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Category: Feminists for Fathers

Funerals, Fathers, and Family, Family, Family

May 29, 2024

I remember in my youth going to funerals and being bored to tears. Except for those memorializing people I was very close to, I avoided them like the plague. I suppose I was looking for entertainment rather than enlightenment. Fast forward to my current senior citizen status, and I now find funerals not only enlightening, but inspiring. I always come away with new life lessons and aspirations to follow the lofty example of those who have completed their turn on earth. 

As we focus this month on fathers and the interdependent relationship between men and women, may I share some profound and touching details I learned at two recent funerals? One was for a faithful father and grandfather whose chronic health condition quickly changed and abruptly ended his mortal life, and the other for a young wife and mother who left her husband and their four young children much sooner than anticipated despite seven years of all-out war against cancer.

Ron Dalley is the man remembered at the first funeral. (Read his obituary here.) He was my husband Clyde’s college roommate. From the time we first met him, Ron was incorrigible, mischievous, and full of life. You couldn’t help but be drawn to his infectious smile, never-ending jokes and teasing, as well as his passion for cars, sports, toys, and keeping life interesting for all who knew him. He married Sue Jorgensen, one of my closest high school friends. They were sweethearts and partners, even finishing their careers teaching at the same college. 

Their door was not only always open, but was the entrance to food, games, water fights, and a thousand jokes and stories. He and Sue didn’t sit upstairs while the kids were downstairs making a ruckus; they were right in the middle of the havoc. Ron never forgot how it felt to be a kid, because he was a bit of a Peter Pan who never left behind the wonder of youth to completely grow up.

The underlying motive for Ron’s colorful life was his family–Sue and their children and grandchildren. This family also included the hundreds of others he adopted when they showed up at the Dalley home, in his high school and college classrooms, or on the sports teams he coached. He listened, lifted, challenged, and loved this huge multi-faceted family. 

Ron and Sue spent lots of time (and money) planning and enjoying full-on adventures and making memories. In the last several years, those lifelong pursuits changed dramatically when he was forced to undergo dialysis. He submitted to the treatment even though it was a drastic lifestyle change for both of them. It put an end to many of the activities he held dear. For Sue, it required a full day of her care, three times a week, which she administered with great love and patience. But they found ways to enjoy time together, and he never lost his love for life and a good laugh.

Ron is sorely missed by his sweetheart and their beloved posterity, but they know he gave his whole heart to them and valued nothing above this family to which they were privileged to belong. There are no regrets because he always made time to play, teach, laugh, and listen no matter how late the hour or how rotten he felt. He is also remembered fondly by all those he warmly welcomed to his extended family through his genuine concern and service. 

 

The second funeral honored Melissa Inouye, a young mother, wife, and scholar who was taken far too soon from her family. I met her when she was a young woman, but did not have a close personal relationship with her. I greatly admired her and followed her passionate life through other family members, her efforts to improve her community, and her incredible words gleaned through diligent scholarship and an exhaustive quest for truth. These words, which she taught and shared with wit and love, she also meticulously recorded and published. It turns out her books were primarily and purposefully written to guide her children when she would no longer be here with them. She is truly a hero for our times.

What I didn’t fathom until I read her obituary and viewed her funeral service, was the power of the relationship between Melissa and her husband, Joseph McMullin, and their full and equal partnership. They both pursued their education and life goals as a team–not in competition, but in solidarity and with significant sacrifice. This included moving around the world, welcoming their children and co-parenting them while attaining their individual educational and professional goals. Shortly before her death, Melissa gave a landmark presentation using PowerPoint and unpronounceable acronyms to illustrate the challenges she issued to her audience.

Melissa’s funeral was moving and motivating. It was filled with music, accolades, laughter, and love–balm for the broken hearts filling the pews. Beyond that, my biggest takeaway was the deep and respectful relationship they had built as a couple. Joseph showcased this relationship as he lovingly honored her, sharing his thoughts and counseling their young children.

With a nod to Melissa and her recent presentation and because Melissa loved and used them, Joseph used PowerPoint and acronyms, in his tender tribute and admonitions. It also featured her dry wit and powerful parental love. The entire message of his talk–and this article–is encased in this acronym from the presentation: FFFFFFFFFF (Family, family, family, family …). Family is everything in their world—the beginning, the end, the first and the last, foremost and forever. Joseph explained that their mother endured exquisite agony trying to buy a bit more time to stay here with them and that all her efforts and their efforts as a couple were centered in that sacred word: family. He charged them to be faithful to their iron-clad duty to show up and succor their large extended family. He will honor her by preserving their family’s love, values, numerous traditions, and mantras.

You don’t need to be a grandmother to love the inspiration in these funerals and others you may attend. Please liberally apply these critical principles in your relationships to honor the irreplaceable role of fathers in your life, the interdependent relationship between men and women, and FFFFFFFFFF!