On Monday of this week, my dad passed away, which has made for an emotional week. Being there for my mom and family, helping make funeral arrangements (expect to be surprised at the costs – which by the way, it’s better to arrange before time of death) and presenting my dad’s life in a manner which honors him appropriately, have been both emotionally draining and an opportunity to reflect on such great memories, life in general and the things that are important to me.
To honor my dad, I wanted to write a short speech that was both light and also gave a glimpse into who my dad was. As I was preparing and writing my speech, I realized I haven’t been to a lot of funerals and didn’t know where to begin for writing a eulogy.
I have decided to share my dad’s eulogy in case it can ever help someone else get started…
Thank you all for joining us today to celebrate the life of an incredible man, Morteza Shojaee, who was a great husband, a brother, a great father of 5 children, a grandfather of 6, and an all-around genuinely good man. My father was born in Masjed Soleiman in Iran in 1925. Last month, we celebrated his 90th birthday.
My father was not a religious man, so this will be a short event. We are going to remember him with a few words from my brother in law, then a couple of short stories that I want to share with you, then we’ll move to the burial site to bury his casket, and for everyone who likes to join us, later this evening we’ll have dinner together starting at 6pm at the Persian Room. We would love for all of you to attend. I know he would absolutely love it. He loved large gatherings.
I was reading a book of quotes with my son Kourosh the other night, and we encountered a wonderful quote that gave us both lots of joy. The quote said “may your life be like toilet paper…long and useful.” It takes a second…Yes, it’s ok to smile. My father would have loved it. In fact, he was a man who always smiled. He was fun to be around, he was open minded, he was inclusive and loved by virtually everyone who encountered him.
My dad met the love of his life, my mom, in 1951. They met through a woman who’s job it was to connect singles and they have been married for 64 years! I think the matchmaking lady was their generation’s match.com! Except she has had a much better track record.
In the past couple of days, as we have announced my dad’s passing, we have been enamored by so many stories of my dad, examples of his generosity, awesome attitude and what an all around joy he was to be around. For someone who was born and reached adulthood before automobiles, televisions or even bathrooms were commonplace in most households, especially in Iran, his calm demeanor and open-minded views were always astonishing to me.
I’m going to share with you 2 stories that will hopefully give you a glimpse of who he was and how he helped shape our views…
I remember it was in the early years of our migration to the United States. Sometime around 1985, during the height of the AIDS scare, when anti-gay sentiment was also rampant. We were in a gathering of sorts. I was around 11 or 12 years old and within earshot distance of my dad’s conversation with some other person. He asked my dad what he thought of “the gays” revealing his own prejudices about the topic. I remember that moment because my dad’s answer helped shape who I am and how I view the world. I remember the topic piqued my interest and I tuned in to my dad’s response. His response was simply “they have never done any harm to me and they are like any other people – like you and I.” His implications stayed with me. Why would I treat people any differently based on their race, religion or sexual preference? While religion preaches the golden rule of “do onto others as you’d have done onto you,” I found that my dad truly lived by the golden rule, he didn’t just preach it. But he was never a religious man.
A few years later, I was 16 years old and my dad, who bought and sold cars to help make ends meet, had given me the keys of a Z24 sports car that he had just bought from the auction. Of course, I did what perhaps any teenage boy might do when encountering their first sports car, I wanted to see if it could fly…quite literally. It turns out that cars can most certainly fly if you go fast enough over a steep hill, but the landing is a different story. When the car landed, after getting some serious air, which I was very proud of, it inherited a decent sized hole in the bottom of the oil pan, causing the oil of the car to start gushing out. That night, I drove the car home as fast as I could, parked it in our driveway and went to bed as if nothing had happened. The next day, I rode my bike to school, and when I returned home, I saw the car jacked up on 2 wheels with my dad and his good friend working under the car, trying to fix it. When he saw me, I knew I was going to be in a world of trouble. I was wrong. Instead, he just smiled and said “it would’ve been nice if you told me what happened, so I wouldn’t try to drive the car without oil.“
That was my dad. Cool. Calm. Lovable and smiles all around. It’s no wonder he lived such a long and useful life.
Even in his final days, when he had no mobility, had lost his ability to speak, and under pain, when my brother in law played a song from one of my dad’s favorite artists, Haiedeh, my dad still managed to sneak a smile.
I am sad to have lost my dad. But his final weeks were trying to rob him of his charm and beautiful smile, which is why I was happy to have received the call that my dad had passed away, ending the suffering he was going through. He was an amazing dad. And he lived an amazing life. May we all be as blessed as he was and have a life that’s like toilet paper.
I love you dad!