I knew for a long time that I'd wanted to write a eulogy...but it took me months to figure out how to do that. Dad passed from Parkinsons so his passing wasn't sudden...but rather a long...unkind...struggle. It sucks watching someone you love deteriorate physically and mentally...but I've very grateful that I lived close by and was able to share many moments with him in his final days. All the while working through my own struggles with the parts of Dad's life I wasn't fond of.
Fortunately...throughout this process I realized that this was Dad's struggle with life...not mine. His battles were not mine to judge or resist or change or to pick up as my own...but rather...let the struggle be.
Suffering sucks. And the experience of watching another suffer when you can't do anything to change it...sucks more! But yet...I found some reassurance that (after 10 months of facility isolation from covid...and due to the mere fact that hospice was involved at this point...I was allowed (mom and I both were) into his care facility wearing an N-95 mask and gown) to be near him...just to be present...somehow brought some calm or support to relieve the struggle somewhat. The reality here to was that for myself...the opportunity to say my goodbyes...to be present with Dad...was a pretty big deal. I was one of the lucky ones...because too many people lost loves ones just a few months prior due to covid and weren't allowed to be at the bedside. I considered myself very fortunate at this point.
Back to the eulogy. These last days really helped me understand the value of focusing on the good...and allowing for the human side of living...and letting go of the bad.
Here's what I said at dad's funeral service:
Good morning...I’m Rachel...Larry and Norma’s youngest daughter. I’m going to say a few words and anyone who would also like to share your thoughts and memories with us that you may hold in your heart about Dad is welcome and encouraged so please do so. In fact...I’d love to hear what any of you would be willing to share!
We all know how perplexed and entangled the past 10 months have been because of the intricacies that the coronavirus dumped on each of our doorsteps. But one thing I know to be true...this global and very localized challenge has forced us to recognize and reaffirm what matters to each and every one of us most deeply.
I recognize that our family isn’t the only one here who has experienced grief and loss. And I am so very grateful that you chose to come together and join us at this time and show resolve to share your heart with us as we do the same with you.
I also want to thank you all for choosing to come to be with us today. Those of you who are members of Shiloh church....I commend you...for showing such compassion for dad and for mom for the past many years...helping mom & dad move from the farm into Wauseon...mowing their grass....and helping with countless other things. Many of you know in recent years the challenges and struggles and difficulties that dad and mom both endured.
But I don’t want to focus on the times of difficulty that many of us are all too familiar with. What I’d rather do here is to share some stories...shine some light on the humor that dad so often cracked us up with when we least expected it. And also share with you some of the many life-lessons dad taught me.
Probably the easiest way to sum up the 48 years I’ve been around dad would be by choosing words that I believe best described Larry Evans Dickson.
Mechanical and Electronically minded
Assertive...Quick to impose his views
Mine of Information
Confident and Melodramtic
I could illustrate these words in one story. The time that a tornado ripped through the middle of the yard at the farm house in 1980. As you know...when tornadoes are brewing...the sky gets very dark and the air gets very weird. My sister and I and a friend had just come indoors from playing outside because it was obviously unsafe for us to stay outside as evidenced by the building storm. Dad and Mom were both home. All of us but Dad were sitting in the living room...I think dad was going window to window in anticipation of what might be coming. Then suddenly a very loud and intensewind... burst forth outside... the front door of the house blew wide open and we could see nothing but debris and dirt and what looked like a sandstorm rushing by. Dad yells at the top of his lungs “HIT THE DECK” (which means get in the basement in Dicksoneeze). Everyone but dad followed his own command. Next we’re all huddled in the basement and hearing no good sounds coming from outside.
I’m thinking to myself...where’s Dad? He’s going to get sucked up into the abyss! Of course that didn’t happen. But after this whole ordeal...which obviously we all survived...we came to learn that dad was basically front and center like he always chose to be...confident...yet also very melodramatic.
It was through experiences like this with dad that I learned to lean into his confidence...his charge to the front attitude...I never doubted dad would always choose to be front and center...so confident in himself...yet seemingly never taking into consideration any potential dangers on his own behalf...because he always wanted to be right up front no matter the crisis...first to report what happened there. That was dad. It was as if this all came very natural to him like it was part of his DNA.
Mechanical and Electronically minded
One windy day...I decided I wanted to figure out how to build and fly a kite. Problem was...I had no idea where to begin. I think I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. Dad’s knowledge of how things work mechanically and electronically was astounding to me. He taught me that it was good to ask questions.
In fact, he encouraged my asking questions because he wanted me to understand the “whys” behind how a thing worked. So naturally....I told him my idea. To my utter surprise and amazement he began to gather items to build and fly this kite. He used a flexible bicycle flag antenna for the cross pieces...plastic for the body...and then meticulously explained to me the importance of a kites tail and how it functions and why this part was so important....he tore up pieces of an old bed sheet ...knotting strips together into a string like tail. I was very moved by how seriously he took my little project and how willing he was to make this happen. After he found a spool of nylon rope...all that was left was to fly it. Best kite flying experience I ever had! That kite went higher into the sky than I ever thought imaginable.
Witty and Clown
Dad liked to tell jokes. I hope you got to have the experience of watching dad crack himself up as he told his corny jokes. The most recent one I can remember him telling went like this.
Two snakes were walking through the woods. (yes ...i told him as he was telling me this...that’s pretty funny already dad because snakes don’t walk...he chuckled)...and after one of them tripped and fell asked the other...”Are we poisonous?” to which the other replied “yes...why?” “well the first snake said...I just bit my lip.”
Advocate and Fair
Dad loved to shop at Big Lots. Back when there used to be a Big Lots in Wauseon...dad went there to make a return for something he purchased one day. Everything went per usual until the next morning he called the bank to check on recent debits and credits (this of course was back when to get information on your banking you had to call the bank and listen to an automated recording for each of your transactions)....here’s what he heard.
++++Played the actual audio recording+++++
Big Lots of wauseon had mistakenly credited him two hundred thirty-five thousand...four hundred and forty eight dollars into his account. He recorded this audio to prove to people that this actually happened...and then took great joy in playing it for anyone and everyone that would listen. Maybe it could be said that dad had something to do with Big Lots of wauseon closing...but regardless...he contacted them right away to ensure they got it all straightened out and they got their money back. He was always honest if things like this happened...which for some reason goofy things like this happened to dad. And he was always an advocate for Big Lots!!!
Dad wasn’t only an advocate for Big Lots but also for the usefulness of computers. He absolutely loved finding ways to utilize a computer to make his or anyone else's life a little bit easier. I’m pretty sure sometimes this made mom crazy...like how he figured out how to program the computer to control all the lights in the house. Turning on and off at certain times on their own. ...But he saw this as essential for making life easier...even though much of the time it made life a little more complicated for mom.
Another time when I was living in Tennessee and working for a whitewater rafting company I had been given the role of marketing director. Every day the Gatlinburg chamber of commerce would send us pages of addresses for those who had requested information regarding whitewater rafting. Up until this point those pages were simply converted to printed labels and brochures were mailed to them. I got to thinking ...why couldn’t we capture these names and addresses into a file and market to them more than once? Problem was...the format wasn’t usable. So... I called dad. I explained the situation to dad and before I knew it he was sending me a little program to use that he wrote...that would put these addresses into usable fields to capture for future use. This was dad’s vision...and genius when it came to utilizing computer power.
Rarely when dad was working on something, RARELY, did the repair or fix go smoothly or as planned. Yet dad was brilliant at navigating these challenges persistently with creative solutions. It had to be done. It had to be fixed. It had to work. It had to be figured out. Dad’s relentless persistence to complete a task...to reach the end was often inexhaustible. He had a confidence in his problem solving abilities that fueled his persistence to find a workable solution. Yet he also had a humor about him during these times as well because often he’d set himself up with his pile of tools or pile of screws or pile of whatever to fall and crash making a momentous drama moment. I got to where I could see these things coming and after trying to prevent it time & time again...I would just watch this unfold...and in doing so learned that (I think) this was another way for him to express his melodrama...all the while...laughing about it after the fact.
Many of you are aware...dad liked to talk on the phone. An unwritten Dickson rule was...that if the phone rang...it MUST be answered by the 3 rd ring...because ALL phone calls were that important. He also absolutely loved calling friends and family to talk on the phone. I think this was one of his obsessions...yet he loved talking to people. He always had a story to share or some wisdom to impart.
No doubt there are many many other stories that could be told about Larry Dickson...and I hope some of you share some more today with us.
I also hope that I’ve served dad’s memory well here today. He taught me so very much. Some good...some not-so-good...but I can only hope to have a small piece of the vast mine of information dad maintained. But he is much better off now...in a place of peace. I can rest assured that he has finally found his peace. It takes all of it...the good and the not-so-good to live a life. Rest assured dad...that I know...it is well.
Dad was laid to rest not far from the farm property that he and Mom raised both my sister and I.