This is my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I was so fortunate last year on Father’s Day that he had a “good” day. We talked, joked, watched Drum Corp and he even ate a little of the beef stew he requested. I will forever cherish that day.
Dad left my sister and I a beautiful legacy and last year I wanted to pay tribute to that gift. Giving Dad’s eulogy was the last act I could give to honor him. I was absolutely determined I was going to speak to the family, friends and colleagues that had gathered about the important things our beloved father had taught us. I didn’t want anyone else speaking the words I had written for him. I needed everyone in that room to know from my mouth what a funny and loving Dad he was to my sister and I. Now, as I face my first Father’s Day without him, I want to share with the world the words I spoke the day we buried the man I call my father–David G. Heron.
June 25th, 2014
Dr. Seuss once said, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Today we are all fortunate to have meaningful memories that will keep us smiling and laughing even as we are grieving and hurting. It is through these memories that Tiffany and I will pass onto Abigail what my father taught us about life. As I reflected on those important lessons he left us I realized that even though Tiffany and I received the same lessons we have embraced and practiced them differently and in that it makes the value of what he has left us even more important.
Many of you probably have memories of my father’s humor. He taught Tiffany and me that we have to keep on laughing even through the hardest times. We learned that humor softens bad news, humor makes impossible situations easier to digest, humor helps us to keep perspective and humor, most of all, comes in being able to remember all the fun times we had with Dad. There are some things in life that Tiffany and I will not look at the same way and that will always bring us laughter because of Dad. Here are some of those childhood memories that may seem random but just make us laugh every time. My father ruined Boyz to Men for us when we were younger. He heard it on the radio and immediately called it “belly ache” music and started wailing something awful. The only thing I can hear if they come on a 90’s station now, is my Dad—sounding more like a cat than any kind of belly ache—just singing away. Later he added the most wonderful dance that was just for the 3 of us. But here’s the kicker. When Tiffany and I were sorting through his music this week we found every Boyz to Men CD. It just showed us how important that joke was to him and that’s why we will always remember it. And for both of us anytime we were being forced to do something we didn’t necessarily like he told us, “You’re going and you are going to have fun, fun, fun whether you like it or not.” I can’t wait to use that one on Abigail. But, it will always stay with me that if you can find the humor in a situation you are going to be just fine. Even in his last weeks, he tried to keep us laughing reinforcing how important humor is in hard times.
Dad had a deep love for music. He could talk music all day long whether it is the value of new artists or his love for drum corp. He and Tiffany could talk for hours about different artists and the evolution of rock music from the 60’s onward. The amount of knowledge between the two of them on music still amazes me. It is something special that they shared that was just between the two of them. For me and Dad—it was drum corp. We loved talking about the ranks of the corps each summer as we’d follow their progress and attend shows. He would fuss about how “new school” the corps were becoming and reminisce about the good old days. But there was something deeper to his love for music that Tiffany and I learned from him. For Tiffany she learned that music could be a great place of peace and comfort. For both Tiffany and Dad lyrics and melodies could comfort like home. For me I learned that music is a starting place to connect with people. That at its very base is another language that binds and allows us to explore difficult topics with a common ground as I use it in my college classroom. He taught me that the simplest things can create a bond. And again, he leaves us with powerful memories and a lifelong lesson.
Tiffany and I had an amazing example of what it means to serve your community. Dad served both publicly and quietly over the years to this very community and last night at the funeral home so many of you shared the countless ways Dad worked in the community that we had been unaware of. Thank you for sharing those precious memories. My Dad loved to talk politics and service through political office. These conversations through the years shaped who I wanted to be in that I wanted to do something that served people. Our conversations about service also taught me speak up for injustices I see around me. His service also taught me that I could make a difference. We were both idealists in this way. Even though Dad served publicly, he also did many things in a very quiet way that helped people. For a while before he got sick it seemed he was attending several funerals a week to do the military honors in his capacity as the Commander of the American Legion. Every time we talked to him he’d either be heading to or coming back from a funeral. I asked him one time, “isn’t that hard?” He told me, “No. Those service men and women deserve that recognition and so I go.” He worked tirelessly and passionately with the Legion. It was also the hours he spent making corn soup for this fundraiser or another. And, it was his willingness to do whatever Tiffany and I needed at any time and any moment. He was there for us. But, I’m sure he did the same for many of you. And, it is in this quiet way that Tiffany also serves those around her. She’s not going to be a loud mouth like her older sister, but she will carry on the legacy of service in that quiet way that Dad did. He taught us both about service and we will teach Abigail.
Finally, the single most important legacy and lesson he leaves me and Tiffany is what he taught us about family. For Dad there was nothing more important. From the time we were small he taught us that we stick together—that the only thing that matters in this world is family—that we never let anything separate us. We do not let arguments, bad decisions, distance, money, anger or frustration separate us for good. He taught us that you forgive because he knew he wasn’t perfect and neither were we. And he always forgave us no matter how bad we messed up and we always forgave him. He continually told us that in the end the only thing that will remain is our family. I appreciate that lesson more than ever today as the only thing that has kept us going in this enormous loss is our family.
When I was writing this Tiffany and I made a promise that we would teach Abigail how to laugh through tears, love music, become a servant and most of all cherish her family. His legacy will continue through family and for that I am thankful. We will make sure Abigail understands the core values that were her grandfather.
It broke our hearts to lose you, but you did not go alone. A part of us went with you, the day the Creator took you home. In life we loved you dearly; in death we love you still. In our hearts you hold a place no one could ever fill.
I love you Dad. I miss you Dad. My life will never be the same. Thank you for all you taught me. Happy Father’s Day.