Friday, May 7, 2010

Post 1221 – Eulogy for my Father

The following is the eulogy I delivered for my father earlier today.  I hope you like it.  I managed to deliver the eulogy without crying, by the way. 

Let me know what you think.


My Dad

Cecil David Keddy was born in Forest Home, Nova Scotia, on June 4th, 1931. My brother got his middle name from Dad's first name. I got mine, from his middle name. Never mind where the “Beverly” came from.

I learned a lot from my father. I learned you should always say “Please” and “Thank You”. You always take your shoes off when you enter someone's house. You always make an effort to be presentable. When someone from the hospital came to the house to discuss my father's condition, back in December, he took off his shoes. Points there. But he had a hole in the toe of his sock, and he lost all credibility with me.

I learned that the poor man will always pay, and the rich man will always have excuses not to. But, you still have to be nice to the rich ones because they can make your life miserable.

I learned not to give a flying fig about sports from my father. One time, years and years ago, we tried watching Hockey Night in Canada together. After 20 minutes of the game, which I hear they call a “period”, we looked at each other and admitted that we didn't care what those people were doing on the ice, and why they were chasing that black round thing like their lives depended on it, so he got me to walk over to the tv and change the channel to something much better (because we only had two channels and either my sister or I would be the remote control). Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling.

Dad's ability to remember dates always astounded me. For example, when we managed to get him to visit our Pictou County cottage in 2006, we had to go into New Glasgow to get some things. Instantly, he said, “I haven't been to New Glasgow since I had to deliver a load of potatoes there in 1947!” If you say so, Dad. He could tell you what year he built what house, and who had owned it over the years, sometimes to the present day,

Dad did a lot of pro bono work. One time, he was doing some work at the Legion here in Kentville. He noticed that there was no washroom for people in wheelchairs. He asked why, and was told that they had no budget to install one. Dad spoke with his co-worker, and they decided to donate their labour to build such a washroom. The Legion was so grateful that they made Dad and Paul members of the legion, and gave them lifetime subscriptions to the Legion magazine. Dad always took the time to look at the magazine every month. You can stop sending them now.

I will never forget the time when I was riding my bike home from a baseball game in Port Williams. The rear derailer broke, and the chain fell off. I had to push the bike home in the dark, on Sutton Road, back before it was paved. I got home late. Dad saw my bike and the mood I was in. I thought he might be mad at me, but he wasn't. The next night, when he got home from work, he beckoned me outside. There, on the front lawn, was a brand-new 10-speed bicycle! I was in Heaven. I knew even then that that money had come from somewhere, perhaps for something that my parents needed for themselves, and I appreciated it. Thank you, Dad.

I will also never forget the first time I got drunk, and my dad's reaction to it. We were visiting my Uncle Bob one evening in August of 1978. I was 14. It was a Sunday, so it would have been the sixth, thirteenth, twentieth, or twenty-seventh.  I'm sorry, Dad. That's the best I can do. Anyway, somehow I got into Bob's homemade apple cider, and it was mighty tasty.

I had more and more of this delicious nectar. I began to act silly; or, rather, more silly than I do by default. The look on my mother's face! My father said nothing. When we got home later that evening, Dad took me aside, shook his finger at me, and said, “No more drinkin', boy!” There was no “g” in “drinking”, so I knew he meant business. I was scared to death. Dad, in the past 32 years, I have not had a single, solitary drop of alcoholic apple cider. And, I promise all of you right now that I never, ever will.

Dad taught me lessons, even when he didn't know he was teaching me anything. When I got my first job in Halifax in 1988, I continued to go home most every weekend. I usually took home my laundry for my mother to wash for me. Yeah. I know. I took these dirty clothes home in a garbage bag. I'd return to the city Sunday evening with a garbage bag full of clean and folded laundry.

One of Dad's favourite snacks was prunes. He relished them. He would spit the pits into a garbage bag in the kitchen.

You know where this is going, don't you?

One Sunday evening, I returned to my apartment in Dartmouth and unloaded the garbage bag of clothes that my mother had prepared for me. There were ... things sticking to the clothes. Upon closer examination, I discovered that they were prune pits. Dad, it seemed, had spat the prune pits into my laundry bag, I hope in error. That was the last time I took my dirty clothes home. Dad had taught me to fend for myself, and he didn't even know it!

I'll tell you something about my dad that you didn't know, guaranteed. I'll tell you only if you promise not to tell anybody. Do we have a deal? OK. Dad loved to watch “Dancing with the Stars”. He would call me in Halifax during the commercial breaks and say something like, “That was some good dance. I like that feller!” He could never remember the names of the celebrities on that show. Come to think of, neither could I. I have always called it, “Dancing with the Guy Who Used to be on that Show”

Dad also liked country music. His favourites were Wilf Carter, Hank Snow (two Nova Scotia boys!), and Johnny Cash.

Dad never hesitated to show us the ropes: How to build things, how to fix things. But he gave up on me. I was a lost cause. By the time I was in my teens I was such a klutz, so inept, that he began steering me away from his line of work over to office work. “Don't be a carpenter!”, he would say to me, over and over. I took this as a sign that the handyman life was not for me. But it is a big regret of mine that I didn't pay attention to those lessons when he was around to provide them. I'm still a klutz and inept when it comes to working around the house. Be quiet, Patricia.

Dad always valued the importance of an education, even though he was not a learned man himself. “Once you get it up here”, he'd say, tapping the side of his head, “they can't take it away from you.”

Dad loved to joke, and some of those jokes were good ones that I never got to see. He did a lot of work for this funeral home, as well as at Cyril's friendly competition up the street. I think it was there, not here, where Dad, as legend had it, would hide in a coffin and frighten his men as they walked past. This was verified to me last weekend by Dad's good friend of 55 years, Merrill Ward. Thanks for that confirmation, Merrill.

Dad loved his oxen, which he always called Lion and Bright, no matter which set of oxen he had at the moment. They were his only luxury. He loved showing them off in competitions. One time, in the early 1990's, a friend of his arranged for Dad to participate in an ox pull in Dartmouth at a pub, which I think was the Ship Victory. I drove over to be with him. The mayor of Dartmouth at the time was John Savage, and he showed up and met Dad. I think Dad knew who he was, but because he treated everybody pretty much the same, he was not awestruck by being in the presence of a major politician. He just shook John Savage's hand, excused himself, and tended to his oxen. They were more important. He wanted to deal with ox shit, not bullshit.

Dad was so excited to learn he was going into the Shannex facility in Greenwich. He actually had a few good days there before he got so sick again. They provided such excellent care and I know he appreciated it.

Dad always worried about us, even though he had taught us, and expected us, to be independent. I am so independent that I would do my own root canal if they would let me, and then only charge myself half what my dentist would. I don't know why he worried so much about us, but he did. We worried about him, too, especially toward the end. But Dad never lost that glint in his eye, not even when we saw him and said goodbye to him Monday evening. Dad was Dad until the very end.

If there's something that I want you to remember from the few minutes I've been up here, it's that Cecil David Keddy was a lot of things to a lot of people. To Mom, he was her husband for 57 years. To me, and Gayle and Glenda, and Ernie, he was Dad. To Eric, he was “Cease”. To Maggie, he was “Grampy Cecil”. To Patricia, he was, “Hey, Buddy!”. None of us will ever forget him. He meant the world to us.

Rest in peace, Dad, Cease, Grampy Cecil, Buddy. You've earned your sleep.


Ken said...

Your Dad is looking down on you very proudly, Bev. A wonderful tribute to a very special man! Excellent job!

Unknown said...

Wow! Your best writing yet but you had a great subject... a very special man with a special son!

Well done ...

BusyMum said...

Great job Bev!!

Glenda said...

Thanks for this very fitting tribute to our dad.

Candace said...

That was beautiful. I wish I had a dad as great as yours.

deboss1 said...

I regret not having been there to hear you present this. I'm already in tears.