Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Towering Fortress

My father passed away peacefully in his sleep Sunday morning, August 7, 2011.

Here are the words I wrote for and spoke at his memorial service on Friday, August 12.


My father leaves behind a legacy of kindness, compassion and a quiet dignity that touched many lives profoundly, not the least of which was my own.

In raising my brother David and I, Allan Merrill was a towering fortress, both literally and figuratively. One of my earliest memories of my dad was trying to keep up with him in the Hukilau parking lot, his long strides made it very difficult for my little legs to keep up. I was running, he was floating.

But as a father he was very much a gentle giant.

It must be my memory playing tricks on me, but I cannot remember a single incident of my father raising his voice to me. And I know for a fact he never raised his hand either. Don’t get me wrong, he could be stern - but something about him, his presence, his values, his dignity - made a withering look from him far more effective than any scream or belt could ever be.

But he was rarely, if ever, disappointed with his sons. I truly feel unworthy, as an adult with all my faults and sins - to be a lifelong object of such unconditional love from my dad. I recognize though, what an amazing and pretty rare gift that was.

He was always proud of us, always. He never stopped bragging to his friends on the island about my traveling for my job or my brothers achievements in medicine.

When I look at my dad and all his accomplishments and how many lives he has touched, I am truly humbled by the everlasting love and admiration that he bestowed on my brother and I, from the time we were babes in his arms to recently when I had a baby of my own.

Yes, he was always a big man. I mean, even as a 40 year old man, I still had to reach up to hug my dad.

But bigger still, was his heart and his compassion. In every way, Allan Merrill was to me - and always will be - larger than life.

His grandmother had an X on her front porch railing a signal to passing transients that her home had food available for the asking. Allan took his cue from this all of his life.

I can remember as a child making plates of food for men who would show up around back at the Hukilau kitchen.

If there was a holiday, Thanksgiving or Christmas, more than likely you could find my dad and Linda serving up hot food to the needy at a local shelter or mission.

My dad had an unending compassion, not only for the less fortunate, but for the people he surrounded himself with and also the people he employed over the years. These folks were more than just workers to my dad, they were to him - truly family. It sounds crazy, but it’s true - he genuinely had love in his heart for the people who were so instrumental in making his business ventures so successful.

There is a long list of people, and there is a room full of people here, who repaid my dad in kind with love and loyalty. To all of them, to all of you, you have my family’s everlasting gratitude and appreciation.

If there’s one thing I am taking from my dad today, across the countless, priceless, memories him it is a great gift he gave me. The gift of dignity.

He had a presence about him, I really believed he was touched by the divine, in his ability to bring dignity through himself to his surroundings and those around him.

He had an innate sense of goodness, of right and wrong - and while he was no saint (and who is?) he bestowed this inner awareness of justice in me right from the beginning.

My father taught me, not in words, but in how he lived his life - that through the chaos, the hurt, the sorrow, the anguish in life - we must always step back and compose ourselves, and remember… we are, all of us, in this, the greatest country on God’s green earth, we are all - truly blessed. Take stock. Take measure. Keep your bearings. Keep your dignity.

One small but very telling example of his gift - my father never swore in front of me. Ever.

This makes, an impression.

It speaks to everything about him. Time and a place. Good times, good friends - but always keep your wits about you. Keep your focus where it needs to be. On those you love and on the good Lord above.

This is what I’ve been given. This is what we’ve all been given. Everlasting, unconditional, not always perfect - but always eternal, love.

Thank you all for being here for him, I know he is here among us, laughing along as we share stories and memories.

Thanks to all of you who helped make today happen.

Thank you pastor Larry for your beautiful words and all the comfort you’ve brought to my family.

Please, all of you, enjoy yourself today. Share, and reminisce all the good times and even some of the tough times. Laugh and cry - embrace that this gentle giant, has once again brought us closer together. And remember the endless love in his heart. Let it flow from him to you and to your loved ones.

Me, I’m going to close my eyes and smile, imagining myself in the parking lot, trying to keep up. Yep, I’m still running - and he’s still floating.

I love you dad.

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