A Eulogy From a Son

Rich O'Keeffe 
Staff Contributor

On April 3, 2019, my mother passed away. Five weeks later, my dad passed away. This is the eulogy I gave at his funeral.

Today we are gathered to celebrate a life well lived.

Dad’s was above all else a life full of love, of commitment, of joy, of sacrifice and of doing the needful.

Born October 18, 1938 to Tom and Mary, Dad was the second of six children along with my uncles John, Paul and Tom and my aunts Mary and Kathleen. He never really shared too much about his youth with us, but we do know that many of the values he lived came from there. His love and devotion to family. His work ethic. And his appreciation for a weeee bit of mischief.

He graduated from Roslindale High in 1956. And proceeded to have a fairly misspent and wild youth. Every once in a while, he’d tell stories of his adventures – and mis-adventures – from that time. We were never really sure about some of the stories, or if the statute of limitations had expired yet, but they were always fun.

In the late 50’s, he met my mom and theirs was a great friendship. From that point, they really were best friends.

His life took off from there.

In September 1962, he married Mom.

July ‘63, I came along.

August ‘64, my sister Kathleen.

Summer ‘65, they bought the house in Stoughton.

March ‘67, my brother Tim.

In the late 60’s, he had an opportunity to go to work for a company in Dallas, EDS. It would have been a great opportunity and he would be on the executive track. He turned it down. Because it would have required him to be unavailable as a father in ways that he was unwilling to accept. Because that job would have been inconsistent with who he was as a man and as a father.

Who he was – was … that father. The one who showed up at every sports game, play and school event he possibly could. The father that coached the little league teams (even with no coaching experience). The father that forced the Stoughton Little League to let girls play so that his daughter could have the opportunity. The father that burned all of his work vacation taking his family on camping trips to Papoose Pond. The father that worked two jobs for years and years and years out of his commitment to having his children be educated.

And the father that made sure we spent a lot of time with our grandparents, with our aunts and uncles and with our cousins – all 18 of our cousins. Many of those aunts and uncles and cousins are in attendance here today. I want each of you to know that in his own way, my father loved each and every one of you dearly.

About three months before the earliest possible retirement age, he effectively retired. Which also co-incidentally happened to be about six months after the last tuition bill was paid and the mortgage was done. Looking back at it, it is clear that he had always only been working for a simple purpose – educating the kids and taking care of my mom – and once that was done he stopped.

I asked him once about the financial aspects – reduced pension and social security from retiring early, cost of living going up, that sort of thing. His response was priceless. He said, “I took out a piece of paper and made a chart. I took the amount I earn if I retire now and drew a line. Then I drew a line if I retired at 60 and another at 65. The latter lines are of course steeper, but it takes a while for the lines to cross. They don’t cross until my late 70’s. And frankly, I’d rather enjoy an extra 10 years of retirement while I’m still young enough and healthy enough.”

And enjoy it he did. I think he probably golfed 320 or so days a year. Spent the winters in warm places. Playing golf, of course, but also having a romantic and wonderful time with mom. But golf was far from the only thing he did while retired. He indulged his passions, of course – Boston pro sports teams and Civil War history being the biggest. But he also poured a lot of himself into his family.

For a few years, he was the primary caregiver of his mother-in-law, Molly. Mother to my mom and my aunt Pat.

And most of all, he adored being Pa. In an ancient and time honored tradition, the first grandchild that can speak often makes a name up for grandma and grandpa and that name sticks. My niece Meghan coined them Mimi and Pa. And Pa he was. Fully, unashamedly and totally. Heck, he even effectively changed his name to Pa and pretty much only referred to mom as Mimi. I actually think he enjoyed being a grandfather more than he did being a father.

He was frequently called into childcare duty as well during his retirement. And did that as only dad could have. He instilled in the children a deep love of un-cut-up hotdogs, macaroni and cheese from the box and, as a delicacy – hot dogs cut up and put into macaroni and cheese from a box. And he loved all of his adventures and stories not only of the things he did with the grandkids but also of their successes and victories in life – athletic, academic and otherwise. He’d tell humorous stories again and again – like the time he asked my then 5-year-old how he got so old, and Chris responded “I’ve been working on it my whole life, pa.” (I think I heard that tale at least 50 times.)

But you, know, that’s just who dad was. Of course, if I was reeeaaaaalllly going to honor dad, I’d be up here with an open can of Bud and a lit cigarette. But we are in a church after all and some concessions have to be made.

I’ll never forget the day I looked in the mirror and saw my dad looking back at me. At first it was a shock and very soon after I thought … cool. It would be incorrect to talk about what he taught me, my sister and brother – it’s more like what he imbued into us. Not just through what he said, but much more through the examples he lived. He:

  • Showed what it really means to honor the commitments you have made. And backing those commitments up not just with words but more importantly with actions.
  • Taught the love of a good joke. Especially when the kids are saying “Daaaaad, I’ve heard that one like a thousand times.” And his response just about each time was “True, but they haven’t.”
  • Gave me a love for computers and programming. Though only as a means to an end. Never solely for their own sake.
  • Showed us how to really support our children as they follow their own path – and the importance of having it be their path and not ours.
  • Left each of us with a deep and abiding love of family.

I’d be remiss in this speech not to mention the great love of his life, my mother. Through all of everything, his love for my mother overrode all else. They truly were the best of friends for the last 60 years. As sad as it is to have him pass so soon after my mother did, it’s really kinda sweet and romantic underneath it all. After all, they were joined at the soul for the last 60 years. And now, they are re-united. They belong together. Cuz that’s how they did life: together. The world would be a lot better place if more men loved their wives as fiercely as dad loved mom.

I’ve heard it said that the day your father dies is one of, if not the, most important day in your life. And that may be. But I also think something else.

The most important day in your life is today. And one should live today the way dad lived his life every day. Unapologetically loving the people you love, doing what you enjoy doing. Honoring your commitments. Doing the needful. And above all else being clear and certain of who you are and what you stand for.

You did it right, Dad. And we’re all gonna miss you forever.

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