So, I wrote this poem [hold up card] in the passenger seat while my fiancé drove all night from southern Virginia to this funeral home—a blizzard followed us. It was all 35 miles an hour from WV to CT in a sea of Mack trucks.
And standing here now, I realize that I got something wrong in the poem—this line right here: “I wish you could teach me how to love so fiercely it swallows our world.”
Let me explain.
I was going through my dad’s belongings the other day and came across a few interesting things—like this 20-year-old hair brush [hold up brush]…that still has my hair in it.
And this box [hold up box] that says “World’s Greatest Dad” filled with my baby teeth, and what I’m assuming is a roach from the first joint we smoked together when I lived with him ten years ago.
Also: my Christmas list…from 1990 [hold up list], this birthday letter from his step-daughter [hold up letter], all of my publications to date (which aren’t many), a handful of not-so-rare pictures of his step-son with a priceless orange mullet, his wedding ring—the list could go on and on.
He cocooned himself in his love.
And what I’m learning is that, just because he’s not alive anymore to love me, or any of you, it doesn’t mean that he has stopped teaching us what it means to love other people, animals, sports teams…far from it.
Standing in his sister’s dim-lit garage, my toes ready to freeze off, fumbling through boxes of his relics with my fiancé and best friend T. Jaye, I felt so much love, and so much gratitude for him, my friends, my family.
A part of me might always feel like the intense tenderness that overwhelmed me when I discovered that old hair brush, my baby teeth…that tenderness is how he must have felt for me and everyone he loved all the time, and I just wish that, when he was alive, I was able to make him feel even a fraction of that love was reciprocated.
As long as I remember him—and I mean, let myself really, really remember him—he’ll continue to teach me what it means to truly be in love with the world.
And he was so in love with this world…he wasn’t ready to leave it—to leave us.
The best way for us to honor him is to not hold back—love your loved ones like it’s going out of style, like you’re a bat in an attic getting chased by a broom—love without shame or fear, love others for yourself and trust it, trust that you’re good enough to love with complete abandon.
Before my dad died he told me that he wanted to write an autobiography in hopes that it would inspire others in a positive way. As many of you know, he had been through some shit. And he overcame so much of that shit. He not only wanted to better himself, he also wanted to help others be better, too.
Since he won’t be able to write his life story, I plan to pick up the torch and write it for him. But I need all of your help. I only know John the Dad, and I need to learn more about John the Brother, John the Friend, John the Husband, even John the Boisterous Coworker.
I just ask that you write your email address alongside your name in the guestbook if you don’t mind me contacting you to ask you about your John Stories. I hope to conduct as many interviews as possible throughout the next couple of years so that I’m able to write the most comprehensive narrative possible. He deserves it. If you guys could help me fulfill this last wish, I would be so grateful.
Thanks for coming