One week ago, and somewhat suddenly, my father passed away. The burial was yesterday, at which I gave a eulogy. I write a lot about the value of memento mori, the remembrance of death, on this blog. It is the one certainty of our futures that we all will one day die. A life lived as if our road did not end there is therefore only fantasy. As a reminder to myself, and in the interest of encouraging a more sober outlook among others, the text of the eulogy follows below:

The ancient Greeks are known for their keen sense of irony. I suppose that’s why they chose to call the speech given at a funeral a eulogy. Eulogy is Greek for “good word,” but every death is tragic. Death is tragic, however, because every life is precious. And every life deserves a good word.

My father James loved good words. He owned a few million of them, as anyone who ever visited his apartment and saw all his books knows. He also loved to write his own good words, leaving behind notebooks filled with poetry and prose spanning over forty years. He took his time with everything he wrote. He rewrote and corrected. Sometimes he would rewrite something just to improve the penmanship with which he wrote it.

If there is one thing we Pahmans all share in common, it is that we are all very different. My father was an individualist. He walked his own path. That path was often tiresome and difficult, sometimes more so than it needed to be. It is true that he struggled with anxiety and depression all his life, but he would rightly insist that people should never be reduced to a label based on the one or two things in their lives they wish to be rid of most. Indeed, he was capable of great joy.

There is a uniquely Pahman sense of humor. It is difficult to explain precisely, but it falls somewhere between Tom & Jerry and dad jokes. Who of us here, for example, does not find it funny when a man, full of self-importance, sticks up his chin, turns around, and promptly steps on a rake? My brothers and I used to watch Tom & Jerry, Little Rascals, Three Stooges, and the like with my dad. He didn’t own many of them, but every now and then when we came to visit he would go to Blockbuster and rent them … and the VCR to play them. The ’90s were a wonderful time to be alive.

This may seem like such a little thing, but good little things matter. There is treasure hidden in these jars of clay. There is real joy there. I will always remember those good little things. For example, he would take us to catch frogs and turtles at Ada Park or Palmer Park (which he insisted had meant to be named Pahman Park, but no one ever hears or spells our name right). On the way home, he’d buy us burgers at Get-Em-N-Go (which incidentally is spelled exactly how it sounds). I remember we would play Euchre together (Hasenpfeffer, actually), as well as Scrabble and Kismet (which is like Yahtzee but good). When I was older and studying theology at Kuyper, we’d talk for hours about the Bible. He’d give me books anytime he got a double of one he already owned. He and [my brother] Shane and I would watch the Tigers games together. All these little things mattered, because they were good. And because they were good, they still matter. They will always matter. They will always be sources of joy.

I won’t preach to anyone today. I know that everyone has their own path to walk spiritually. If you’re curious about my own journey, we can get coffee sometime. But I can’t leave out my father’s greatest source of joy: his faith. Rather than try to tell you about it, I will let his own good words speak for themselves. The following is from a poem he wrote sometime around 1973 or ’74, so far as I can tell. He had recently had a profound and life-changing experience of the grace of God. This isn’t the whole poem, but it captures his joy in a way remarkably appropriate for the occasion of his burial. This is what he wrote:

my hope is full of resurrection

for as the body of my crucified Saviour lifted from the tomb

and ascended glorified by the Father

so also I will be received by the clouds vanishing to my home

to see my Lord at the right hand of the Father

to worship and serve Him before the throne of heaven

showered by the eternal pure light of my God

and though you see my body cold, without breath

know this, my spirit waits in the presence of Jesus for

every single particle of my body to be full with life eternal

May his memory be eternal. And may he rest, finally, in peace.

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