so young: regardless whether it was in the second or the eighth grade.
Dad was devoted to Mom. He once said to me, “she is my joy, my life, my reason for being.” Of course, that didn’t stop Dad from noticing an attractive woman and maybe even flirting. But not to worry, he would say, “I’m like the dog that chases the car: if I caught one, I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
And Dad did like to flirt. He liked to gossip. He liked to do all things that made people smile. Because, most of all, Dad was a kind man. He had compassion for everyone. In his business office at ComDev, he had a sign, a quote from Benjamin Franklin, “When you are good to others, you are best to yourself.” That was the motto of his life, and he applied it in the business world and where ever he went.
He told me once that the truest thing in life that we all had to learn was to simply be kind. The most wonderful thing about kindness is that you can never give too much and you can never be too nice. In all things, big and small, always remember to be kind. That was my Dad, ever ready to help someone, give a thoughtful compliment, offer a heart-warming smile.
At last week’s church service, I was reminded of my father in the reading of the story of the Good Samaritan. At the end, the question is asked, which of these truly acted as a neighbor. The answer: the one who showed compassion. That was my Dad, the one who showed compassion. He truly lived his faith, knowing that wherever you go, whoever is around you, that is your neighbor, and he treated all with neighborly compassion and kindness.
At the end, in the hospital, one of the last things that Mom said to Dad as she kissed him farewell was, “We sure had a fun time, didn’t we?” Looking out into this room filled with so many of Dad’s friends and neighbors, wearing such happy colors, with even a funny hat or two, I know that you shared that same experience of joy with him and were the grateful recipients of his loving kindness.
As we remember Dad, it’s sad to know that we will never again be blessed with the sight of him wearing one of his goofy hats, or laughing giddily over one of his mechanical toys. None of you need a mini-urn to keep his memory alive. His JOY and COMPASSION live on in all his neighbors, friends, and family. Let us all remember that the world was filled with so much more laughter and joy because of a man named Howard Davidsmeyer. So, I would like you all to say farewell to Dad, just as my Mom did. On three, I want you all to say, “Howard, we sure had a fun time, didn’t we?” One, two, three… HOWARD, WE SURE HAD A FUN TIME, DIDN’T WE?
Subscribe to Blog via Email
Jo at Toastmasters District ContestThis is a video of Jo Davidsmeyer competing at the 2010 District 47 Toastmasters Contest for Table Topics. This is an impromptu speech -- you are given a topic that you hear for the first time in front ot the audience, and you must immediately begin speaking. Hope you enjoy it!