My father, Larry DeHaven, passed away on November 30, 2014. Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease back around 2000 and somehow managed to stay strong, upbeat, and independent until the very end. I wrote the following eulogy for the funeral service and read it aloud, which turned out to be the hardest, most emotional thing I’ve ever put myself through. I know Dad would have been proud.
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“Over the past 30 years of my life, Dad, along with my mother Paula, have looked after me – helping to guide me through life – so proud of everything I have accomplished. I know this wasn’t an easy task because as hard as this is to believe for those of you that knew my Dad, I’m just as much a hard-headed perfectionist as he was. So before I go any further, I just want to tell them both now how much I appreciate the past 30 years of unconditional love and support.
As many of you know, I’ve been Dad’s biggest advocate during the past 15 years, trying so hard to do whatever I could to look out for him when he couldn’t look out for himself. I’ve taken off work just to spend time with him, taken him to doctor’s appointments that he had no interest in going to, and I’ve probably annoyed the majority of nurses in the city due to the dozens of phone calls they’ve had to answer from me every day reassuring me that Dad is doing well. And all the while, Dad was in high spirits.
For a couple years, Dad must have been at Beef-O-Brady’s or Bonefish grill every single day of the week. He formed friendships so easily, and in such great quantities, that I kid you not when I say that I have never heard a single person in the 30 years of my life speak poorly of my father. So many times I would call Dad asking if he’d like to go out to eat, or me to bring him some food, and 9 times out of 10 he’d respond the same way: “No, I’m good, so-and-so just picked me up” or “No thanks, so-and-so just dropped off some dinner.”
I’ve been trying to make sense of everything that has happened so quickly this past week, trying to figure out what I could have done differently, other decisions I could have made and all of the “what if’s,” or things that I should have told him while I had the chance. I was by his side until the very end, as he has always been there for me my entire life. As I’ve been making phone calls the past few days, I have realized that my Dad had a friend in everyone he met. During the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make, so many of you took the time to tell me stories that brought me from tears to laughter in a matter of seconds.
Parkinson’s Disease has been trying to wear down my Dad for 15 years, and I’m proud to say that although he often had good days and bad, he made it through with a level of optimism that I have never been able to understand… Until today.
If everyone could please take a second to look around… I stand here today finally realizing what has kept my Dad going, what has inspired him to be strong and enabled him to be the great man that I one day hope to be.
It’s because of every single one of you seated here today.
You have cared so much for my Dad, going above and beyond, and out of your way to be the greatest group of friends that he or anyone else could ever ask for. Dad had a feeling that things were different this time, so I’d like to take this opportunity to share two last things with you that he wishes he could have told you himself.
First, to Grandma, Garry, and Mom, he loved you all so, so much. Second, to everyone here, and you know who you are; every time you called just to talk, every time you met up or hung out or grabbed food together, every time you included him as part of your own family, and every single time you went out of your way to visit him even if it meant chasing him around town. You are the people that made him happy. You are the people that he loved and appreciated. You are the people that he asked me to, with the biggest smile on his face, stand here today and thank. Dad spoke so highly of all of you, and from the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank you so much for being a part of my Dad’s life.”