Eulogy for Dad

My dad, James T. Reilly (Jim), passed away peacefully on November 16, 2020. Mom, my sister, brother, and sister-in-law were there. I’ve never been so cognizant of my gratefulness for my siblings.

I was honored to be asked to give the eulogy at dad’s funeral. It reminds me of dad and I want to save it, so it’s below.

My siblings and I were blessed with wonderful parents. We were privileged to have parents who loved us, cared for us, and expected us to learn, grow, and do. We were privileged to have parents who moddelled a stable, loving, equal, partnership. We are so lucky to have had dad in our lives for as long as we did.

Dad participated fully in our lives. He joined high-school biology class clam digs, teased us about dates, and helped with homework.

He encouraged our efforts at music. He not only reminded us to practice, he seemed to enjoy listening to the noise that ensued–and, partly because of that–we began to make music.

Dad took us camping–often with mom–sometimes solo. He pitched our tent in the pouring rain and in the midst of clouds of mosquitoes. He cooked tasty breakfasts of gray eggs and ham. He admired our discoveries and bandaged our scrapes. He comforted me and mom when I got lost in the badlands.

Some camping trips were epic. One summer we camped across the continent and back. Once we joined dad while he maintained trails in Olympic National Park–another multi-week camping trip–this time ten miles up the Elwah River. Dad helped us build a stone oven and entertained us by bathing in the glacier-fed water each morning–while we sat on the bank and listened to him yelp with cold.

And always he shared the cooking and cleaning and he sang.

We moved to Bandon in 1972 and Dad quickly adapted to the coast. He took us crabbing and clamming. He showed us how to identify chanterelles and other forest treats and was always adventurous with his cooking experiments. They were usually delicious, but I particularly remember on gluey, sour gooseberry pudding.

Dad showed us how to move forward past failure.

Dad got great joy out of Mom’s enjoyment of sports. He enjoyed following Oregon State athletics and watching his kids and grandkids play.

Dad was competent in so many areas, from concrete work, to carpentry, to auto repair–from plumbing, to wiring, to design. Whether you were a friend, a neighbor, or a grandkid, he’d join in and help out.

In addition to remodeling his own houses, he spent a substantial part of one summer in Olympia working on our house and, similarly, pitched in on my sibling’s projects over the years. Many of dad’s grandkids received help with their cars, sometimes hands-on, sometimes troubleshooting over the phone. Always interested, always cheerful.

Dad had a lifelong interest in transforming the spaces he lived in from what they were to what he and Mom envisioned them becoming. We have a family story about Mom “helping” this along by knocking out a supporting wall while dad was at work.

They’ve always been a great team.

All of us in this room have memories of Dad.

My memories are suffused with color.

I remember his bathing shorts–little bright-blue checks against his Irish-white legs. Dad liked blue. We lived in several blue houses–some bright, some subdued. I particularly remember a bright blue shirt that reflected the blue of his eyes. Clear blue sky will always remind me of camping, picnics, and walks with Dad.

I remember Dad as green. The dark green forester pants he always wore for work. The varied greens of our western woods. The trees, but also the licorice fern, huckleberry, and miner’s lettuce.

Dad will always be with me in the woods.

Then there was the yellow crew “crummy” and all the memories from that time. Dad’s caulk boots full of mud. His hard hats, chainsaw, and planting hoe.

All the planting bags and all the tiny trees.

His dinner time stories about his crew introduced me to a world very different from my own.

“Yellow” colors our six-week camping trip–across the U.S. and back–in that same crummy, spruced up with shag carpet and a camp-gear storage box.

I remember the black of Dad’s hair, so close to me as I rode perched on his shoulders.

The soft purply-black dark of my bedroom as he tucked me in at night, sang me a lullaby, kissed my forehead, and popped his cheek with his thumb.

That was the sound of “I love you,” “You’re safe.”

I remember when I was 16 and suffering from hives–dad brought me a cool sheet to wrap in, then rocked me in the darkened living room until I fell asleep.

Dad read aloud to us often–Heidi and The Wind in the Willows were two favorites. He read each many times over the years.

I remember Dad reading to grandkids, a whole heap of grandkids–a couple on his lap, one kneeling on the floor with their head on his knee, one on his shoulders, and one draped over the back of the chair.

Everyone engaged in the story.

That’s a multi-colored memory, as are the roses and miniature fruit trees Dad planted and cared for in Shady Cove.

Dad was a wonderful parent and spouse. His example will continue to influence my life and that of my siblings and our spouses, kids, and grandkids.

My memories of Dad are suffused with color, and they’re beautiful.