The Eulogy For My Father

*After the service I had several requests for a copy, so here it is with added liner notes. Quotation marks clarify what was written to put it in context.

Euology of Joseph Conway Faul delivered by Kevin Conway Faul

Saint Finbarr Church, Naples, Florida

November, 11, 2017

[ ] – denotes liner notes 

“ “ – denotes verbal ad libs spoken but not originally written in the eulogy 

“Mr Joe – I like that name- , Dad, Pops” [Father Dave said in his homily prior to this eulogy that he called Dad Mr Joe, so I added this last minute]

“I was sitting there thinking about what Father Dave said about Dad running a tight ship as the usher here and by my count he straightened up at least 4 parishes in his life” [Father Dave spoke about how Dad was very attentive to details like temperature and attendance so I ad libbed this & it drew laughs]

“It is important for us to remember” Dad is here today. In the flesh and blood of his 7 children and 3 grandchildren. And his spirit lives on in our hearts.

They say kids laugh hundreds of times per day while adults laugh only 17 times or less. In this way, Dad never grew up.

“I shaved today, for Dad”

I usually have a little stubble on my face. Dad was always clean shaven.

Hey kevvy you forgot to put a razor in when you shaved this morning

You forgot to sharpen the razor?

You were in such a rush to see me you forgot to shave this morning?

Looks like you shaved with a dull blade again!

Working so hard you forgot to shave?

Dad had a million funny sayings for anything and it was a fun game we’d play.

But that was just a warmup to get you ready. [I omitted this line when speaking – it didn’t feel right]

Before I start i want to say two things:

First, it’s okay to laugh. Dad would want you to laugh at everything. He was the happiest person I knew. He laughed all the time.

Second, this will be far too short than what Dad deserves. In considering what to say today I felt overwhelmed so I thought “what would Dad do” and I did that. If that scares you a little bit – congratulations! you knew Dad pretty well, too.

So here goes.

“But first I need to wet my whistle”

[I pulled out a whiskey flask full of water and took a swig, Father Dave looked shocked, the congregation didn’t know what to do, a few laughed]

“Don’t worry! It’s water. I just thought Dad would find it funny” [at this, everyone laughed]

The halyards and stays clang softly on the masts Of the sailboat in the harbor

Slowly rocking side to side in its slip

A temporary place of safety

Where sails and sheets can dry

And the hull can stay tied by its side

Resupplied for its next journey

But boats aren’t meant for slips

(Unless you’re a power boat, Dad might say which by the way I seriously thought were called stink pots until I was probably 7 or 8) [I decided as I was speaking this line didn’t fit so I didn’t read it]

Sailboats are meant for the seas

Birthed from the breakwalls

Directed by the tiller

Driven by the winds

Tested by the waves

Skill earned every nautical mile

Dad was the captain of a ship named Faith

On a Great Lake named Michigan

So this is a story about Faith.

Sola Fide is latin for “by faith alone” – but Dad was Irish so in Gaelic we would say “tre cred-uvv awain” trí chreideamh amháin. “creideamh” [I only read the pronunciation] if there was one phrase that could sum up Dad’s life, this would be it.

By Faith Alone.

If when I was a young man you were to ask me what faith was I would tell you it was the name of our sailboat.

If you were to ask me today what faith is, I would say it is the lesson I learned from Dad – it’s my journey in life to find the kind of faith he had.

You see we grew up sailing. And if any of you have ever been sailing you know nothing requires more faith. You have to believe the winds will be in your favor or you’ll never leave the harbor. You have to believe in your ability. Most of sailing is believing. You sit there bobbing up and down going nowhere while doing a lot of believing. Which is probably why Dad loved it so much.

In our case Dad was always willing to go out in conditions that scared other people away, so we especially had to have faith that we’d make it back in one piece, too.

Several times we almost didn’t. One beautiful day on Lake Michigan turned into hurricane force winds off the coast of White Lake. Another time our engine failed in a storm with 6-8 foot seas coming into port and we had to, once and only once, call for a Coast Guard tow.

Faith, you see, is not believing you will be okay, it is believing that there is an order of things and that the order will be revealed when the time is right. Typically for Dad, that revelation came under chaos, though as a Navy man he preferred order. He found comfort in order. He was an orderly man – he liked things neat and clean, and he enjoyed a schedule. You could put faith in a schedule.

In Naples every weekend he would visit the farmers’ market. He’d say hi to everyone and pick up his weekly list: a half gallon of Orange Juice, a bouquet of flowers for Ruth, fruit and vegetables. He had a specific place to park to get in easily and out quickly. He stopped by only the tables he needed to stop by. He was slow on his feet but extremely efficient. They had lunch at Larry’s Lunchbox every Saturday. He opened the St Finbarr Saturday afternoon and ushered for mass until he couldn’t any longer – this was perhaps his favorite activity of the week. You could set a watch by the schedule. He didn’t like to be late.

Dad seemed to have a schedule most of his life. He was punctual.

I should tell you that this gene skipped me.

One of Dad’s favorite stories is about a young man who was late to a very important job interview.

He had been out of a job for months.

He was recently married.

They had a new baby at home.

They were running out of money.

If he was late for this interview he may not get the job.

He turned into the parking lot of the building where he was interviewing.

He was a little late because he had spilled coffee on his tie when he got into the car and had to go back into the house to change it.

The parking lot looked full.

As he drove through the first aisle.

He passed each occupied parking space

His anxiety grew.

Minutes went by

So he did what he hadn’t done in a long time – he began to pray

“Dear God I really can’t afford to be late! please, give me a parking space!

No space appeared.

I promise I will never skip another Sunday mass

I will go to confession

Aisle by aisle, he pleaded his case

If you give me a space we will say the rosary every night as a family!

We will baptize our daughter!

And just then ”unbelievably” a car pulled out of a space a few feet in front of the young man’s car

Oh! Nevermind God, i found one!

“The lesson is that” Sometimes the opportunity “-ies” to find faith is hidden by fear and anxiety.

In my first memory i am crawling and bump my head on a wooden coffee table we had. Dad picks me up on his lap and I couldn’t speak so i start crying. He laughs a little, holds me until I stop, then puts me back down. I was scared, Dad, and you were there.

[This next section was always hardest for me. Couldn’t get through without crying while practicing – still a vivid and moving memory for me.]

After a horrible car accident in 1988 where my sister Erin, my mother, and I were hit by a drunk driver, [paused here for 1-2 minutes to stop crying. Felt like an eternity] I was lying in the emergency room of the hospital with two broken arms and a broken shoulder. I had internal bleeding that required surgery immediately. Out of silence Dad’s voice said “hey Kevvy how are ya boy” i saw him standing over me. “hi Dad. I have another broken arm” i raised my right arm up in it’s shiny new white cast. he put his hand on me and said “i see that son. They’re taking you into surgery but i’ll be here as soon as you get out.” And he was there.

Dad and I were very close for the last many years but we didn’t always get along so well.

When in my later twenties I was complaining about a trip to see Dad my girlfriend told me I needed to straighten things out with him. So I called and asked him if we could spend the day together. Without hesitation he said he’d love to. We resolved our issues on a drive out to the Everglades and we became closer than we had ever been. He showed up when I needed him.

Faith, I was learning through him, was not just about something you believe in but something you could give to someone. You show up.

Wherever Dad was he welcomed anyone. He loved people.

He loved being part of a community and was always excited to see people. He was always excited to see you. Their door has always been open to others and they were always willing to help someone in need.

Church was his cornerstone in life. He was born across the street from St Mel’s in Chicago where he would attend mass daily, sometimes more than once a day. So it seems faith was planted in him at an early age.

Since his father was killed when he was 2 years old, he sought solace in the Church which continued through his life. It was his way of finding answers to questions that could not be found by driving into the everglades because he never had the chance “to get to know his father”. A reminder that sometimes we’re lucky, and I can tell you Irish luck is real.

Faith is also something required of every Cubs fan so Dad was naturally a Cubs fan. Faith paid off last year when in a teary conversation we celebrated their world series win – it was nearly 1 am when he answered the phone in Florida “. I was not surprised because we knew each other was watching the game” and through laughter and tears we talked about our Cubs memories: the first time i tasted beer was in the summertime after Dad finished mowing the lawn. The windows were open, and with the smell of fresh cut grass coming in we would sit there and watch the Cubs- he would always give me a “swig” of his Old Style beer from a brown glass bottle. I still have all of my baseball cards including the Ryne Sandberg rookies dad gave me for my 14th birthday.

You see it wasn’t the Cubs winning that brought us together – it was a lifetime of faith that one day they would. And when they did it reinforced the bond we had built over a tradition.

Dad was an engineer and liked to build. Lucky for us we grew up with a basement full of tools and one more lesson he and Mom instilled: faith in ourselves. If we could dream it we could build it – and from a hover craft to double-story tree forts, we did build it all.

This faith would carry me through many things. It helped me make big decisions. It was a big deal to me when I presented Dad with a product from my company we designed for him – Navy blue with red & grey stripes (Cubs colors that could also pass as Red Sox colors in a pinch “I found out later the President of the Red Sox had one on his desk, and many throughout his home” (Ruthie’s team) – and he was sincerely proud. Which is good because i called the company Conway Electric – Conway being the middle name he and I, along with my brother Jon – share as a family name, and I wanted to make him proud with it. He was proud and he told me so, exactly when I needed to hear it. He lifted people up.He always saw the good and if he had a chance he told you so.

The faith in possibility – that dreams can come true – stems from the belief that revelations will happen when the time is right.

He did not ration faith in his kids. Above all he wished to see us do better. He wanted everything for us that he did not have himself. Perhaps it’s normal for a son to feel like he needs to prove himself to his father. It should be normal for a father to tell his son he loves him. Luckily with Dad I got both.

As Dad got older his faith seemed to transform him. He became gentler, kinder, and referred to the teachings of Christ more often. He was open to change. He found true love in Ruth Chapman and together they were inseparable. He loved the community around Naples and enjoyed the warm weather every day.

Despite being raised without a father, despite seeing the horrors of war, despite facing personal hardships, and having his own faith tested time and again he was always smiling. He would be embarrassed and humbled seeing your faces today.

In faith dad found peace. Where there is peace there is love and in love there is happiness.

But you know this isn’t how it ends. Because though dad could appreciate the solemn, he preferred the humorous. So I’ll leave you with an Irish proverb:

When we drink we get drunk

When we get drunk we fall asleep

When we fall asleep we commit no sin

When we commit no sin we go to heaven

Let’s all get drunk and go to heaven

Thank you Dad, I miss you, I love you.

A printable (pdf) copy of this eulogy can be downloaded at this link:!AoLKK4Eyf-GAgasp-8F_5ITFmXKovQ

[The note below was a cut edit that I stuck here and did not read. Leaving it here for my own reference as the original copyI wrote. I’m glad I cut it from the final version]

So perhaps the proudest I have ever been was the last week Dad was in the hospital – Erin arrived and I had to fly up to New York for a meeting with a big retailer. When I got back 18 hours later I was able to tell Dad “we got the deal – the Conway name will be known around the world” and his response? “You could tell me that 50 times and it would never get old”.