In the course of a normal eulogy one would talk about the deceased, tell about their life’s accomplishments and tell a funny story or two about the person.
In trying to write this eulogy about my Dad in that manner it just never seemed right to do it in that way. I literally spent hours struggling with the process. It then occurred to me that I was trying to tell my Dad’s life story when instead I should tell my Dad’s greatest life lessons.
I will indeed cover some points about his life as they were indeed significant but I then I want to move to the most important part of this eulogy which will cover two great life lessons that my Dad taught me in his final days on earth.
My Dad grew up in an extremely poor family. My Dad’s formal education ended somewhere around the fourth grade. Even he would agree that the greatest moment in his life was when he met my Mom. This lifelong partnership lasted fifty-six years.
As to his vocation my Dad became a self-taught musician who played the drums in bands for many years. He was also a self-taught professional photographer that specialized in weddings.
Wanting to do even more with their lives both my mother and my father put themselves through real estate school and founded “DuPont Realty” in North Adams MA. He was once named the Berkshire County Realtor of the year and was also president of the Berkshire County Board of Realtors.
Once my family decided to relocate to Connecticut my father decided to follow his love of music into a new career path as he became a traveling DJ for weddings and events in the area.
As to family my Mom and Dad had two great kids- my sister Candy and I. Undoubtedly I was the favorite child but both of my parents did their best to make it seem like they loved us equally. From there came my wife Deb and Candy’s husband Steve, seven grandchildren and a great grandson as well. With certainty both my Mom and Dad loved all of us greatly and were very proud of us. That is never something that should be left to question.
Later in life my Dad suffered through many years of difficult medical conditions. Throughout that transition into old age my mother was his rock- as she had been at every point in their relationship. He relied upon my mom in so many ways. She was his constant. She was his core. She was his everything.
And then one day she died.
My Mom’s death left a gaping hole in his heart. From that day forward he wore around his neck her crucifix with her wedding ring on the same chain. He refused to remove it even for a second. Even when going in for surgeries he was told that it had to be removed and he would throw such a fit that they always allowed it to stay on him.
The last couple months of my Dad’s life were, simply put, horrible for him due to his medical issues. As it became clear that the end was near Candy and I stayed with him for the last eight days of his life 24/7 in the nursing home. Throughout that time we were able to meet many of the men and women who were his caregivers. Some had known him for years and some for just a short time. All said pretty much the same thing about him. They said that there was something about him that caused them to immediately love him. Then almost always that was followed up with something like “of course there were times when he could be rather difficult but we still loved him.”
And here comes the keeping it real part of the eulogy.
Anyone who really did know my Dad knew that there were also times when he could indeed be a difficult man. My sister Candy dealt with these times in a far better way than I did. Her patience with him during those times was beyond my ability to understand and I really do commend her for that.
Dad and I frequently butted heads and I was far less tolerant of the difficult side of my father. I finally came to the realization that I wasn’t always required to like my father but I was required to love him no matter what- and love him I did. I came to accept that family relationships are not always about Hallmark moments and Norman Rockwell pictures.
But there is a great lesson here for all of us as we sit here today. As the great theologian Yogi Berra once said “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Those eight days that Candy and I spent with our Dad in the nursing home were as absolutely horrible as you could expect. Yet that horror was worth it all for the sake of two moments in time. Two moments in time that served to show God’s grace and mercy not just for my Dad but for Candy and I as well.
As I sat there watching my father die I was of very saddened by what I was watching him go through. Even at that time I was still carrying a certain amount of anger and resentment towards my Dad because of some of our mutual history. It was a terrible conflux of emotions that I was experiencing. Sympathy, sadness and indeed anger and resentment as well.
At that point my Dad could barely speak – doing so in but a whisper at best. Then in one moment, in one moment in time, he tried to speak to me. I leaned close in to hear and he softly said “I’m sorry. Sometimes I’ve made bad choices.”
My Dad was never one to apologize but in that one single moment he was able to wipe away all of the anger and all of the resentment that I had felt towards him. As a Christian when someone offers a sincere apology to you you’re obligated to forgive- and forgive I did. I was able in his last cognitive moments of life to assure him that I did indeed forgive him and that I did indeed love him.
So in his final moments he taught me the great lesson that it’s never too late to apologize to someone you have hurt and in turn it’s never too late to repair relationships.
Beyond personality issues there was always a concern as to if my Dad had a saving faith in God. As a Christian there’s little that saddens you more than imagining someone that you love not having the hope of eternal life in Heaven. Of knowing that you may be deprived of the hope of one day being reunited in Heaven with someone you love- someone like my Dad.
In the final hours of being conscious we did have the chance to talk to Dad about heaven and about faith. About the hope that he could be reunited in heaven with my mom, with Sam, with Aunt Marion and so many others who left this life with what appeared to be a saving faith in Christ.
At one point when we were talking to him about that Candy leaned in close and asked him if he believed that he was a sinner. To that my Dad clearly answered “yes.” She then asked if he believed that Jesus died for his sins to which he clearly answered “yes.” Candy then assured him that was all it took to be assured of entrance to Heaven.
In criminal law there’s something known as a deathbed confession. What this relates to is a confession that is given by a person who knows that they are literally about to die. This is considered sworn testimony that can be used in a court of law. The reason that can be used is it is known that when a person knows that death is imminent all the reasons to lie fall away. Personal preservation, monetary gain, pride, manipulation and so many other factors that cause us to be dishonest simply peel away just prior to death. There is no reason to lie. What is uttered at ones last moments is considered to be absolute truth.
With that understanding I have no conclusion to come to other than the fact that my father’s confession of sin and faith in God was indeed a genuine one. So life lesson # 2 that my father taught me was that it is never, ever too late to come to a saving relationship with God.
So in summary please let me share my final thoughts about my father.
He was a man who, like you and I was sometimes grossly imperfect. He was a man who loved his family and like you and I sometimes failed to articulate that as well or as often as he should have. He was a man who like you and I, sometimes made- as he put it- “bad choices.”
Yet despite all of this in his final moments on earth became a great teacher for me and hopefully for you as well.
His deathbed examples teaches that it is never too late mend relationships with those that you love and those that you have hurt.
Most importantly he was a living, and dying illustration of the fact that it’s never too late to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord and to gain the hope of eternal life in Heaven.
The one thing I would ask all of you not to do is wait to put these plans into action on your death bed. Put them into action today!
Repair damaged relationships with your loved ones today!
Repair your relationship with God today! Give yourself the gift of time to enjoy your family and your God while you are still on this earth.
Oh how I am saddened that I do not have a single day more on this earth with my father. Yet thanks to his final and humble lessons I now have joy in the hope of seeing him again one day in Heaven.
Written by Chester DuPont Jr. (Son)