This is a manful meditation focused on the man who influenced you most in your life, whether by his presence or his absence, your father.
If he is still alive you can think about his eulogy now. What better time, after all, the memories are fresh.
If he is gone try to remember what you said at the funeral. If you can’t remember what you said or you didn’t speak you can give the eulogy in this mediation that you should have.
And if dad just wasn’t there and this exercise just brings up a lot of sour bile; transfer the instructions to the man who meant the most to you growing up. It could be an uncle teacher or grandparent. Just substitute the person who took up the slack for the dad who wasn’t there. Clear your mind and open your heart, this is an advanced meditation that requires both discipline and strength. It may not be pretty.
But first a but of manful sharing.
My father Harry’s eulogy was given by a Rabbi that had known our family for over 40 years. Paul Dubin was a great thinker, a bit of a radical who came out against the Vietnam
War way before it was cool and almost was fired for his beliefs.
All those years later we somehow located Paul and he agreed to speak at my father’s burial. After mom finally sat down and stopped working the crowd he looked over the assembly milking the moment as only clergy can do. He paused for a what seemed like a long time and began in a calm deep voice. “Harry Kragen was a difficult man.” This was the nicest thing that he could say.
That is where he started my father’s eulogy for me. Here is what I recall of the eulogy that I gave.
My father defied the odds by living. When you are a Jewish soldier in the Polish calvary (that's right, calvary) in 1941 just living means you are a survivor. He survived by being 'lucky' enough to be sent to Siberia to a prisoner of war camp. At least the Russians weren't murdering their human spoils, which the Germans would have had he been captured in the Western half of the country.
He spoke little of his time in the camp except to say that it was not as bad as wandering post war Europe afterwards for three years. He did mention once that he stabbed a man to death. He didn't want to talk about it.
After the war he returned to Poland and to his home town. He was traveling with a cousin. Apparently they hung his cousin in the town square.
He finally made it to America in 1949. He became a sewing machine mechanic taking advantage of the growing 'shmata' or clothing industry where he would work for the rest of his life.
He drank sporadically but when he did you stayed out of his way. When drunk he was prone to violence, against mom, my grandmother and myself.
I remember him in the garage up late at night rewinding the copper cores of generators by hand.
He was powerful and larger than life in every sense of the word.
I was not the son he wanted. Studious, small and sensitive, I preferred to read when given the chance. When I was admitted to law school many years later his reaction was "why couldn't you do something with your hands."
You would think I am bitter towards my father. I was. But I forgive him for he gave me parts of my character that I deeply treasure.
Three things in particular.
First, a brutal and often cutting sense of humor that I have to keep in check. The man was horribly funny and mostly at the expense of others. I have kept the good part of the humor.
Second, a powerful connection to sports. My best memories of time with him were going to Dodger games at the then new Chavez Ravine in our beige 1959 Chevrolet Station Wagon. This carried me into the glorious years of 1960's sports in Los Angeles. Unfortunately that same feeling has me suffering in the sports diaspora of the Bay Area at this time.
Finally he loved food. Not in a gourmet sense but in a real one. He was happiest when he drove to Oxnard and came home with a flat of strawberries from a fruit stand. Food became my passion and is my career.
It is hard to forgive an angry and violent man but over time we must take the best of them as we forge our own identities as men and reject the parts of them that impede our own personal progress to a just life.
So take some time readers and think, where will your father’s eulogy begin?
Here is a guided meditation to help you.
Find a quiet place block out the current world. Empty your mind control your breathing and get started.
First picture his face. Focus on it for a moment, especially if he is gone. Try to imagine his face at different times in your life as you aged together. Think of him when you were small, doing the things that fathers do and if he was not there, think of the things he should have done. And how you feel about him. Let it stay there.
Now think about his life. Look at his strengths. His weaknesses. Accomplishments. Failures. The things he wanted to do but couldn’t.
His emotions, did they come easily to him or painful slow like a drip from a leaking faucet. Could he express his love to you or was it hidden. Stop here and take a moment to meditate on this. Get through the surface, be a man, dig into it.
To finish the meditation open your mind to the behaviors of your father that you see inside of yourself. Let the
old man’s ghost walk the room for a few minutes and see how it familiar it looks. Don’t kid yourself, those behaviors are there. Think about them, good bad and in-between.
Now read the instructions to this mediation and do it again. Repeat it several times. Did the eulogy change? Did you discover something that you might have left out the first time through?
And then repeat it again as needed. For this exercise five times may be too much or hopefully too little. Only you know.
Take some time and reflect. Write it down. Remember your father, even if he wasn't there. And if he is still with you, let him know how you felt.