Eulogy for Dad

Last month my Dad died of pancreatic cancer, less than four weeks after being diagnosed. Here’s what I said at his funeral, and a poem I wrote for him as he left us.

Newlyn Harbour

Dad was a great enjoyer of things, and I want to take you to Newlyn Harbour to share some of those with you. It was a place we would often visit when we were on holiday in Cornwall - and Cornwall was the land that he loved, a place where everything seemed better for him. The sights and sounds, the tastes and smells, couldn’t be beaten.

The harbour itself is a place of industry and effort, which Dad always appreciated. The engineering involved would be pointed out to us, from his seemingly-limitless knowledge of how things worked. This depth of understanding sometimes led to my science homework containing a level of detail way beyond what was required for a 13-year-old! This sharing of knowledge was never done to show off, but as part of his marvelling, and as a way to encourage respect for what had been achieved. I learnt to marvel from him, and this prepared me to delight in God.

Admiring Concord at the National Museum of Flight

Dad knew how things worked, and he knew how to fix many of them. Whenever Deb and I would drive down from Scotland to visit, he would open the bonnet and look over the car, checking the oil and finding things that needed a spray of WD40. This was part of the career he did so well in, and also his way of saying, “I love you.”

A familiar sight

He didn’t just point things out in the harbour, he photographed them too. His camera bag was always slung over this shoulder at places like this, and his eye was always alert to see something that most of us couldn’t: patterns, shapes, contrasts, colours. I learnt from him how to see, and his commendation of a photo I’d taken was the only praise I wanted.

Another familiar sight

A fishing port also suggests food, and Dad loved good food. As in everything, he didn’t want extravagance: anything well-made was a source of joy. In Cornwall this would mean a pasty, or fish and chips. At home it meant almost anything Mum cooked - I’ve been looking through the diaries he kept, and an entry for Sunday 27th March last year simply stated that they'd had, “The best ever roast pork dinner.”

To mention Mum brings me to their great love for each, about which so much could be said. I’ll just say that I’m glad I could grow up in it and learn from it.

The harbour leads out into the sea – and all the natural world amazed him. From the birds that flew into his garden to the stars that shone overhead at night. If there was a new science or nature documentary on TV, I could be sure that it would be brought up in our phone calls. Even more, he loved to be outside enjoying all that was there. He was alive to everything around him, which makes him being dead so hard to comprehend.

After his funeral we took him back to Cornwall to be buried just up the road from Newlyn Harbour. This marked the end of a life that was shorter than any of us wanted it to be, but far more blessed than we could ever have hoped for. But it was not his end. When we realised what was happening to him, I shared with him what Jesus said to someone else faced with the shock of death:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)
Dad said these were powerful words, and he prayed them and others from the Bible with Mum in those last days. His trust in God was quiet but real so I am confident that I haven’t seen the last of him: that he will be raised to new life by Jesus when He makes all things new, and wipes every tear from our eyes (1 Corinthians 15:51-58, Revelation 21:4-5). There will be a new heavens and new earth to explore and discover, create with and delight in – that glint Dad got in his eye when something pleased him will never fade. He will be with Jesus, the great Designer and Engineer, in whose presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).


With the wind in your hair
And sea light in your eyes,
With a pasty in your bag
And a grin on your face,
With a long path before you –
Those colours and sounds and sights around you –
And us all, just behind you.

If you’d like to make a donation to Pancreatic Cancer Research, we’ve set up a page in Dad’s memory here.