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.