Saying Goodbye to My Dad

Eulogy delivered for John Andrew Bailey in Mattoon, Illinois.

I wrote most of this on the long drive here, the pen cap in my mouth, reaching for a scrap of paper with one hand while steering with the other. For those of you who have ever taken a trip with my father, and I expect that includes nearly every one of you, could anything be more appropriate?

Speaking of appropriate, what could be better on an occasion such as this then to open with humor. How many guru's does it take to screw in a lightbulb? The answer? We don't know. We're still waiting for one to admit they're in the dark.

As guru's go, my father was unique in that he had no trouble admitting all that he didn't know. And he was unique in so many other ways.

From bowling balls to Tom T. Hall
Mark Twain and freight trains
Hall of Fame and baseball games
Far Side and bicycle rides
making a scene at a Dairy Queen
from soda jerk to social work
Music Mill and Uncle Bill's
running camp and collecting lamps

Sitting on the back porch of his mind with
Will Rogers and Woody Guthrie
swatting flies and trading lies
listening to the sweet sound of the hobo's lullaby

When I was young, he and I would play a game. While I was on the floor, he would grab my legs, lift them high in the air in the shape of a wishbone and say, "Make a wish." And each time, I would show my sense of humor by saying, "I wish you wouldn't do that."

When I was talking to him last Monday, I thought of that. And as I sensed that it might be my last conversation with him, I thought, "I wish you wouldn't do that. I wish you wouldn't go away."

But in my heart of hearts, I know there is a time for everything. And there is a peace that surpasses all understanding.

I believe my father is in that place of peace right now, sitting at a restaurant in Heaven, working on a new collection of psalms and proverbs on the back of a napkin.

Whenever my Dad would introduce me to someone, they would inevitably say, "You look just like your father." And he would lean over and say, "This is when you say, 'Why, thank you!'"

So I say, "Why, thank you."