Daddy’s Eulogy

Dec 24

On Saturday December 15th I delivered my father’s eulogy. Before it started we played “When I get Where I’m Going” with Dolly Parton and Brad Paisley and “Go Rest High on the Mountain” by Vince Gill.

Here is basically what I had to say – though I ad libbed a bit.

We are here today to celebrate the life of my father, Richard “Buddy” Rodgers, a very special man.

Over the past months I have been blessed with a gift – the gift of time with my father while I cared for him during his illness. It was short time, but every minute was special. This was also a time that I was well-prepared for through the example my father set for me. During my Dad’s life he was the finest example of a caregiver that I have ever known. Many of you know how he cared for my Mom through the years. He also helped care for his mother.

He told me about taking care of his mother when he was a young man and she was dying of cancer. She had surgery for the cancer when he was a teenager. They cut all the nerves in her legs and she couldn’t walk. She told my Dad that she wanted to learn to walk again. Every afternoon when he came home from school he would help her get up and walk up and down the hall. With his help, she did learn to walk again.

The other night he was talking, remembering his mother. One of his fondest memories of her was from when he was a small boy and she was working at the distillery. She would pick him up in her New Pontiac after work. He would ride behind her with his arms around her neck and they would sing all the way home to Bald Knob.

He cared for my mother through the many years of her illnesses. If she needed something, he was always there with whatever she needed. Many people over the years commented to him that they didn’t know how he did it. He did it because he loved her and because he was a strong and faithful person. He did because he was special.

I learned so many things from him that have made me the person that I am today.

He taught me that being honest is one of the most important character traits a person can have. It might not always get you ahead in the game of life but as long as you’re honest you can sleep at night and people will respect you.

He taught me the value of hard work. He’s the hardest working person I have ever known. He never did a job half way and he taught my brother and me to have the same work ethic. Frank and I have many successes to show for our years of hard work and we have my dad to thank for that. He learned his work ethic from his Granddaddy Harrod and the Rodgers family working on the farms out in Bald Knob.

The other night Dad was telling stories about working on the farm with Granddaddy Harrod. One afternoon during tobacco cutting season Granddaddy asked him to ride with him over to another farm while he did some business. When they got to the farm his Grandfather told him, “Now son, you never stop a man while he’s working. So you take two rows on one side and I’ll take two rows on the other side and we’ll work along side him while I talk to him.” So they both started working alongside him. When they were finished with the business at hand they finished their rows and got back in the truck.

My dad never had an alarm clock. When he was young, he got up most mornings on the farm at 4 o’clock to deliver milk before school or to pluck the chickens to take to town and sell on Saturday morning.

He taught me to be persistent, self sufficient and to never give up. He had some ups and downs in his lifetime but he never stopped trying. He came back from his set backs and through it all he was always optimistic. He kept a positive outlook right to the end even with his illness. The nurses at St. Joe’s Cancer unit loved my Dad because he treated them well and kept a positive attitude. Many of their patients are angry about being ill and take it out on the nurses. Not my Dad. The last week he went up for a transfusion he wanted to make sure that we took some Rebecca Ruth Candy to all the nurses that had been so nice to him over the past months. He always asked them about their day or their family and told them they were pretty and sweet. He rarely complained and tried to be cheerful even when he was in pain. All those nurses drove in last night to pay their respects which I guess shouldn’t have surprised me. I know it made my Dad smile. He was special.

It took him a long time, but he eventually taught me patience. When we were both much younger neither one of us had much patience. I remember when I was about 5 years old and he was teaching me to ride a bike. He would push me along and then let go and I kept getting upset. He lost patience with me and went inside the house. So I picked up the bike and got on it and figured out how to ride it by myself. A few years later he was trying to teach me how to drive a stick shift. I kept popping the clutch and he kept fussing at me. I stalled the car out on East Main Street and he told me just to drive home. I pulled the car up to the house and he got out. I drove back in to the country club and finally figured it out. So his lack of patience in those early years taught me to be self reliant. But in the end he had the patience of Job. He spent many hours waiting, waiting in doctor’s offices for results of his blood work, waiting at the hospital for his transfusions and in the end just waiting. He was sweet and kind and patient through it all. He was special.

He taught me that giving to others was the best gift you could give. It is fitting that he has passed during the Christmas season, as one of my fondest memories of my father was from a Christmas long ago. I think I was about 10 or 12 years old. It was back when my father owned the hardware store. There was a single mother who had put a bicycle on lay-away at the store for her young son. She called the store on Christmas Eve and said that she wasn’t going to be able to make the final payment to get the bicycle. We were at my aunt Billie Mac’s with all of our family and many presents and he just couldn’t stand the thought of that little boy not getting his bike for Christmas. He and my cousins Polly & Granville left the party and went to the store to get the bike and delivered it to the woman. Every time I tell that story it reminds how important it is to think of those less fortunate and always try to give a little extra to make someone else’s day special.

Over the past several months driving back and forth to the Cleveland Clinic, he taught me a lot about farming. As we drove past the fields in Kentucky and Ohio he told me stories about his boyhood growing up in Bald Knob working on his grandfather’s farm. I learned about the dairy business, growing and cutting tobacco, plucking chickens, corn shocks and so many other things. These were fond memories for him and I feel blessed to have heard these stories. I only wish I had taken a recorder in the car so that I could listen to them again.

He taught me how to cook breakfast. He made the best breakfast I have ever had. Nobody could make bacon, sausage and eggs like my Daddy. He used to cook bacon and a fried egg every morning for his little dog Molly. He was a good cook, kept a clean house and knew how to sew a button on his shirt. He said his Mama taught him how to do all of those things just in case some day he married a mean woman. Well he didn’t marry a mean woman, but all those skills she taught him sure came in handy over the years.

He taught the land development and building business. Back in the early 90’s I came back to Kentucky for a few years and worked along side my Dad. Last week Frank and he were talking about all the years my Dad has been building houses in Frankfort. They tried to figure out how many houses he had built. He built houses in Cloverdale, Thistleton, the Country Club, Country Lane, Silverlake, Garden Point, Riverbend and now in Pinehill. We think he might have built close to 500 homes over the years.

He taught me that it is not what a person does or how much money they have that makes them important. Treat every person with respect and stay true to yourself. He always judged a man by his character, not by any other measure. A good, honest country boy would rank well ahead of the President of the United States in his book. I always try to keep that in mind whenever I meet new people.

There are so many more things that he taught me, I could go on all day.

But most of all he taught me about love. He loved my mother more than I think it is sometimes possible to love a person. He struggled with her through many years but he was steadfast – always by her side. In a day and age where marriage vows are often cast aside, he took his and kept them with every fiber of his being. When she passed away a few short years ago I remember he said to me, “She sure was good company.” I promised her on the night she died that I would take care of him. Almost everyday after she died I called him on my way home from work and we would talk for twenty minutes or so. I cherish every minute of those conversations as I grew closer to my Dad everyday. Every day he told me how much he loved me and I told him how much I loved him. He sure was special.

The other night when he decided not to go to the hospital we were talking in the car on the way back home. We both knew that time was short. I said that I knew Mama was waiting for him and she probably has her dancing shoes on. I am sure that he is with her now and they are dancing together through eternity, as it should be.

Then we played the Paul Overstreet song “Love Lives On”. After the service ended we played “Happy Trails” with Randy Travis and Roy Rogers.

It was an incredibly rainy day. An Irish friend told me that means that the person is going straight to heaven because the heavens are opening up. Another friend from Algeria told me that the rain is a sign that the person gave much to others and the world in their lifetime because the rain enriches the earth. I thought that was very fitting and beautiful.

I am trying not to be too sad for I know he is in heaven and at peace. But it is so hard not to be sad.

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