My father passed on November 2nd of this year. We had a "homecoming" service for him and were invited to get up and say something. I had written down what I wanted to say because I was afraid that I would be so overcome with emotion I would not be able to wing it and/or get through it. I was right on both counts as it turns out.
My father loved humor and is probably the reason why I carry on the family tradition. So, with a wounded heart, I approached the podium with my notes in hand. I looked out to an audience of standing room only and in his honor began, "My name is Karen. I am the oldest daughter of Kenneth Smith....and his favorite." The room erupted in laughter and I winked at my two sisters laughing through their tears. I relaxed a little and then looked down at my notes, praying I could remain strong throughout my speech. However, due to the glare of the lights on the podium and my old eyes, I realized I could not read my notes; not without my glasses... which were in my purse....in the social hall. That's when my previous self prediction proved right on. I could not wing it and I was unable to say what I wanted to say without my life preserver of written notes. I said what I could and left the podium before my heart broke and leaked tears.
So, dad....this is for you:
My father was both a master shipbuilder and captain of my ship in life. He was a brilliant man who could and DID do the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen. He helped me build my ship with planks of humility, iron rods of belief, ropes of kindness and sails filled with the winds of laughter. He taught me how to sail through the waters of life, see a storm on the horizon and know when to turn for home and when to batten down and wait it out.
I learned so much from him about the seas of life. I learned that you have to love what you do or you will never live up to your potential. He always said, "Do your best and be the best at what you do". I learned that nothing is more important than family because there is not one concert, marching band performance, music competition, school play, you name it, that he was not front and center: not one. I learned that children are disciplined, not punished and praised for doing the right thing just as often if not more than reprimanded. I cannot remember in my entire life ever hearing my father curse or even raise his voice: ever.
My father was my dock that I could return to any time I felt unsure of taking on the seas of life or needed advice on how to navigate my ship that he had helped me build. As I got older, I visited the dock less often but was secure in the fact that it was still there. I would always be safe as long as he was there.
Now he's gone and the hole that is left by that fact is almost unbearable. But he was such a good father to me that I am able to stand here today and know that I have been taught by the best and my ship is the strongest one out there. I know that I have been well prepared to take on the roughest seas because I got the best captain. I will always miss him, but I will sail on. And one day, I know that he will be that lighthouse sitting on that last horizon to guide me home.
In Memory of Kenneth Garland Smith May 3, 1937 - November 2, 2009