This morning is a little more quiet than mornings have been recently. See, the crowds are gone. The stash of food prepared for family and visitors has been split and donated. The checklist doesn’t have any more boxes to check. There’s no nursing home to visit. The hospital room is empty. The seat at the end of the couch is carefully prepped, but shadows only find refuge there this morning. The Daily Light is worn, but sees no more left-handed cursive in ink. The chair, walker, and cane wait, but Dad needs them no more. The world is maybe in a sadder state, as a soft smile went away.
Oh it pains me to know that all the efforts made will now only know past tense. The sacrifices so many people made, and that they would do anything to help my Dad, and my Mom; still the willingness is there, but the man is gone.
The man is gone. Oh, but his spirit lives on. I need to look no farther than the small gathering at Mom and Dad’s after all of the formalities were completed yesterday. All three of my Beal cousins, a new friend, Dad’s brother and his wife, Mom, two siblings of mine, and one of my brothers-in-law, sat for a few hours together, doing what Dad did best. We laughed, oh my, did we laugh. The scene in the living room yesterday could have been from any one of the last 40+ years; From any Beal get together in my lifetime. Oh, and Dad, he would have been right in the middle of it all, loving it, and laughing. Dad’s presence was felt, his impact impossible to miss. I don’t think he was looking down from heaven at us, because I am hoping he had better things to do, like lose himself in his mother’s waiting arms, or to look his Dad in the eye and hear the words, “Well done son”. Maybe he was off creating comedy from nothing with his twin sister June. Perhaps he was walking the streets of gold and getting to know his brother Roger, who passed away as a baby, before any of the other siblings. Or just maybe he was sitting on a hill somewhere, soaking in the beauty of perfection while trying to contain the excitement that one day, we too, will know. Were Dad still bound by the weight of this imperfect, cursed, earth, he would have been centered perfectly in his comfort zone, among us.
During the proceedings yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much Dad would have loved to be there and see everyone. To me, there was just one person missing, because Dad wasn’t there. I know we were all there to honor, remember, and celebrate my Dad. There was a body in the casket, but Dad, he wasn’t there. Pastor Little, who delivered the message, said it best when we told us all that Dad had preached his own funeral with the life he lived, and his walk with God. Pastor was right. Not only that, but on Thursday morning, when Dad’s hands were held by the earthly love of his life, he breathed his last breath, and didn’t miss a step in his walk with God.
I don’t honestly know how most funerals go. I don’t know how most people view funerals, or even how they think of them when the word ‘funeral’ is mentioned. I would guess, that many, if not most, funerals are flavoured with despair and uncertainty. Oh, if I could get everyone to a funeral like the one we had for my Dad yesterday. I would refer people also, to the funeral that I attended when I was a 17-year-old know it all, when my Mom’s mother passed away. Oh what a celebration! In both instances, there was no despair. There was no uncertainty. Oh the freedom found in salvation. There was joy. There was a bounty of thankful hearts. Thankful for no more suffering. Thankful for the memories made together. Thankful for the impact our loved one had left on our lives. Thankful for the promise God made. Thankful for the example we got to see everyday. Thankful for the stand taken when many of us would have wavered. Thankful that we are better people for having walked closely with one who passed.
Before I get to the speech I read at Dad’s funeral yesterday, I dare walk closely again. Dad, I love you. Dad, I will, and already do miss you. Dad, I will miss the trips to Dunkin Donuts. Dad, I will miss the stories shared. Dad, I was always listening. Dad, your smile will never be forgotten. Dad, your humor is engrained in all of us, thank you. Dad, a long, high-arching, jump shot will always be in my mind’s eye when I think of you. Dad, most of my driving derring do I learned from you. Dad, I also paid attention and learned how to excel at driving from you. Dad, I will miss the trips with you and Mom to New Brunswick, but I will take it from here, you taught me well. Dad, I thank you for creating a seamless family with the Beal-Peterson connection, for I fear there are few family bonds like this left in the world today. Dad, I know your heart and soul were ever-present even when the body started to fail. Dad, thank you for the lessons in love. Dad, thank you for wavering not in your walk with God. Dad, thank you for doing life your way, unique to you. Dad, I am glad you broke so many molds along your way, so much would have been missed in containment. Dad, thanks for the glimpses into your free spirit, rarely are people fortunate enough to be touched by someone’s unencumbered lust for life and the joys found in the details. Dad, thank you for being my Dad. Dad, I am thankful that God chose us to be a father-son combination. Dad, thank you for choosing Mom. Dad, what if I forget how to walk like you? Dad, thank you for growing old without ever growing up. Dad, I can’t wait to see you again, and to look into those pure blue eyes, and smile together like giddy children so happy to see each other. Dad, thank you for everything.
This is exactly the speech I struggled through yesterday at my Dad’s funeral. Thank you to my brother for editing it down from the full story, found here (please have a read of the whole thing if you’d like).
Dad – Funeral
My Dad, John R. Beal, passed away Thursday morning, April 14, 2016. I can honestly say that my initial thoughts and feelings of pain and finality, were followed quickly by the sense of relief that my Dad suffered here no more. Although the former thoughts and feelings will stay close to me for some time, I know complete peace as Dad made his way to his eternal home Thursday around 8am.
Just the Thursday before I sat with him in the nursing home, he in his wheelchair, me in a vinyl, beastly looking contraption that looked and felt like it could withstand the World Wars. We sat facing each other, next to his bed. He didn’t say very much that day, as had become more and more the norm these last few months. But I noticed that his face and his eyes looked more alive than I had seen in months. I took joy in that smile whether it’s effect reached the rest of his face or not, because the eyes gave it away. We sat, just he and I, for 90 minutes, listening to an Old School Country Music playlist. I knew he thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent, as did I. I was happy to see Dad, happy.
That visit with Dad in the nursing home was the last time I would see my Dad alive. Really alive. I was with him most of the day, in the hospital on Wednesday the 13th, but he wasn’t really alive. He had vital signs and they were good. But he was completely unresponsive and never opened his eyes. Our family was there all day, and Mom spent the night in a chair (similar to the one I described in the nursing home) next to Dad.
Dad was born in 1941. If he had been born during the last two decades it’s likely he would have been tagged, or somehow otherwise labeled, as having a learning disorder or disability. But, as God and His perfect timeline would have it, Dad was born before everything needed labels and corresponding medication. I am certain he suffered in some ways from the forcible learning/teaching habits taught from some book, that until recently, nobody thought to re-write, that incorporated the will to push all pegs, even in their asymmetrical diversity, through the same hole. Dad was different for sure. Thank God. These battles, many of which, maybe not another soul knows of, but I am certain they happened; Turned into a drive and determination that Dad displayed in areas where most of us wouldn’t apply. His resiliency was more between his ears, than anywhere, because that’s where the battles were fought, and where the weakness resided. I am saying that his methods, comprehension, and responses were questioned as a matter of the brain he was wired with. He was sound. He just had limitations in the physical aspects of his brain. God created him that way, and for 74+ years he worked with the equipment he had. He did what he had to, and he got by. Nowadays maybe he would have been labeled, separated, and led away from the pack, stunting growth, killing creativity, and who knows how that would have gone.
God knew what He was doing though. Dad was one of the best preachers I ever heard. Dad could mix humor into any sermon, illustration, or story without ever being silly. Greater still, you knew exactly what he meant, and his relatability was second to none. God gave him words, thought patterns, and a perspective to pull things together in a light that changed lives, touched hearts, and led to the eternal saving of souls. Honestly, what greater purpose could a man be called to? That was my Dad and he was great at it.
I just lost my Dad, and maybe I am gushing a bit, but he wasn’t any more perfect than any of us are. But I choose to hold him in regard to the greatest attributes of his life. Once I got a little bit older, he wasn’t terribly hands-on as a father. He loved and he led, but he did so at arm’s length. He was proud of us, and he loved nothing more than to watch his kids compete or perform. He taught us right from wrong. He did play with us, he was there. I don’t have a list of things he taught me or things he always said. See when you have every dinner together and spend so much time together as a family, all six of us, in those moments there are countless lessons, examples, and quotable spoken contribution. It was on us to pay attention, and we did. He didn’t come out and say this is how to be a man, this is how to do this or that, but his commitment to the Word of God, the teachings found therein, and the scriptures was a lesson anyone could benefit from. He was a family man. We were a family that was together a lot. We gathered on holidays with extended family, and Dad would have it no other way. The greatest gift he left me was the way to heaven. There is but one way. Jesus said,”…I am the way, the truth, and the life…”.
Being a son of Tom Brokaw’s self-proclaimed “Greatest Generation”, he has set a pretty high bar for the rest of us.
See, me, and my generation, we hope to be measured one day in the same breath as the great people of the generation before us. In that generation the simplicity of life lived was the stunning portrayal choreographed by the depth found in the intricacies of magnificent minds with the perceived time to approach extraordinary. I am just a man, my Dad was a great man, a great man of God. His new place in heaven ensures what should always be, that I’ll look up to him. I do, and I will.
Dad didn’t want to leave this world but he did want to go home. We found out after the fact that he had shared with nursing home personnel on Tuesday that “he was ready to go home.” To his heavenly home. You know it’s kind of interesting to think about the state of the world we live in today, is the same world we cling to at the end. In our infinite mortality, we fight to stay here just a little longer, as those gathered long for the suffering not to leave this place. Two points that I choose to notice, one, that it’s the people not the place, we long to stay with; two, our heavenly home that awaits is so much better than anything we can comprehend here.
For the last five years or so, I have spent a lot more time with my Dad than I had previously as an adult. I heard a lot of stories over and over, and other simple things that are neither here nor there. But really, I learned a lot about Dad, and gained another level of respect for him, especially as a man of God. One thing that was always very present with Dad, and that I have seen present in many others over the years, were his smiling eyes. Or as I might dare say, a saved person’s eyes, or Christian eyes. In those eyes, the whites are white, and the light shines a little more bright. These windows to the soul are clear, and they sparkle, for in the depths of those saved souls, fear does not dwell. Even through these difficult months, Dad’s eyes rarely dimmed. And in those eyes, I saw so much love.
In the end of Dad’s time here on earth he suffered. He fended off so many attacks on his brain over the last 11 years. Much to all of our dismay, and opposite of our best wishes and prayers, Dad never regained the elevation in steps that he had previously climbed to once a medical event had happened. He got close. He often times maintained, which is still susceptible to the aging process we all face. Though he battled, he never could advance against the damage done to his command center. He lived on. He loved on. He smiled often. He welcomed all whether we knew it or not. In his fashion simple things continued to be his most revered things in life. Right up to the hands that held his while he grabbed at his last breath.
Although you folks hearing this, may have known him as John, Pastor Beal, Uncle John, brother, brother-in-law, Reverend John Beal, or Mr. Beal; I am happy to have always known him as Dad. While we are here today to remember and honor, I am happy to report: Dad is home. Dad is happy. Dad is healthy. Dad is at perfect peace.