Last Friday, I gave a eulogy at the one funeral I dreaded to attend most of my life. On November 5, my Dad, David E. Straub entered eternity with Jesus following a long battle with congestive heart failure.
Some would say his heart took his life. But it was his heart that gave him life to those who knew him. Known for his gentle soul and joking around, his love for people—particularly his family—was unmatched.
My Dad understood to live was Christ, and to die was gain. Because of that, I take comfort knowing Dad is more alive today than he was in any of the 58 years he walked the earth.
That’s why—last Friday—we celebrated Dad’s life. He lived for more than a funeral. He lived a story that will echo for generations to come.
I’m certain I’ll be writing more about the influence of Dad in the weeks and months to come. Writing is a way for me to honor him. It’s also a way for me to grieve. I want to thank you in advance for walking that journey with me.
At the end of the post, I include the video tribute we played at Dad’s celebration of life service. I’m indebted to my dear friends at Change Media for their work on pulling together such an honoring video.
As I reflect today, I want to share three ways Dad is changing my own story. I hope it inspires you to reflect on—and possibly edit—your own.
- Dad made the most of every moment.
During the eulogy, I wore Christmas wrapping paper taped to my back end. Dad would be proud. The wrapping paper was a visual for how Dad, no matter the occasion, made sure somebody was the recipient of a good laugh. Whether it meant a clothespin on someone’s shirt tail, a “Special $1.99” sticker from the chip bag on their back, or wrapping paper hanging from their back end, Dad had a way of making sure everyone was laughing.
Rarely would I ever leave his house without one of us smearing whip cream or icing of some kind on the other’s ear or cheek as we went to embrace.
Dad’s story was full of jokes—some of them quite corny. “Dad jokes,” as we affectionately call them.
Dad often asked me questions like, “Do you know how many people are here?” Years earlier I might answer, “I don’t know, maybe 200 or so.” He’d respond, “No, all of them.”
One of my favorites is when he’d wake up in the morning. No matter how disheveled he looked, he’d come away from the mirror and proclaim, “Man, it happened again.” Unsure of what happened again my sister and I would ask, “What happened?”
“I just get better looking everyday,” he’d quip, as if it were some inconvenience to him.
We loved playing cards together, particularly a game called Hoss. If he were winning, he’d get up, walk to the kitchen door and look outside. When he came back to sit down I’d ask him, “What are you doing?” His reply, “Looking for competition.”
If you lost badly enough, he made sure the scorecard hung on the refrigerator.
Dad had that way about him. Even if you lost, he made you somehow glad he was the one who won.
- Dad refused to allow stress rob him of joy.
Many of Dad’s coworkers and friends shared stories of him with us this past week. One of the most significant themes to resonate from these stories was Dad’s ability to deflect stress.
I have to admit, it’s a trait I didn’t inherit. However, it’s a trait I’m now working to develop.
Three days after Dad received his first heart pump in September 2014, we sat together in the ICU and he said to me, “When I first was diagnosed 21 years ago, I asked God to allow me to see you kids grow up. Now I’m asking Him for a bonus—to enjoy my grandkids.”
My dad’s prayer reminds me of a story I came across by Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly, about a man in his early sixties,
“I used to think the best way to go through life was to expect the worst,” he told her. “That way, if it happened, you were prepared.”
“Then I was in a car accident and my wife was killed. Needless to say, expecting the worst didn’t prepare me at all. And worse, I still grieve for all of those wonderful moments we shared that I didn’t fully enjoy.”
My dad’s battle with congestive heart failure the past 23 years opened my eyes to a gift—the value of a moment. The gift of a conversation shared. The gift of time spent together.
Living in a different state since 2002, we didn’t miss a single year of meeting one another in Philadelphia for our annual Father’s Day Phillies game. Our streak ended in 2014 when he had his first heart pump surgery.
We dreamed often of the day three generations—with my son—would make it to our Phillies game. That didn’t happen. But what did happen is a story that will live on into that third generation and beyond.
Even when his mom—our Me-maw—was sick, her departing words to me were, “Be joyful.”
It reminds me of Jesus’ words, “Do not be anxious about your life. Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life?”
We’re not promised tomorrow, which is why I’m now actively making changes in my life to stop stress from robbing me of joy.
- Dad was the most gentle, others-centered person I ever knew.
One of my last memories of Dad before he was sedated and intubated was when my sister brought my nephew, Jayden, into the hospital room to see him. Jayden lost a tooth in the waiting room just minutes prior. Dad was in the worst pain I ever saw him in. Yet, with my sister holding Jayden over Dad’s bed, Dad managed to roll over and hand him a few dollars for losing his tooth.
My dad lived the last few years of his life in utter pain. He hurt a lot. But if you talked to him, he’d ask you about you.
I can count on one hand the number of wrestling matches Dad missed in the six years I wrestled through junior and senior high school. He even lamented a few weeks ago about not being able to make it to Jayden’s last soccer game because he was in the hospital.
Even into our adulthood—whether for his kids or his grandkids—Dad was always in the stands.
No matter how much pain he was in, Dad would always say, “If my journey can change just one life, then it was worth it.”
Dad, your story continues to change mine.
As we celebrate our Dad’s story, I hope you consider the story you’re living. Tonight, squeeze the hand of the one you love a little tighter. Hug your kids and tuck them in a little longer.
If your story is changed, his journey was worth it.