On October, 1st 2017, my whole world fell apart.
My father, my personal hero, had died suddenly of what was supposed to be a routine procedure.
This is one of my first posts, it also happens to be very personal. I would like to share the eulogy I wrote for my father and read at his funeral. I share it because though it was a sad and awful thing to write, it was also my way to honor the man who meant everything to me.
If you’d like to learn more about my father, you can, here at his ePassing site.
We are gathered today to celebrate the life, and mourn the death, of my father; Garry Flatt. These words may not be easy to speak to you today through my pain, but they were easy to write, because they are directly from my heart. I hope to honor the man who made me who I am today and who taught me what it means to be a father. None of the words I could write here could do him justice, but I will endeavor to earn this privilege.
Who was Garry Flatt? The short version is easy; he was a husband, father, son, veteran, and a grandfather. He was a lover of animals, a goofball for his grandkids, a role model, my personal hero, and as I’ve learned over the last few days, apparently a high school home economics savant. Dad loved World of Warcraft, TV and Movies, old country songs, reading, and making sure his yard was always perfect. ALWAYS. These things don’t tell you the story of my father though, they are just the highlights of the man he was.
My Dad was not a perfect man; but he always sought to overcome his flaws and never stopped trying despite all of the many hurdles that life placed in his way. Despite these flaws, he was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known and likely the best I will ever meet. My father was the kind of man who would go down the street 20 times in a week to help an older man who was confused about where he was, trim a neighbor’s trees, or offer to help you do just about anything while expecting nothing in return. If someone’s appliance broke down, he was there. If your car quit running in the middle of nowhere, he was there. If you couldn’t make it your next paycheck and needed a loan, he was there. This is the man my father was and who he taught us all to be.
My brothers and I learned about marriage by watching my mother and father, with all the good and bad that comes with it. They weren’t the romantic comedy version of a happy marriage; their love was messy and sometimes filled with arguments, but it was a real love the kind filled with imperfections that make it work to stay together. Dad was the kind of man that would grump and complain, drive my Mom crazy, but always be sure he remembered her birthday or mother’s day and made damn sure we did as well. My father worked hard to be a good Dad and husband, my Mom worked hard at putting up with him sometimes, and after 41 years of marriage they celebrated last month they taught us that marriage was the kind of work that was worth it.
Considering the words I’ve shared with you already, it should come as no surprise that Garry Flatt was a fantastic father. If we ever wanted for anything in life, I wasn’t aware of it, and my father went out of his way to fill us with so many happy memories that I experienced the kind of childhood some only dream of. He loved us so much that he left his life’s calling, the only job he ever loved in the military, just to be with us more. It wasn’t until I was grown of course that I understood this, I just thought that my experience was a normal one. I didn’t know that some people, including my father, had terrible and sometimes abusive fathers. I debated on mentioning that fact today, but I did so you can truly understand my father: he rose above it; he broke the cycle. Instead of teaching us about a closed fist he taught us the importance of honoring your word, being kind to others, and the value of hard work.
Whether he was sick, hurt, or still recovering from surgery, it didn’t matter; Dad would be at work or mowing the yard the second he thought he could get away with it. Sometimes he taught us the meaning of hard work even when we didn’t always appreciate the lesson. There was no such thing as a snow day with my father once we had jobs. We lived out in the country on poorly plowed roads AND our driveway happens to be a hill. One time my father trekked up our hill and across the road to attach a come along to the tree and pull our car onto the main road. At least once in the snow we all CARRIED a car out of the driveway, just to insure we could not miss work. If my Dad was able to speak to us today the first thing he might tell me is that I should be at work right now, not here fussing over him. That was the Master Sergeant in him, and it stayed with him until the day he died. It is the reason that all of us boys work so hard to provide for our families and even though we may not have always learned the lessons with smiles on our faces, we wouldn’t be the same men without them.
However good a father he was, he was an even better grandfather. He loved his grandchildren from the minute they were born and in return they all thought he was a superhero. From birth he showered them with love, spoiled them with gifts, and always made sure when they visited he had plenty of WW candies to hand out. Dad wasn’t afraid to get down on all fours and play with the kids either, even though he had severe and painful cramps all the time, he would be laying on the floor of the play room coloring or building legos. To all of them he gave a precious gift; the love of a grandfather that would have done anything for them and a man they could all look up to.
Today there is a huge hole in all of us where my father was just days ago and I don’t know that we will ever truly recover. My heart is shattered knowing that I will never see my Dad light up like a kid at Christmas as he watched his children and grandchildren open their gifts or buy way too many fireworks on the Fourth of July (at least once managing to catch them all on fire in a paper grocery bag). When I walk into my childhood home I see his memory everywhere now. I see it in the swing that he climbed perilously high in an enormous tree to tie to a branch when we were children; the same swing that just months ago he pushed his grandkids way too high on. That swing might be the epitome of my father: his sense of pride in his work and the stubborn perfectionist in him that managed to make the knots that lasted over 20 years and the desire to always see his loved ones happy. For me though I’ll always see him on the back porch, drip drying on our metal chairs after we swam in the pool and talking with me and still guiding me after 35 years of my life.
If you look around you today you will see the lives my father has touched. There are people in this room that have driven hundreds of miles to say goodbye to my father; some of them that knew him in highschool over 40 years ago and yet he left an imprint on their lives.
My family and I put together a memorial website where people could share stories and pictures of my father, and one man that my father was a platoon sergeant of 30 years ago contacted us to let us know that the leadership of my father, providing the same lessons he imparted us, made him a better man and that the country needed more men and leaders like him. As of this morning over twelve hundred people have visited this page to pay their respects to my father because he was the kind of person who made that impression on you, whether you only met him once or were his flesh and blood.
My father is gone, but his legacy will live on in his grandchildren and sons. Whenever we take pride in our work, you will see our father. When we help someone in need, without thought of our own gain, you will see my father. Every time we love with our whole hearts, keep our word, or stand up for what is right when nobody else will; you will see my father. I can’t stand here and tell you that my Dad is in a better place, but I can tell you without a doubt he left this world a better place.
I will spend the rest of my life trying to be the man he showed me how to be. In the words of Conway Twitty:
Every person carves his spot
And fills the hole with light.
And I pray someday I might
Light as bright as he
I love you Dad. Goodbye.