An eulogy for my father

My dad passed away about 2 weeks ago.

He was 77. It was not a natural death, however; we was hit by a mini-bus when crossing the street. He died in the hospital.

For the past few years, I’ve been dreading this moment. The moment I would receive a call from my family letting me know my father was not well. He was old, after all, and he was going through some medical treatments. He was healthy, but at that age, everything can be a problem. I knew that when that happened I would go back to São Paulo right away to be with my family and to see my father, perhaps for the last time.

This is not the way it happened. Instead, I got a message from my brother-in-law-to-be letting me know that an accident had happened, and that my father had passed away. Three hours later, I was on a plane flying back to São Paulo.

In the 9-hour long flight back home, a rush of emotions ran through me. I was trying to make sense of what had happened – as if that was possible – and what the future would hold. More than that, though, I was thinking of the past and everything my dad had represented to me. I ended up writing something because I had to write. It ended up as an eulogy that I spoke at the funeral. Or that I tried to, as i was choking back tears pretty bad while trying to deliver it. Regardless, writing this really helped me make sense of things – it made me look at the past, and his life, in a much more positive light. It was cathartic.

A translated version of this eulogy follows:

First, I’d like to thank everyone for coming. More than a funeral, I believe this event is a celebration. A celebration of a life well lived.

I’m not a religious person. I believe what we do in this world is not create a passage to the after-life, but create a legacy for those around us. I’d like to speak about my father’s legacy – three great gifts my father has given me.

Talking to my father was never very easy, of course. Deafness hit him very early, making communication difficult.

Still, life lessons we learn aren’t always verbal. With my father that wasn’t different. He was, silently, a huge inspiration for me. It’s a cliché to say I owe him and my mom everything I am, but that’s the truth.

The first great gift from my father was the love for books and for reading. When I was a kid, every time I was looking for something to do, I’d go and look for a book in my dad’s immense collection. A lot of times, I’d end up picking a book I couldn’t understand. Still, some of those books became favorites of mine, and I’d always go back to read them.

I grew up believing everyone had book libraries at home. And despite having lost big parts of that library due to floods over time, I still carry that influence with me. At home, I don’t have any more space for books; at work, my desk has piles of books waiting to be read.

The second great gift my father has given me I never quite understood. When I was 10, my father came to get me in school. It wasn’t something common. He took me to downtown São Paulo, where my father, to my surprise, wanted to buy a computer.

He ended up buying a TK-85, with 48kb memory. To this day I still don’t understand why he did that. Computers were not popular at all at the time (1987). It shouldn’t have been cheap. The reasons don’t matter; what matter is that I fell in love with that machine. I started programming with that computer, and of course with the help of a few books my dad bought on the subject, and I never stopped. I love what I do. How my dad and my mom understood this before I did, I’ll never know.

The third great gift was something pretty practical. It was the insistence of my parents that I learn English. But more than enroll me on an English course, it was by small acts of my father that I understood why this was important. To this day I still remember a moment that is difficult to explain, but that had a huge impact in me. I was watching TV, some series with original sound but subtitled in Portuguese. My dad walked into the living room, saw the subtitle – something that looked perfectly correct – and stated, “that’s incorrectly translated”. Without hearing what was said, he knew the translator had committed a typical translation error, and used a false friend.

Years later, I started noticing translation errors in a similar manner. Then I understood. And if I am today where I am, I owe this in a big part to my parents’ insistence that I learn English, and the curiosity stirred by my father.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see my father recently. The last time I saw him was last year. We were planning on coming to Brazil in March or April.

Unfortunately, my father couldn’t come and visit me, to get to know the city I lived in. We were planning on doing this soon, as soon as he finished the medical treatment he was going through. I’m sure he’d love the place.

Unfortunately, not everything in life goes according to plan. Sometimes life catches us by surprise.

But, looking back, I’m happy to see that the gifts my father gave me are gifts I still carry with me. While communication with my dad had always been difficult, I’m happy to have talked with him recently, through email, and to have been able to say goodbye to him with “I love you”. And it’s this love that I hope you’ll carry in your heart as a memory of this event.

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