I was privileged to give the eulogy at my father’s funeral recently. Here is part of it.

 

It’s good to see so many friends of Dad here. Thank you for your support over the past days and weeks.

Dad was a great sportsman: he was involved in athletics, rugby and Australian Rules football; swimming; tennis; boxing; and he learned some ju jitsu from a mate in the RAAF. He played pool and snooker, and was a keen golfer for several years. He played drums and guitar. After his first wife, my mother, died, he taught himself to cook more than a barbecue, and many people have enjoyed the variety of recipes he made.

The sport he enjoyed most of all was target shooting. He began with rifles, from .22s to 7.62s and 5.56s. His skill is best described by the fact that he could hit a twelve-inch target – about the size of a human torso – at 900 yards (that’s almost 1.5 kilometres) without using a scope.

When Dad was first diagnosed with cancer in 2006, he had a port installed in his right shoulder to make it easier to deliver the medication for chemotherapy. This made it difficult for him to use rifles, so he took up handguns: revolver and pistols. Even being short-sighted and with the effects of chemotherapy – numbing his fingers and toes – he could still shoot better than some people with full faculties. He was still shooting when he could, up to about three weeks ago, when he came first in his grade.

That’s a quick biography of Dad. What was he like as a person? He was a private man: he didn’t like conflict but he wasn’t afraid to stand up for his mates or for what was right. He was a loyal friend: when a friend and workmate of his was falsely accused of misconduct, and Dad stood up for him, even risking his job.

He was also very accepting of other people. Kathy is very grateful for how he accepted her children as his own.

He was strong, determined and persevering: he started smoking at 14, and quit at 40. Nothing worked – even laser acupuncture – until, through a group called Smoke-enders and the reward of a proper shooting jacket he promised himself, that he successfully quit smoking. Although, even 20 years later, he said he still craved a cigarette about two in the afternoon.

He was a man of many talents and skills, but he never blew his own horn – he was a drummer after all. I only found out a few years ago that he used to play tennis. He taught me to catch and clean a fish, to service a car, to sharpen a knife. He also taught me to shoot but I was never as good as he was.

As I said, he was a great sportsman, and he particularly enjoyed watching football and cricket. But he always put his family first. He took care of mum as she was dying of cancer, and of Kathy when her migraines took over. He worked shift so his family could have a good education, and we never lacked anything. Not only through providing for us, but also in his free time, he would spend time with us – coaching a teeball team, making things – a treehouse, billy-cart, a study desk – and coming to our sporting events: gymnastics, teeball, football, and ice-skating.

As well as being generous with his time and skills, he was also generous with money. I’ve said that he wasn’t one to blow his own trumpet – and I only found out this morning that he was a strong supporter of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

I believe the measure of a worthwhile, successful life is not how much you get but how much you give to others; by how much you sacrifice for the people you love. By that measure his life has been both worthwhile and successful, and it will continue to be as long as we remember Dad’s life and what he shared with us.

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