Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Eulogy for Thomas Clay Gerrard

Thank you for joining us today to celebrate and honor the memory of my Father.

Thomas Clay Gerrard
Uncle Tom
or more recently Paw Paw
although a lot of us probably called him mostly, just “Yes, Sir”

I’d imagine many of you can share an experience where my Dad held a fatherly like role in your life - protective, supportive.  But in case any of you ever tried to imagine what it might have been like to have Tom as your actual father - well, I’d like to set the record straight.

It was amazing.

Yeah, better than you could imagine.

I was so blessed to grow up in home centered and supported by a good man of strong character, a countryman, a good husband and a great father.  He was a great example, and he is my ideal role model.

Dad was a man of integrity, honesty and authenticity.  He never acted for the benefit of others perception - his actions were guided by his own principles - he would tell you he “could not care less what those people thought” - but he was not disrespectful of others.  He spoke with sincerity and frankness - without pretense - although he might temper an obvious truth with wit and sarcasm.  “And how did that work out for you?”  

He taught me how to show grace and strength in the face of adversity - how to respectfully disagree…

But I also learned, that if you have passion about something (and Dad had passion for everything he did — “If it’s worth doing; it’s worth doing right”) … I learned that if you have passion for something - it’s ok to show that - it’s ok to get mad when someone messes up - people will respect you more if they know where you stand.  Everyone knew that Dad had high expectations, for himself and for those with him.  You can either suck it up and do your best - or you can get out of the way - there’s no place to half-ass it with Tom.  But he’d never hold a grudge.  He was willing to get mad, but he was far quicker to forgive, and if you told him up front that you had made a mistake, he respected that a great deal, and there was barely another word about it.  He was very fair.
We’ve all been gushing this week about what an amazing man my father was, and on occasion someone would try to help find some perspective by remembering “Yeah but he was strict too” - and that’s true.  I have often described my father as setting very high expectations.  He absolutely expected that the rules were obeyed.  But he was always was up front about the ground rules, and there were always well defined consequences.
So honestly, even as a younger man, I didn’t recall him as strict.  As I recall, as a boy, he had taught me discipline.  And so after that, when I was learning to be a young man and he told me “you KNOW better” - he was right.
My father vigorously supported and loved his country.  His grit and natural talent served our country well - throughout two terms during the Vietnam War with a Naval Construction Battalion - the Fighting SeaBees.   He remained, throughout his life willing and ready to defend this country.  He carried his sense of duty, loyalty and self sacrifice forward onto his family.  I believe he felt personally responsible to ensure our freedom and safety.  And I always knew we were in good strong hands.

My father was wise.  He had the experience, he had the knowledge, and he had good judgment - which made him an exceptional teacher.
I recall a passing moment, as a grown man, at my Aunt Linda’s house.  Dad had heard Aunt Linda mention that she and Fellow had collected the remains of a number of wooden decks - and that they wanted to assemble them together into a deck of sorts around the back of their house.  Dad immediately set to organizing the affair.  We had a lot of help.  Some folks I didn’t even know.  There was a young man, he must have been someone’s boyfriend or a neighbor, Dad had set him to running his screw gun.  A few screws in Dad stopped him - and I overheard “Hey.  Slow down.  Anyone can screw some boards down - it’s not a race.  You need to line up each screw, space them evenly, and run them down straight and even.  That’s craftsmanship.  That’s what it means.  When someone steps onto this deck - they’ll know that the person who built it - did it with care - and that they did a good job”  It felt like an out of body experience, watching that young boy receive that wisdom that my father had given me years ago - and he nodded and he understood.  He did a good job.
My dad taught me so much.  I still had so much to learn.  I know that in time the shock I’m feeling now will give way to grief, and in time after that I’ll learn to carry that sorrow with dignity.  But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to deny the big hole in my life, where I knew I could always turn to him for answers, and support.

So uncle Bill, next time when I’m asking you something about my water heater or whatever it is - and I just flat out loose it - you cut me some slack a’ight.

Dad had an uncanny gift for service.  Service, i’ve read, is one of the “love languages” - and that is how he was best able to show us just how MUCH he loved us.  And it suited him - “actions speak louder than words”.  As you remember how much my father has done for you - try not to get caught feeling a great debt for his service - he was HAPPY to do it.  It was his gift.  He loves you very much.

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