When I spoke at my father's funeral, it was with the belief that while he knew a great number of people, there probably were not a great number of people who would stand up to speak at the funeral. I wanted to be sure that there was not just silence when we were given the opportunity.
After I spoke, a high school friend of my father's got up and spoke about how they used to sneak my grandmother's corvair out and time themselves trying to make a 1 mile stretch of curvy road in under 1 minute. Flat straightaways are few and far between in New Hampshire.
Several others spoke as well, far more than I had expected.
My father's next door neighbor spoke of how many things they shared in common. It was astonishing. They had kids about the same age. Worked at the same place, had the same hobbies, belonged to the same Masonic Lodge and on and on. One of their only differences, he pointed out, was that my father was over 6 feet tall and he was under.
Another neighbor spoke of my father's generally good disposition and of how he sold my father his lawnmower and then asked him to borrow it a few days later to mow his lawn. His hairdresser spoke about the first time she cut his hair 28 years ago... a story that has been repeated several times over the years and dealt with exactly what it means when someone says they want their hair cut "over the ears."
A friend of my dad's (and my former swim coach) talked about the many challenges my father took on and how he the way he lived his life reminded him of John Wooden telling his players to try to make each day their masterpiece.
My dad's cousin told a story about how cool of a cousin he was and how he and she use to try to switch positions on the T-bar when going up the mountain skiing.
My dad's boss talked about his hiring. He talked about how my father's interview was really just a courtesy to my mother who had worked at the company for years but how my father gave the most complete and well prepared interview he had ever seen. He praised my father for his work ethic and his reliabilty.
My sister Emily told a story about my father teaching her how to drive and how while she did not appreciate his methods at the time, everything he did to "torture" us growing up was intended to make us better later in life.
My old college roommate Tony told a story about teaching his own son to drive and how he had unintentionally used some of the same methods that I had shared with him about my father teaching me. He laughed when he realized how my father had unknowingly influenced him.
A lot of people spoke, and I have probably left out a couple. There were two that stood out the most to me.
First was a friend and former co-worker of my father's named Mark. Mark was layed off from the place where the two of them worked together. A few months later, with no success in looking for a job, he mentioned to my Dad how he had trouble because his Jeep was in need of inspection and it would not pass because the tires were too worn. He did not have any money to buy new tires so was going to have to drive it uninspected on those tires until he could make some money. He came home the next day and had four tires sitting in his yard. My father had bought new tires for his own Jeep and gave Mark the slightly worn tires he had been using. I had never heard this story before the funeral and was very glad my father had helped this man in his time of need.
The last, and most impressive story came from a former employee of my father.
The funeral was almost over. The funeral director was clearly wrapping things up and this man came forward asking for a chance to say one last thing. He was a short man and was of East Indian descent. I recognized him only because he had introduced himself to me before the funeral. With apparent nervousness and a heavy accent, he began to speak.
"I work for Chip for six year. When I look for a job he interview me and he is very nice. When I work for him I never see anything on his face but a smile. In six year he never say a thing to hurt my feeling. He help me and my whole family. He is a good man to work for. When he leave (company) we walk out the door with him and he gave me his book to help me understand some things. There were some tears on my face. Thank you"
This was the most moving of all of the speakers, in my opinion. Despite the fact that the service was ending, he felt compelled to speak, knowing he would never get another chance to say those things in that forum. Despite his obviously difficulties with the language, he stood up and told this story and blew away those assembled with his simple story of how with nothing more than a little kindness and decency, my father had made an immense impact on his life.