Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Eulogy: Words spoken about my dad

One week ago, I spoke at my dad's funeral.  I'm still unsure how I was able to pull this off.  

Since many people have asked for it, here is the unedited, kinda-poorly-worded script of what I said at the funeral. There may have been a few moments when I ad-libbed, but I seriously don't remember them.


Unlike any story ever told by my dad, I will try to keep this short. And relatively exaggeration-free.

All of you who have come here today have come to honor the memory of a friend, a co-worker, a brother, and for my sister and me – our dad, and for my mom – her best friend and sometimes-biggest comedic annoyance of the past 40 years. Were he physically able to have been here to see the sheer volume of the people that came last night and today, in typical Henry fashion, he would have been humbled – if not a little tickled on the inside. If he had been able to tell each and every one of you the story of the size of the crowd that came out, whether he told you in person or on the phone (and we all know how much my dad loved to talk on the phone), he’d have said something like “It beat all I’d ever seen,” or “It was the durndest thing,” or my personal favorite: “I’d never seen anything like it in all my born days.”

Regardless of how you knew my dad, there were two things about him that everyone knew: his heart and his spirit. Both were reflected in every interaction he had with everyone – and they were especially evident in his love of talking. Whether it was while he was listening to a story you were telling, or whether he was telling his own, he had this distinct body language that I noticed. As he would talk to you, he would sort of do this weird lean-over thing, with an occasional quick touch to the upper arm or leg, and then he would lean back and motion with that same hand he’d touched you with. By making this connection, he would make you think that YOU were the most important person he was talking to, that you were the most important person he COULD talk to. And then, the way he’d sometimes look from side to side and then lean in to speak with you made you think that you were being let in on a secret that only the two of you would share. And wit us – with me, my sister, y mom – dad would somehow oftentimes mysteriously contract this voluntary selective hearing loss and then cock his head to one side and ask, “Do what now?” - In this and in every interaction, it was always about connecting. About bringing his heart to yours. About bringing his spirit to yours.

I once learned from a movie that how we face death is at least as important as how we face life. For me, I choose to face the death of my father here on earth as how he chose to face life with the Father in heaven he is now reunited with. Reflected in my dad’s heart and spirit was this deep, spiritual foundation. It is in his honor that I would like to share a couple of things with you today. Well, that, and I know how he would not have hesitated to share these anyway.

One of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, wrote in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel that “Death is simply a transition into the one experience worthy of the name life.” To me, that means, “If you think this journey you’ve been on – for my dad, these past 67 years – if you think this has been something, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

John 14:1-4 is a familiar passage read at times like this. In it, Jesus tells His disciples – His friends, the ones that had been on His journey with Him – “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going."

You may have noticed that my dad liked to eat. No, scratch that: he loved to eat. I’ve jokingly remarked that heaven had better have a buffet table, or he’ll think that he got sent somewhere else by accident. Whether there was a buffet line where he got to flash his senior citizen discount card or not, I am certain that God had a smile on His face when He met my dad when he came home and He said, “Food? You ain’t seen nothing yet.” And right now, his spirit is full with love, joy and peace as he transitions into the one experience worthy of the name life.

Psalm 34:18-19 says “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” I love these two verses. To me, they validate the pain you feel, the pain that I feel. But they also contain a promise. You can’t just box off the pain and feel just that. Likewise, you can’t ignore the pain and just focus on the promise. The funny thing about God is that he won’t let you do that. He looks at the emptiness and pain that many of us feel right now and says, “That gulf in your heart? The way you feel like you’ll never feel whole again? You ain’t seen nothing yet. I can make you more whole and compete than you have ever thought possible.” It’s what my dad is experiencing right now – a healthiness and a wholeness, a reunion like nothing you or I can even imagine.

Philippians 1:21 says “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” My dad lived in Christ, and had a full, full life. And – heaven probably blew his mind a little, to be honest, because he thought he had gained it all down here. But he transitioned into life, more abundant than anything he could have ever known. Dad, you finally won the lottery.

It’s important to note that his death takes place in the shadow of new life. Many of you here today, and those of you who came here last night, are old friends who have not seen each other for years, if not decades. You’re reconnecting over old stories and laughter about the humor and kindness of my dad. Some of you are family members who are sharing a hug for the first time in what feels like eternity.

My kid sister and dad shared more laughs and love in these past few months than they did for years, and I need to publicly acknowledge and thank her foe being his rock in the middle of this storm.

I take such immense comfort in knowing that my dad died knowing he was going to be a grandfather – and if you ever spoke with him on the phone, you know how excited he was about the arrival of his grandson.

All the pain that we all feel – all this takes pace in the shadow of new life: of rebirths and of births yet to come. My dad’s final act here on earth of bringing so many people together at one time? If you thought his life reflected Christ and the power of healing, love and forgiveness? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

I ask that you do exactly what my dad would have done, and what he would have wanted all of us to do: when you leave here today, keep the stories going. Keep the connections going. Keep the rebirth going. Let this death be a gain. It is for my dad, that’s for sure. And through this gain, may you come to see and move and live in the love and power of Christ.

And – hey, dad? You finally got to hear me speak live.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Information on my dad's services


I'll just keep this brief.

For those of you in the Tupelo area who want to come, visitation will be today (Sunday) at Pegues Funeral Home from 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm.

Details of the service are being finalized but will be updated/made known at as soon as my family and I can arrange them all.

In honor of my sister (who was undeniably a saint through this whole ordeal) and in memory of my dad, anyone who would like to make a donation in his memory to Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi (where she works and where dad a did a LOT of volunteer work) can do so at PO Box 1968, Oxford, MS 38655. For more information, please visit for their website.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

IN MEMORIAM: Henry J. Lemmons, Sr., 1940-2008

Henry Joseph Lemmons, Sr.


I don't know if heaven has a buffet line, but they need one now (those of you who knew him, you'll understand).

My dad passed away this morning - asleep, at peace - at approximately 5:00 am.

I have no other details at this time.

And really, I have no other words.

Friday, November 07, 2008

[insert witty blog title here]

What an amazing time has been had by all these last two weeks. And by “amazing,” I mean utterly, positively insane.

The University of Miami decided I apparently needed neither an email account nor a cell phone, and subsequently deleted them both. I am still in the process of trying to recover all the emails sent/saved from the last six months. And because my UM-funded CrackBerry was tied into my account here, I also have managed to lose e-v-e-r-y email address and phone number saved in my phone. Thanks, UM! Oh – and did I mention that they also shorted my last paycheck by over 25%?

Makes y’kinda think this might be a sign, no?

As if the work-related issues weren’t interesting enough, my personal life has taken on some fun tests as well: finding out about the sex of mine and Ashley’s first kid (and yes, I have begun looking for a baby-sized Tom Baker scarf and a plush Dalek; don’t worry if you don’t get the references) has brought about a slew of new challenges. Key among these new head scratching problems is what to name the critter, but also we’re trying to figure out what the devil we’re going to in terms of decorating the back bedroom and storing all the stuff currently in there. Miami, not surprisingly, isn’t the best location in the world for climate-controlled storage and/or safe places above what one might refer to as a flood zone or somewhere within the “strike zone” of a hurricane.

And then, there’s my dad.

I won’t go in to a lot of details, but tomorrow morning (Saturday, November 8), I am catching the first flight out of Miami to go home. There have been numerous issues with his blood pressure, issues with dehydration, issues with his oxygen levels…I’m not one to be a doomsayer, but I am going home WAY earlier than I thought I would be.

My laptop will me making the venture home with me, so I might be able to update from the airports (hello, Detroit and Memphis!). I might be able to update from home (hello, Tupelo!). I at least hope to be able to get back to covering the remainder of the musings that have been pre-empted by life and that whole need-to-work-for-money-for-food.

And I will do my darndest to make sure the next entry isn’t, like, 47 pages long or something, which I felt I did in my previous post. Sadly, I could have gone on for longer because of what I wanted to write about, but I swerved at the last minute. Partially because if I had, that entry would have been longer than 5/8 of the actual Internet itself (which would have deterred many ADHD readers from getting through the thing – not that I think anyone besides me and maybe Ashley read this blog. I could be totally wrong, and please feel free to email me and tell me so if I am), but also partially because there were two totally different trains of thought that emerged when I was writing my previous post.

So. Please keep me (for travel purposes), Ashley, Unnamed Baby Lemmons, Maggie (who is still grieving the loss of her “sister” a month ago), my dad, mom and sister in your thoughts/prayers. And if so inclined to do so, please feel free to drop a line to the address listed above.

Sometimes, it’s just good to see a friend’s name in your Inbox. Or even the name of a total stranger – well, one who isn’t claiming to be the Emir of Gingivitisalvania and wants me to wire them money or something…