Cheeseburger Gothic

Eulogy

Posted June 30 by John Birmingham

Many of you will already know that my dad passed away last week after long and terrible illness. I wrote about him for BT, but this is a more personal tribute that I'd like to leave here. The eulogy I gave at his funeral:

An old folk saying has it that when a father dies it feels as though half the sky has fallen. This speaks the truth of it.

Our father was the sheltering sky, the wide vessel of our universe.

Beneath his mild firmament no storm ever raged, no hard rain fell. His nature was as gentle as the fallen world is harsh.

All our lives he was both counterpoint and bastion against the trespasses of ill fate and the predations of the ill-intended.

Dad was a gentleman in the literal sense of the word. A gentle man. I don’t recall him ever raising his voice, let alone a hand against anyone. And I am sure we gave him ample reason.

I know the world did.

I have two memories, separated by ten years, but bound together by my father’s hand.

As a boy of five I am walking home from school attended by the grey phantoms of misery and fear. I know that up ahead a bully waits in ambush, as he has waited for me every day, to drink deeply from the intoxicating well of the terror he inspires.

This day is no different, until it is, for when my tormentor suddenly appears, so too does dad, unbidden, unexpected and unhoped for in my abject woe. He made things right. Where before I had slunk along beneath lowering clouds, I could now unfold myself, stand up and fear no more. For there he was, like the sky, gentle blue and mild and infinite, forever watching over me.

Ten years later and I am running home from school. I am covered in bruises and welts, given me by a poor excuse for a man, a Christian brother, who’s own poor excuses and wretched justifications for his behaviour will not spare him the prison cell he will soon occupy for much graver wrongs than he ever did me.

Soon. But not soon enough for dad.

While I do not ever recall him raising a fist in anger, I do believe he would have done so that day had circumstance placed him in the path of this bloke. He knew how to raise a fist. He was a boxer in his younger days. But he unmade his fists when he married and raised children. He effected my rescue, again, as he effected all things in his life. Quietly, simply and with a faith in the rightness of what he must do.

He was a man of strong faith, but gentle nature, and he could no more betray his faith or nature than the sky itself could fall.

It is only now he is gone, that we look up and find half the sky gone with him.

It is customary upon days such as this that we take the measure of a man by recounting his works and listing his victories, public and private, great and small. Dad had all of these, but what he did counts for so much less than who he was. Husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

To everyone he loved, he was the sheltering sky.

You were safe beneath his gentle light and warmth. It feels as though half the sky has fallen, but that cannot be. If you look up it is there. It is always there. Like dad.

35 Responses to ‘Eulogy’

Dave W puts forth...

Posted June 30
Thank you for sharing this with us, John.

My words are not up to the challenge. I feel like all I have is cliches, and that's not what I want to say.

All my best wishes.
Dave

Respond to this comment

Bondiboy66 mutters...

Posted June 30
I too say thanks for sharing the eulogy. My deepest condolences to you and your family for your heartfelt loss.

Respond to this comment

dunnandrus ducks in to say...

Posted June 30
Vale.

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted June 30
Money is free but love costs more than our bread
And the ceiling is hard to reach
When my son is a man he will know what I meant
I was just trying to leave something behind
I was just trying to leave something behind

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted June 30
I hope you're happy. You made me cry in a burger joint.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted June 30
Turn about is fair play, mate.

Respond to this thread

Surtac mutters...

Posted June 30
Lovely words, John.

Again, my condolences.

Respond to this comment

David Shapcott mutters...

Posted June 30
Thanks John. My father Bob Shapcott passed away in October and so much of what you have written could have applied to him. He was an Ipswich lad. Maybe it is something about this town. It seems to breed big quiet gentlemen in the truest sense of the word. It also breed a cheeky sense of humour. Though dad spent nearly 20 years dying from strokes dementia and assorted ailments he was a larakin until the end.

Respond to this comment

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted June 30
A couple of sets of really emotionally thinky words, three if you count Boylan's.

Respond to this comment

pi mutters...

Posted June 30
Sorry for your and your familys loss JB. My condolences.

Respond to this comment

FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted June 30
Man. That's undone me for the end of the week. I must have missed the various other notices. I'm heading to the pub before i catch the bus home. I'll have a beer for your dad and one for mine.

Respond to this comment

Jim KABLE mumbles...

Posted June 30
John: Short - and oh, so sweet - your words re you father. Pause for further thought - for me. Your good fortune to have had your father for so long. Clive James never got to see his; Germaine Greer's returned from war a stranger. As for me - it's a kind of conundrum I've spent much of my life trying to figure out. My father was a passenger - killed in a car accident - the car driven by his favourite big brother who survived. Coming down the then unsealed slope into Willow Tree. The place forever marked for me by the peppercorn trees. I was just two. No conscious memories of him - though there are some remarkable memories from just after that disappearance from my life.

When at home from work he carried me around - refusing to place me into the outreaching arms of aunts - not so usual in those far-off days for men to take charge. It was a warming image when my mother told me this a mere decade or so ago. He was a remarkable sketcher of portraits, he wrote love poetry to my mother - some were rendered into songs - he played an array of instruments - harmonica, piano and piano accordion, trumpet and violin and guitar - he was an energised powerhouse - in the surf, in the mountains - plucky is a word which springs to mind.

And not having him alongside during my years of growing up was a loss - in your terms, John - of the entire sky. And I have spent much of my life - especially from age 11 searching the world to flesh him out. I visited him just two weeks ago - he lies in the cemetery at Quirindi. A communion of sorts takes place each time I call on him - as you might imagine. Anyway, John - I found very moving your eulogy - just wishing, as I read it, that I had had a similar kind of chance to do likewise for my father! Thank-you.

Respond to this comment

StevetheH ducks in to say...

Posted June 30
John, that sent me into tears.
Now I'm remembering my nan.
She held up half the town I lived in - not just with food, but love.

It's the departure of the gentle ones that hits us most.

Take care mate - hugs from all of us

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted June 30
Beautiful photo, John. That's your son I'm assuming. So much love.

Respond to this comment

CathieT puts forth...

Posted June 30
No words.

(Hug)

Respond to this comment

jl puts forth...

Posted June 30
Requiesce in pace.

Jason

Respond to this comment

Kerry reckons...

Posted July 1
Beautiful

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted July 1
My thoughts go out to you and your family.

H.

Respond to this comment

Trent mutters...

Posted July 2
John,

A beautiful tribute to what sounds like a wonderful man. Can feel your pain and admiration in your words.

Hope you are doing ok. Time doesn't heal all wounds but it does make them a bit easier to live with as each day passes.

Respond to this comment

pedrogb swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 2
Sorry for your loss.

Respond to this comment

jason mutters...

Posted July 3
Your loss reminded me that we should never leave our words of love and praise unspoken. I have been negligent in not telling my daughters how proud i am of them
(and i truly am, they have already exceeded my dreams for them). I am sure they always knew it but now they are sure. Sadly I am still not sure how to tell my parents how grateful I am for everything they have done for me. It's not the way in my family.

Respond to this comment

Therbs mutters...

Posted July 4
Respect

Respond to this comment

Gilligan asserts...

Posted July 4
Beautiful words that somehow coincided with the office getting all dusty.

Much love to you and yours, good sir.

Respond to this comment

Oldy ducks in to say...

Posted July 5
Beautiful words, John. Thanks for sharing them.

Respond to this comment

Dirk asserts...

Posted July 5
Hang in there my friend.
D

Respond to this comment

Aaron Campagnone has opinions thus...

Posted July 5
I feel for your loss. We are not friends, we are not even acquaintances, but still I feel I know you through your writing and your blogs. I lost my mother 8 years ago now, and so I understand the grief and pain you feel, that your family feels. I will tell you one thing I learned over the last 8 years. Its a hard lesson, but it is one that has brought me peace. It does get better. People will say, the hurt will go away...it does not. It always hurts to think of your missing parent. What does change is that the pain lessens. It takes time, but you will be able to look back on your memories with a smile. I know that for the first months any thought of mother nearly broke me, but over time, I was able to look back on the good times, the fun times, the little things that make a person laugh, and you will be able to do that again as well. While time does not heal all wounds, it gives them scar tissue and does dull the pain. Give yourself that time, and focus on the good, the happy, the fun times.

Respond to this comment

Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted July 6
Beautiful. You were very blessed to have him, JB.
Please accept our condolences for your loss.
xxxx

Respond to this comment

Dave C mutters...

Posted July 6
I'm very sorry for your loss, John. He sounds like a hell of a Dad. I have no doubt that the world was richer for his presence, and shall be poorer in his absence. Like ripples from a stone tossed in a pond, though, the positive effects from one good man can spread far and wide, and span generations.
Best wishes.

Respond to this comment

Brother PorkChop reckons...

Posted July 6
Sorry John. I've been away and am very sorry to hear. Lovely words. Its coming up to 10 years since my Dad left us and I feel it every day.

Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted July 6
Someone put me on to an essay by CS Lewis called A Grief Observed. I don't know if you've heard of it but it helped.

Respond to this thread

AuntyLou has opinions thus...

Posted July 6
I have been wondering what to say to you. We don't know each other but my feelings for you in this time are sincere. I lost my mum some years ago and I will miss her forever. She was my best friend and we buried her the day before I married my sweetie. Hard? Yes, but she will always be with me. John, your dad will be with you always. In the quiet moments...in the times when you are unsure...when you need his steadfast wisdom or kindness - I think you will find those things in yourself. Keep making him proud.

Respond to this comment

Unpossible asserts...

Posted July 7
Touching pair of stories.

I hope that your old man was in a good state when you published the dave trilogy.

One of Dave's worst stories was how he handled the kid who bullied his son.

It seems like that story was modelled on the exact thing your dad didn't do.

Respond to this comment

damian ducks in to say...

Posted July 9
Very much share your feeling here. My grandfather, similarly, modeled this form of kind, gentle but nonetheless strong as iron masculinity for me. He passed 3 years ago last Wednesday, at 89, so I suppose they're not quite the same generation, but clearly there's a similar background ethic.

I personally can't abide men who display their masculinity as a sort of presumptuous arrogance, the notion that "a gentleman knows what he wants". The ideal version of masculinity doesn't really even have the words "I want" in its vocabulary. It has the commitment to work hard your whole life to make things right for your kids, or even without the kids just to make things right. The acknowledgement that thankless tasks are still worth doing, that leaving a slightly better world behind is its own reward.

Even that gentleness is its own reward.

jason mutters...

Posted July 10
The greatest compliment I have ever been paid was by my wife who told me when I deal with my kids I remind her of Atticus Finch.

I always saw him as the perfect role model. Gentle and caring not boastful but strong and powerful in protecting others.

Respond to this thread

matt everitt would have you know...

Posted July 11
beautiful words John, thank you for sharing your heart.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Eulogy'

Follow along with RSS