Thursday, December 10, 2015

Eulogy for my Dad - Geoffrey Frank Jacobs

Read at the Thanksgiving Service at Christchurch Priory on Wednesday, 9 December 2015.

My name is Martin, and I was privileged to have Geoffrey as my father. Of course, I would like to claim some credit for that particular decision, but alas.

Dad’s life was not just an arrival at an end point. It was a long journey that intersected many lives. We remember the many meetings and intersections along the way, and we remember that they were good.

In the last few days, I have started to clear out the garage. I’m starting at its current state, or end-point. It was Dad’s shed; his man-cave. There was an outer crust of ‘I’ll just put this down there for the time being’ and stuff that would be sorted later, after a cup of tea.

Like an archaeological dig, the outer crust had to be removed in layers but, underneath, Dad’s workbench began to emerge. There were the screws and nails, sorted into boxes and jars, and used paint-brushes, standing in jars of turps, waiting for the next job. I found, to my dismay, that Dad had never assembled a piece of Ikea furniture, because, try as I might, I could find a hex key nowhere. Every piece of flat-pack furniture always comes with a hex key, and after a while of assembling these things you garner a small collection of hex keys, but Dad had none.

Of all the rooms in the house, Dad’s garage seems to be the place to remember him best. That was where he made things, fixed things, painted things, took things apart, and reassembled them with various degrees of success. It was where he solved problems.

Dad and I built a boat there. We or, rather, he started by laying out the plywood boards. Then we stitched them together with copper wire and sealed the joints with fibre-glass. Slowly, the thing took shape – the keel box, the buoyancy tanks, the rowlocks and rigging. We painted it a luminous fluro-yellow. Dad and I and assorted family and friends and enjoyed sailing it around Christchurch harbour. I remember, on one alarming occasion, looking down at the keel box and seeing the luminescent green sea through a hole, which then proceeded to fill the boat as water is wont to do. Time for some more of Dad’s repairs.

Whilst clearing the garage, I found a relic of that old boat and wondered about whether to bring it here today because it is such a pug-ugly thing. Here it is; a rudder pin, with its striking yellow paint.

I remember (or I think I remember) standing on Dad’s shoulders as a small boy. You can see the photo. He was big and strong, then. When he came home from the sea, we three boys would demand a romp and a wrestle with him on the sofa, and he would tie us up in giggling knots.

In later life, we got to know Dad further by his quiet deeds. Janna and I are always grateful for the support Dad and Anne gave to us as we started to build a life of our own. Dad’s generosity was not limited to material help, either. Dad, and Mum, never tried to keep us at home like household pets. They wanted us to go wild, and we did; to out and make our own way in the world, and that takes a particular kind of generosity. On the other hand they never closed the door to us whenever we needed a bolt-hole or a stopover or a cup of tea. Dad had a large and generous heart.

God is love, so the Bible says, and I believe it, in no small part because of Dad’s example. 

It’s a curious thing to say because love is a noun and a verb; something you have, and something you do. Is God a noun and a verb? Possibly. But trying to separate the noun from the verb is like trying to separate the journey from the thousand small steps, and each small step makes the whole journey.

I mention this because the small steps are important. Dad’s small steps of generosity, tolerance (which Dad valued highly), integrity, forgiveness, forbearance, giving others the benefit of the doubt, making space for others in your world; in a word, love. These small steps are important and there are too many to count, or remember here, but they are known to God.

Of course, a large number of these small steps are beyond my memories of Dad. For instance, I knew him as Dad, but his ship-mates would have known him as Captain, and you don’t get to Captain without mastering the sea and those that sail on it. I would have liked to have known more about Geoffrey as Boss, but I am content to believe he was a good one.

You have your own stories of Dad, your own memories. To conclude, I feel it is right to thank you, on Dad’s behalf, for loving him. Thank you, Dad, for loving us.

God is love, and love endures when all else has passed away.

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