A Man of the Church, A Child of God: Eulogy for my Dad

Written by Mark Colville

George Thomas Colville, 2/16/30-2/24/07

George Thomas Colville

My sisters and brothers and I are grateful, and we are humbled by the outpouring of love and support from all of you who have come to honor the life and mourn the passing of our dear father. Our extended family, most of whom have traveled great distances to be here today, has in less than two months now lost two of its giants. Bert Powers, my uncle, left us the day before Christmas, and we want to acknowledge the great influence he, too, has had on our lives, and his presence in spirit with us today. One of the things that was most on my father’s mind these past few weeks was a desire to be in attendance at the memorial service for Bert in New York a few weeks from now. I trust that they are enjoying a more joyful reunion today. And now, two days ago our sister-in-law-Jill has lost her mother. May Rose also be part of that great gathering.
What can I say about my father? It won’t do him justice. I could begin by repeating the unsolicited comments that I and my sisters and brothers have all received over the years, from people of many walks of life, people who knew George but in most instances didn’t know each other. They all indicate that he was a man of grace, a man of integrity and principle and class, a man to be trusted, with a kindness about him that was understated but unusual. He had a unique ability to recognize the moment when someone needed his help and then to go the extra mile with that person… and then to keep his mouth shut about it. He did his best to keep his good deeds quiet and secret, like the gospels say we should but most of us don’t. So I am certain that when I speak of his kindness I am speaking out of turn because I don’t know close to half of the things he did to lift people up. And that’s why, even though I’m in tears today over losing my oldest friend, I’m looking forward to the future because my father is in many ways like a present yet to be unwrapped. I haven’t yet found out the whole story of the paths he walked, just as I have yet to fully understand or live his example. I know that as I walk around New Haven for the rest of my life- the place where he was raised- I will from time to time run across people who knew him and they will tell me another story about him. I will enjoy that. And I will never look on the faces of my brothers and sisters and children without seeing my father. That is part of the gift of family, the thing my father and my mother taught me to cherish above all in this life.
My father did not wear his religion on his chest-which is something that I’ve been accused of on occasion (mostly by policemen and prosecutors)- but he knew who he was; a child of God. He was a man of the Church, and he suffered because of his love for the Church. He became bewildered at times by its changes, and then later he became even more bewildered by its refusal to change, while all the time internalizing the very best of its teachings. And the end result of this, the finished product, was a man who did not judge, and a man who loved unconditionally. At the end of the day, that is all God wants of us- to treat each other the way God treats us- and all a child could ever wish for from a father. I can honestly and without reservation say that my father saved my life. It was my father’s unconditional love that delivered me from the hell I created for myself as a young man. He was there. He recognized the moment. And he pulled me up. So if I ever manage to do anything good for the world- and I plan to– it is because he lived.
My father battled several serious health issues over the past several years, including diabetes, congestive heart failure, cancer on the liver, the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, stinky feet and bad taste in music. (Let’s put it this way: the siblings will not be fighting over who gets the Rod Stewart CD’S.) He also bore for six years the loneliness of losing his wife, our mother Pat, his true love, and this was a loneliness that we and many of you could dispel for a while but never fully quench. (Incidentally, dad was hardly the kind of person who ran around looking for ghosts or signs of the afterlife, but one day recently he mentioned that mom came to him and spoke to him quite often, usually at night when Maura or Pam or another of us had gone home and he was sitting at the table alone. Was this real or imagined?… Who cares; it was real enough to him. So one of us asked him, “What does she say?”, and dad said
“Usually she says “Go to bed, you old fool.”
“So, then what do you do?”
“Well… I go to bed.”
And if you ever sat down with him and ran down the litany of his ailments, he’d probably respond by saying something like: “Aside from all that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” Through it all, through all the doctors appointments and chemo treatments and blood tests and pills and insulin injections and the pain of walking from here to there, I saw him get tired, but I never saw him belittle a nurse or raise his voice to a doctor. I’m convinced that it was his sense of humor and his gracious attitude, along with a great love for his children and grandchildren, that kept him with us for so long, and kept him from ever being bedridden despite all that he suffered. But in the end, he did get tired. And when he took his leave of us, he did so in the same way that he had always walked among us; with grace, with a devotion to our needs and with his sense of humor intact.
When my sister Maura called early Saturday morning and said “I think he’s gone”, I jumped in the car and started driving. And all the way over to the house I kept thinking “I’m not ready. I’m not prepared to wrestle this world without him in it. I haven’t got it yet. I need more time.” That feeling has not left me yet, but somehow I know it will. Our father has not left us unprepared. He left us many presents to unwrap. He left us with each other, stamped with his likeness and filled with his goodness. And so while it’s true that we are entitled to our tears today, I intend to leave mine on the altar and at the cemetery. He believed in the promises of Christ and he lived that way, and whatever any of us thinks about this life or what awaits us after this life, I say you’re wrong: it’s much better than that. Somewhere in the Bible it says: “Precious in the eyes of our God is the death of his faithful one”. Dad’s joy is now complete. As for us… we have presents to unwrap. We have people who need to be pulled up. Let’s get busy.

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