I was nervous about doing the eulogy. It’s a dread I’ve had ever since Dad told me I’d have to do it.
When I was about eighteen.
“You’re the oldest,” he’d said when I protested in the strongest possible terms, instantly breaking into the sort of full body dampness lovers of not public speaking will recognise.
“Hardly,” I’d explained reasonably, “my fault.”
But when the moment came I was pleased to be allowed the opportunity to do this. In any case, no one seemed to like my other ideas when we were organising the funeral, like dressing him in nothing but his y-fronts like he always wore at home. I figured we weren’t having an open casket so no-one else would know and we’d think it was hilarious every time we looked at his coffin.
So I got to do this.
And it was hard.
I could talk all day about why I loved my father, how he shaped my life, times we argued and times we laughed. Because we insisted on waiting until our BIL, Daz, could make it out of hospital to be a the service I had a fair amount of time to think about what I wanted to say.
Which was a good thing because it took me a fair amount of time to work it out. I didn’t want to make the eulogy about me missing dad because we were in this as a family. In the end I let Dad do most the talking, and co-oped his grandkids to help out.
But I was still anxious, even as I typed and cut and pasted on my computer. Even as I printed the final edit. Even as we drove down. Even as I walked up to the chu-
That’s a direct quote from my father.
Dad, it would seem, had my back. I should have known he would.
There he was, sitting up in his coffin giving me a great big grin like he’d been looking forward to this since he gave me the job 34 years ago and couldn’t wait to hear what I’d come up with.
Thanks, Dad, I thought. I got it from here.
One of the best pieces of advice Dad gave me was ‘you’re never too old to kiss your father’.
So I’m lucky. The last interaction I had with dad was to give him a hug and a kiss and tell him I love him. And those moments are what I’m gonna miss most about my dad. He had 78 years to perfect those hugs and they were nice. Frail, by the end, but heartfelt.
That’s what I’ll miss most, but that’s not the thing I’m going to remember most about him. For me, as I’m sure it will be for most people here, what we’ll remember will be his stories which he told you, or which, if you were lucky, you were a part of. And was it just me or did anyone else notice way too many of them started with the phrase, ‘when I was a little girl’?
‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’, was Dad’s mantra. So with that in mind a few of his grandkids and I are going to share some small & tall tales he loved telling.
Myself, I’m going to focus on this thing called Devereaux Luck which Grandad would go on about all the time.
From Papua New Guinea the one I loved involved a backpack full of gold.
He’d gone upstream a couple of kilometers with some mates for a swim. He reckons he dove down into the beautifully clear, cool water and suddenly his life changed. On the river bed were rocks with veins of gold in them.
Naturally, when he broke through the surface of the water for breath…he didn’t say a word.
While his mates mucked about he spent hours secretly diving down – nearly drowning, to hear him tell it – in his efforts to bring up the best rocks. The biggest rocks. The ones with the most shiny stuff. He tossed everything he’d brought with him so he could fill up his backpack and stuffed every pocket and then, in a sort of Cross Fit workout before they were popular, lugged himself back down the mountain, the whole way imagining the new lifestyle which had just opened up before him.
Unfortunately, he exhausted himself for little more than paperweights because it turns out there isn’t much demand for pyrite, or fool’s gold.
And according to my Dad that right there is Devereaux Luck.
Then there’s the time he won second division in Gold Lotto. This was back in the day when you had to wait until Monday for them to sort out who’d won and how much, but through some enthusiastic determination Dad found out the previous week second division had paid out $5000.
“Take your family out for dinner,” he’d told me excitedly into the phone. “$200. I’ll fix you up next week.”
This is the thing with Dad. He was generous. He didn’t lord his success over you. He wanted to involve you.
So Shane and Kerri got a phone call too. We each spent $200 and had a marvelous time.
And then the cheque arrived? Turns out there were a lot of people who won second division that week. He got $500. He’s probably the only person to ever win second division and end up $100 down.
And that’s Devereaux Luck.
Growing up Dad decided to borrow what I recall as a two-man tent and take the five of us camping one Easter up to O’Reilly’s in the Gold Coast Hinterland.
As Dad was a banker (that’s with a B) we couldn’t leave until last thing on Friday. When we finally arrived the place was packed, so we drove around in the dark using headlights of the old Ford Falcon to try find a spot.
When we finally found a space, Dad couldn’t believe it. The ground was soft, the grass green and lush, and it was close to the amenities. We put up the tent and went to bed, the five of us creating quite the Dutch oven.
Only it wasn’t us, was it. In the morning Dad discovered our close proximity to the amenities and the septic had a little too much to do with the lovely green grass we’d slept on.
Devereaux Luck had struck again.
And now I’m going to invite our father’s grandkids to come up and share a story if they’d like.
Miss15: Grandad used to tell us he got the cuts every day at school but somehow was still made prefect and sports captain. For a little while. As sports captain his job was to manage the sports equipment every lunch break. There was a shed and he had the key. So at lunch time the entire school go to play whatever sport Grandad decided he wanted to play that day. But This isn’t why they tok the key and title off him. Grandad knew how to turn a frown upside down, and it didn’t take him long to work out a solution to all the complaints: he began hiring out the sports equipment.
Miss12: One of the things which always got Grandad moving was the mailman arriving, because he used to buy a lot of things over the phone from ads on the telly. When Dad went over he’d often come home with something he didn’t need and almost always had no idea how to use, because Grandad really couldn’t go past a two for the price of one deal. When they moved to Brisbane, the garage sale was filled with ‘As Seen On TV’ items, most unopened. The only time there was a problem with this system was when both Grandad AND Grandma had both seen the same ad. In these instances; EVERYONE’S A WINNER! Like when Grandma ordered this air pump online and suddenly Grandad was sneaking them out of the house as fast as he could. So while some of you have photos to remember Grandad by, I have something much more practical.
Master14: Sometimes Grandad struggled to understand his own limits – and I don’t just mean with beer. Every year Grandma would go to Cairns to help Auntie Kerri and Uncle Daz with the caravan park they run. Us kids always took this chance to stay with him a few nights and eat waaay too much sugar. Some say he babysat us, others bed to differ. About a year back, on one of the few days we weren’t staying, he decided he needed to go to the shops and, being an independent fit man, he walked. Yep, we don’t know why either. Three kilometers. Or, in Grandad measurements, about a hundred kilometers. Two hours it took him. By the time he got to town he said he didn’t have the energy to shop so caught a taxi home, where he sat in his armchair sore from the top of his head to the tips of his toes for three days barely able to move.
Towards the end although Dad had a lot his body was dealing with, his mind was as sharp as ever. His hearing was like a damn super power.
A few years ago we convinced Dad to go to his doctor to ask about a yet another condition we were pretty sure he had, because a couple of family members in this room have been diagnosed with it, and which means you don’t quite wake up and you sleep a lot. Grandad was, as you’ll probably be aware, a world class napper. Dad went and asked and was told he probably did have it.
“What’s the worst which can happen?” he asked his doctor, and was told he’d go to bed one night and wouldn’t wake up. He jumped up and shuffled towards the door. “I’ll take it,” he said.
And he got his wish.
So ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’ and ‘you’re never too old to kiss your father’. I don’t know what’s on the actual Devereaux family crest, but aside from those two my dad had another often repeated motto which I think was a joke but was never completely sure. I think it pretty much sums up why I will miss my father but I can’t feel anything but grateful for having him with us so long.
“If you can’t win, cheat’.
At 78, and chewing through enough tablets every day to count as a meal …well, I think Dad did a damn good job of cheating death.
Dad got to pass away at home, in his own bed and next to the woman he loved.
But – in a cruel twist of Devereaux Luck I think everyone in here will understand – totally sober. So not perfect, but pretty damn close. Well done, Grandad.
We love you. And we’ll never stop missing you.
And above all, thank you for the wonderful memories and stories you’ve left behind.
Following this eulogy, my Dad’s brother, James, stepped up and shared some more wonderful stories from their childhood and early delinquency, including Dad cheating death with a bout of meningitis where the family was grieving his passing even as he still lay sick but breathing in a darkened room, and then again when, in a freak accident, Dad was crushed between a bolder tumbling down a mountain and an army truck leaving him with crushed and mangled insides in a rural Papua New Guinean hospital where, as Devereaux Luck would have it, a world class surgeon just happened to be wandering by.
Devereaux Luck is all about when things go good they’ll likely go stunningly to shit, and when things go to shit they’ll swing and amaze you with a silver lining. It’s a special pessimistic/optimistic blend which requires a robust sense of humour and storytelling abilities.
Then their sister, Ann, stood and shared some lovely words with us all as well.
It really was a lovely and amusing tribute. Family and dear friends came from as far away as Sydney and Canberra and Perth to support us and show their respects. We all laughed. I think most of us cried a little. It was my sister’s a cappella version of Wind Beneath My Wings which caused my eyes to break their banks. Beautiful, sis. I’m just glad I’d finished my speaking bit.
Lovely as the stories and the song was though, the two highlights I’m sure the entire congregation will be telling their friends about this week are when Dad’s ‘young’ brother either fell or attempted to crowd surf from off the dais (typical bloody Devereaux brothers: always trying to steal the limelight from each other), and the reverend catching herself going slightly off topic disclosing to everyone which of her dead parents she preferred before having to dig her way out of it, to the amusement of all. But then it’s always the unplanned moments which stick out as the most memorable, isn’t it.
Note: my Uncle is fine, by the way. For an old guy he bounces like a bendy boned baby. Lucky that. I don’t think the family could handle another sibling passing away this year.
Later, we all went to the pub to repeatedly toast my Dad in a way he’d really have appreciated. We drank him proud.
It feels to me like a weight has lifted from this family’s shoulders. It has off mine, in any case. We’re still going to have moments, of course. I cried a bit today. I liked it. I like thinking about Dad and being grateful to the taller, wider and louder half of the team who raised me. It’s only as an adult I came to realise how lucky I was to have them as parents. We always said Dad was hard but fair when he had to be, and we were shits so he had to be a lot. But jeez we laughed. There was never a day I didn’t know – regardless of what I’d done – he loved me. That isn’t as common an upbringing as it should be.
My old man has been sent off in fitting style, and my BIL is recovering well: 8 days after a double bypass and he made the funeral and the wake to honour a man he loved as much as we did.
But looking back, for all the talking and the reverence and the laughs and the beer, and the little girls handing out lollies to everyone after the service because that’s what Grandad always did when they stayed over, the memory which is pulling on my heartstrings most is little Miss7 standing with us after we walked behind the hearse to the church gates to wave Grandad off one final time.
Tracey caught my eye as the vehicle pulled out onto the road and indicated to look down. Beside me, a somber faced Miss7 was giving Grandad a final thumbing of the nose.
Perfect, I thought, joining in.
I wish I’d thought to do it, but I’m glad it was her. And in that moment Tracey and I independently decided to do it more often.
You’ll always be with us, Dad. In our hearts, our thoughts, our incredible good looks, and now with hilariously rude hand gestures.
So very, very fitting.
I love you x
Raising a family on little more than laughs