Anarchisma 4.0

Eulogy to my Father

My father died on April 5, 2014. He was aged 96, and three weeks shy of his 97th birthday. This is the eulogy I gave at his funeral service.

Good morning.

I see in front of me many faces that I recognize and many faces that I don't. Let me introduce myself to you. I am [Me] and I am Marcel's youngest daughter.

I am standing before you today to speak about my father and to remember him with you as he begins the next journey, one that he makes without the rest of us. My father, as many of you will know, was a fiercely passionate man and a man with a great fire for life, a great joie de vie. That same passion and fire is in all of my family, in my brothers and sisters, my nieces and nephews, my grand-nieces and grand-nephews, my cousins and uncles. My family is not and has never been a physically demonstrative one - we showed our feelings in other ways.

Alexander Pope said, "To err is human, to forgive is divine." My father and I had a misunderstanding some years ago; that isn't important. What is important is that he was and always will be my father and I was seeking reunion with him for some time. It's my great sadness that he died before that could be achieved.

So now, I stand here and invite you all to join me as I tell you about my father as I knew him, as his daughter. He would call me his petite poule, or petit chou - his little chicken or little cabbage. French endearments have a lot to do with food, and so did my father. He was famous for his bouche de noels, Christmas cakes that had a great deal of rich cream and resembled near perfect tree logs with mushrooms and moss. He had an enormous talent for food and his deserts were always a work of art, not to mention delicious. That same talent lives on in my beautiful niece Shandi, and his talent for artistic expression lives on in my other beautiful niece, Christy.

One of my earliest memories is from when I was a child. I don't remember exactly how old I was, definitely under ten. My father would often sit in his workshop out the back of the house, repairing televisions or radios. He had been a radio operator in World War Two for the French Resistance, he told me, and that fascination for repairing broken mechanical things and making things work stayed with him all his life. His gift for mechanics lives on in my dear brother, John. I remember I went into the workshop to see him. I was very young, because I remember the ground being much closer to my head than it is now. Dad used to keep lollies in the workshop, and I remember that he pulled two from of his lolly tin and gave me one. The lollies were in the shape of whistles - you sucked on the lolly and the whistle would make a noise. The two of us sat in the workshop and ate those lollies and made a racket on the candy whistles and laughed and laughed.

My father's passion was legendary when I was at primary school. I remember one afternoon in the long, sunny days of my childhood, a school friend and I took refuge in the front porch as a bunch of boys threw acorns at us that they'd picked from the two huge fir trees that stood on either side of the front gate. My father came changing out of the house like a bull at a gate, yelling half in French and half in English, and those boys scattered like pigeons who'd found a tiger suddenly in their midst. Dad was in fine form that day. I can well believe that in times of war, he would have been heard bellowing orders quite clearly.

He spoke to me often about the time he lived in Morocco and it is his stories that have fed my fascination with the culture and history of the country. He had so many wonderful photos from his time there, all old black and whites, and he would show me them and tell me the stories behind each one. Morocco was where he and his young family - his first wife and my brother Bernard and sister Nicole; my brother John was born there, in Casablanca - went after World War Two, to find some peace and safety. He spoke with great affection for Morocco, and I think he loved the country and her citizens very much. He had promised me all his photos, because he and I both had a project to scan them all to preserve them and share them with the whole family, but sadly he died before this could happen.

As I grew older, finished high school, went to university and left home, I saw less of my father. I moved to the other side of town and lived a very long way from all the members of my family for a few years. Those were hard years for me, but I kept in touch with them all by phone. On my 21st birthday, dad bought me a piano; he kept that piano for me when I moved into small apartments - I had a tendency to move around a lot. He would ring me up and tell me about the latest goings on in the French consulate, an office where I would regularly visit him, and where there was a reception for him when he was awarded the French medal for the Ordre du Merite. He was very proud of that achievement, and I was proud of him for it.

In 1995, I had the first operation on my wrist, and that started a new little tradition between us. Dad cooked his amazing roast chicken and potatoes for me and brought it over to where I was living, heated it up again in the oven and you better believe I ate that as if I was inhaling it! His roast chicken and potatoes was one of the most delicious meals he made, and he knew that was my favourite, along with his crab a la mayonnaise, and his beignets. I remember how much he loved mum's apple fritters when she made them, and I think it's very possible that I inherited his ability to seem as if he were inhaling delicious food. Indeed, I remember that he loved going to the Buckingham Arms Smorgasbord Restaurant, where he would, I was sure, break every Guinness World Record for the amount of food one Frenchman can eat in one sitting.

Meanwhile, I'd be eating my own meal and he would say to me in between one prawn and the next, "Mange! Tu mange comme une petite oiseau, ma cherie!" which is, "Eat! You eat like a little bird, my dear!" I suppose, compared to the plates that resembled food mountain that he ate, what I ate did seem like I was eating like a little bird. In later years, he developed a love for Subway rolls, and we'd eat together once a fortnight, each time dad telling me how good those rolls were and how much he enjoyed them.

In any case, from that point, whenever I was very ill or had surgery, dad would bring me his roast chook and taters and it would be one of my favourite pick-me-ups. He was passionate about French food and he was passionate about France, where he was born and grew up, where my oldest sister lives and my oldest brother died, and while he was not ever really interested in sport, I do recall one truly marvelous night during the 1998 World Cup Soccer Final, when dad and I sat on the phone to each other for the entire match, debating soccer and shouting at the TV whenever France scored - or missed - a goal. That was a good night and I think back on it often.

As technology progressed, so did my father's curiosity and fascination with it. I think that was only natural really, as he was an electrician by trade. One particularly amusing story from the early days of the internet is when he rang me up one night, greatly excited. He'd gotten a satellite dish so he could watch TV from France direct, and there'd been an ad on one of his French TV stations. He rang to ask me about this ad, which declared that the internet could be used to contact the Celestial realm and speak with the dead.

I'll admit, I laughed - after I explained to him that no, that wasn't possible and why it wasn't possible, dad cursed up a blue streak and then he laughed too. I know he was absolutely fascinated by the internet and what an incredible tool it is, and he would often ask me to show him things, ranging from Google maps and street view of places he'd lived in France and Canada to what strings of html code looked like.

I will always remember my father as a proud man, and how he overcame that pride to be friends with my mother, his second wife, when I was in my early twenties. I remember from my childhood how he burst with that pride when talking about my brother, John, and his talent in the boxing ring. I remember his proud smile that split his face from ear to ear when he told his friends in the French community about my uni degree or about his talented grandchildren. He had many friends, here at church, and in the French community as well as a talent for making friends in such unlikely-seeming places as the bus or the supermarket. I am sure that he will be missed by many.

He wasn't a perfect man and he had his faults - no one is perfect. But he was full of life and colour and that fierce passion that I see reflected in my family, and the world was richer for having him in it. From the Doctrine and Covenants, chapter 121, verse 9, "Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friends hands." I think this covers not just friends but family, because our families are our first friends. He will be remembered and missed until we meet again, in a place where no shadows fall.

In closing, I want to share with you a few lines from one of my favourite poems, by W. H. Auden. It's an eulogy in itself and is appropriate and fitting for today as we say goodbye to my father.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

Thank you all for coming and remembering my father with me.