Eulogy for my Father, Patrick Magill
What follows is a copy of the eulogy I gave at my father's memorial service earlier this week. I have had a few requests for this, and quite honestly, I do not have the physical or emotional energy to write a regular blog right now. For his sake, I would like to thank everybody who attended the serviceóthe sheer volume of people was staggeringóand for my own sake, I'd like to thank everybody who has expressed sympathy for me and my family. Thank you all. He was a great man, and we will miss him terribly.
|Thank you, Kaley, for sharing this picture|
Buddha was once asked where we go when we die. He replied with a smile that whatever happens in death is so far beyond our comprehension that all we can do is smile in the face of it. This was one of my fatherís favorite anecdotes. He and I spent a lot of time discussing politics, science, philosophy, and religion, and he would inevitably repeat this anecdote about Buddhaóthough sometimes he said it was the Dalai Lamaówhenever the subject of death or the afterlife would come up.
Make no mistakes; my father was a Christian man with faith in the teachings of Christ, but at the same time, he wasnít arrogant about the big questions. He was humble with the knowledge that he didnít have all the answers, and when it came time for him to face death, he was able to do it with dignity; he was able to do it with a smile.
Before my father showed us how it is done, I didnít used to believe that a person could die with dignity. Death is messy and unpleasant. You lose control over your body and your mind, and if you donít die quickly, it can be painful, lonely, and undignified. But my father didnít die that way.
|Click image to see full video (requires QuickTime); thank you, Adam, for sharing it|
He wasnít happy to be dying, and Iím sure he didnít think it was very fair. But even as he fell apart both physically and mentally, he remained strong for himself and for the loved ones around him. Itís the single greatest show of strength I have ever seen. He refused to give in to fear, anger, or shame. Itís the last oneóshameóI think is the most important, because I never saw my father ashamed about anything.
It wasnít pride exactly, but for his whole life, he could stand naked before the whole world, and he would stand tall. Like I said, he was a humble man, and I know nobody in this room would disagree. If there was somebody who couldnít stand tall alongside him, for whatever reasons, my father would lift that person up, because he believed in justice and he refused to believe that anybody was worse than him.
Itís no great mystery then why he chose to be a defense lawyer, a husband, and a father. He had faith in God, but he also had faith in people. Itís what made him so good in all aspects of his life. I can only speak as his son, but thatís more than enough to show you what I mean.
A few months after I moved out of the house and went to college to find my own way in life, my father came up to see me. He prodded me a little to find out where I stood and how I was doing, he shared stories of his time in college (which decorum prevents me from sharing here today) and offered plenty of sage advice, but at no point did he tell me exactly what I was supposed to do. In fact, at no point in my life did my father tell me exactly what I was supposed to do. He knew I had to figure that out for myself, and he had faith that I could, that I was strong enough to face the world and chase my own dreams.
|Here he is with my son, Tommy, one year ago|
Not long after I got married, he and my mother came to visit us in Maryland. My dad and I went out on the back porch, in the snow, and shared a cigar. This time, he wasnít interested in prodding or offering advice; no matter what I wanted to talk about, he kept steering the conversation back to my writing. He had just read my latest work and wanted to talk about the ideas I was exploring, whether or not I was inspired by Einsteinís religious convictions, and so on. He didnít need to know how I was doing, because he had the utmost faith that, if things werenít going well and I needed help, I wouldnít hesitate to ask. Luckily, I didnít need to.
And when Tommy was born and my parents came to visit us yet again, he may have said something along the lines of, ďIím sure youíll make a good dad,Ē but for the most part, he was there for Tommy, not me. Again, he wasnít worried about me, because he had faith. He knew I could handle it. It was then that I think I finally understood that he had always been proud of me and my brothers, that it would be next to impossible for any of us to have truly disappointed him.
|Thanks, Mom, for this one, with his four grandsons--Noah, Luke, Tommy, and Ben--earlier this year|
Despite that, Iíve lived my whole lifeóand donít doubt that I will continue to do soótrying to make him proud of me. There are more parts of myself than I can count that I can trace back to a desire to impress my father. My love of music and literature, what I write, my interests in science, philosophy, politics, and religion, how I have chosen to raise my own son, how I act as a husband. All of it is, in some way or another, designed around trying to show my father that I can be like him. I may not be a perfect copy, and I donít think of myself as being as good as my father, but the fact that heís gone now wonít change anything. Iím still trying to live up to his example.
He died with dignity becauseóand I donít mean this as an insult to anybody hereóhe was the best of us. We should all spend the rest of our lives trying to be as generous, as good-humored, as honest, and as loving as he was. Then we can be the best of him, and we can strive to die with as much dignity as he did. We can face the end with a smile, because even if we donít understand it, we know that we have nothing to be ashamed of.
Iíd like to finish by quoting one of my fatherís favorite songs: ďThe leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old, but his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul. My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man. Iím just a living legacy to the leader of the band.Ē
-e. magill 10/20/2010