Last week I went to the funeral for Lou Bedor, father of my best friend Margaret. It was the best life celebration I’ve ever attended. One of the highlights was this top 10 list from the euology given by his youngest daughter Mary Ellen.
As I wrote this eulogy I considered about talking about my Dad’s background – where he graduated from, his career information, his military background, etc., but as I thought about all those things – saying them just would not sufficiently honor my Dad. You see, all those things were just a means to an end for my Dad. My Dad was one of those really great guys – he was a great co-worker, husband, friend and Dad. A friend of mine described my Dad as “the salt of the earth” – a very humble, caring, unpretentious person. So in order to honor him in a way that I think is appropriate, I have decided to share Dads top 10 life lessons:
- Number 10 lesson: Be charitable
Dad led by example here. We grew up watching and participating with Dad as he set aside time to drive handicapped people to church, deliver meals for loaves and fishes, and meals on wheels and for other various charitable entities. He also was very active in his church by being involved on various committees, lecturing, and singing in the choir. He also made a point to set aside money – even though at times I am sure mom and Dad didn’t have a whole lot – to send to charities in need.
- Number 9: Be competitive and be aggressive
Some of you might think this is an unusual description of my Dad, but again, he led by example. Probably the place this came out the most in was in a good old-fashioned game of cards. Years ago, mom and Dad started the Friday night poker tradition, but one of the other games they played was a card game called 500. If you were Dad’s partner you can hear him saying now – “if you have one bower you bid 7, two you bid 8 and 3 bid 9! You have to count on the kitty and your partner’s cards!” He believed you had to play aggressively to win. Of course, Dad was always a gracious winner (a trait I have yet to master myself) and he certainly encouraged having fun in the process but make no mistake about it – Dad was out to win and so were we all! We will all fondly remember the numerous cribbage games we played with Dad and I am sure will carry on the tradition and hopefully all remember it’s OK to be competitive and aggressive as long as you are respectful in the process.
- Life lesson number 8: Get your education – it is what will set you up in life
Both mom and Dad were tireless in their encouragement of continued education. It was an expectation in our household that you worked hard in school. Dad felt strongly that education was the key long-term life success. Mom and Dad were very proud and celebrated the fact that all of their children attended college, many have advanced degrees, and all their grandchildren have attended college and many also have graduated. I had the chance to visit with my Dad a little over a week ago before he fell seriously ill, and the first conversation he had with me was about my children – he wanted to be sure they were all set up to finish their educations and he was particularly proud of the fact that my son Sasha had been awarded a sports scholarship and would be attending college next fall. You can hear him now as he asked me to remind Sasha to “get his grades up!” Sasha has assured him he will do just that.
- Lesson Number 7: Have a sense of humor – don’t take yourself too seriously
Dad had a tremendous sense of humor and was actually very funny. He could literally make us all laugh by a movement of an eyebrow. He wasn’t a story or a joke teller – he was clever and witty and often found laughter in tough situations. My sister Margaret shared a story recently that demonstrated his ability to find humor in frustration. As Dad’s body gave way and his eye site deteriorated, he would often find it difficult to find things – especially his watch and/or wallet. One night they were planning to go to dinner and could not find Dad’s watch. Dad was visibly upset and Margaret suggested they go to dinner and continue the search when they returned. At dinner, Dad pulled his sleeves up as he prepared to eat. On this now exposed forearm sat the watch they were looking for. Margaret gently pointed out the fact that the watch was on his arm and as Dad looked at it he said to Margaret “well Teresa said I’d find it sooner or later”. His sense of humor and ability to laugh at himself definitely made his later years in life much easier on him and those around him.
- Lesson Number 6: Make time for yourself – it will allow you to be more present with others
As a working parent with three children I now realize the importance of the example Dad set here. Dad through his whole life set aside time for himself. He sang in a singing group with his friends, he golfed, played tennis, and since 1958 went to Demontreville, a Jesuit retreat house– 37 times – for a full weekend for prayerful reflection. He knew you have to take care of yourselves to be effectively there to take care of others.
- Lesson Number 5: Ask for what you want, you might just get it
No one was more masterful at this than my Dad. He didn’t ask for much but was not afraid to let people know what he wanted and was the master of the art. He would start lobbying for what he wanted right after Christmas ended! For example, if he wanted any athletic equipment – he would start dropping hints to my brother John. I remember back in the early 80’s when the first oversized PRINCE tennis racket that back then was $200 – he dropped the hint to John. John just knew his next move was to figure out when Dad’s birthday or anniversary, or father’s day – whatever was the upcoming Dad to celebrate Dad was and let us all know he wanted this, how much to chip in, and it was taken care of. If it was a tennis related item it went to Teresa – Twins tickets – Susan – clothes – that went to me. He was very subtle in his approach but the life lesson is a good one. You can’t get what you don’t ask for – and the follow up to this is be appreciate of all you get and everything people do for you and Dad was certainly all of that. Everyone always wanted to do something for Dad.
- Lesson Number 4: Be tolerant of others and if you don’t have something nice to say – don’t say anything at all
I can honestly say I don’t recall ever hearing my Dad gossip or say anything bad about anyone. Expressions like “to each his own” come to mind when I think about Dad. He lived his life being very open-minded and even if he disagreed with someone’s point of view – he respected people for their opinions. He felt it was a waste energy to spend time talking poorly of other people.
- Lesson number 3: Celebrate your children and grandchildren – brag about your children and grandchildren
Family was Dad’s number 1 priority. There are so many things I love about my Dad – but one in particular is he had a great, loving relationship with everyone one of his kids and all his grandchildren. He celebrated all their accomplishments – professionally, academically, physically – and he not only celebrated them I have to say he was an out and out bragger! Being with family was always first and there are numerous stories of how he went out of his way to support his kids. And he was always there – not just to celebrate. If we needed help – we always knew we could call him. It didn’t matter if he was driving in the freezing cold to help you change a tire – getting up in the middle of the night to bring you another set of keys because you locked them in your car – heading over to help you kill a bat (or in Susan’s case to get a bird out of the house) – he was always there. If someone was in the hospital – you knew where Dad would be. He never made you feel ashamed for asking for help or that he as put out by helping you – in fact, quite the opposite. He was a wonderful, supportive loving father and grandfather and gave us all a great roadmap by which to parent our own children.
- Lesson number 2 -Friends are family
For Dad – family wasn’t limited to just “blood relatives”. Mom and Dad both treasured their friendships with the Bachs, Clemens, Hendricksons, Gleasons, Mary Jordon, the Howards, Pat Green, the Incarnation group, Dad’s IRS buddies – and passed along that wisdom to all of us. There are many people here today that I know if you asked them – they would say they are part of the Bedor family even if there is no formal relationship.
- Lesson number 1: Believe in something greater than yourself – life’s journey will be very difficult and lonely if you don’t
For Dad, that was a strong Catholic faith. To illustrate this point and in closing, I’d like to share a very personal story about a conversation I had with my Dad. As a parent, I can’t think of anything that could rock your faith more than dealing with the death of a child – regardless of the age of that child. A number of years ago I, myself, became seriously ill and dangerously close to losing my own life. After 5 long weeks in a hospital, it was actually my Dad who took me home that day. After we got settled, we sat down to talk as we had for every day the 5 weeks before – and I asked Dad a question that had been weighing heavy on my mind as I said “Dad – were you ever afraid I was going to die?” My Dad answered that question without skipping a beat as he replied “Afraid – no – scared perhaps – but not afraid – because I knew that if you died, you be with God, you’d be with your mother – that you’d be just fine and that I would see you again real soon”.
Well Dad – anyone who knows you well – is very confident that today you are with God and you are indeed just fine. Say hi to mom, and thanks for reminding us – that as we all struggle to cope with your passing – that our time here on Earth is actually very short, and if we believe, – we are assured that we will all see you again, real soon.