(Words shared at my father’s memorial service this weekend.)
When I think of my father, a couple of things immediately pop into my head. The first is his concern for everyone and everything. I remember asking him simple questions on car trips –I mean simple questions like “are we there yet?”– and getting detailed answers over not just the next few minutes, but sometimes hours, days, and (I am not kidding) sometimes years. His appetite for knowledge was insatiable, even when mine was satiated.
The second thing was his love for music and especially opera, played at full volume. I remember getting into his car or walking into the house and hearing the music he loved playing full blast.
And I would say “Turn it down!”
As happens often as we grow into adulthood, I find myself regretting my teenaged eye rolling, my impatience, my constant hurry. I realize now that despite telling him to turn it down and trying to tune out his long answers, I still managed to learn so much from my dad.
I thought I’d share those lessons with you in a poem I wrote. It’s called:
“Turn It Up: Lessons Learned While Trying Not to Listen.”
Turn it up. Turn up the volume on the Pavarotti. Ignore the pained expressions. Turn up your own voice. Sing solo, or blend it with others, but sing out.
Turn up your curiosity. Ask a question. Then another. Find out that thing that makes someone else amazing. Turn up your curiosity about how to turn down pain for others. Try to know it all, including the unknowable. Make people wonder how you can possibly care so deeply about everything. Make them wonder why they don’t.
Turn up the light. Your grandmother wouldn’t want you reading in dim light. Tolkien, Kipling, Dickens, Dickinson deserve bright light. Turn up the spotlight on someone else and applaud their accomplishments. Turn on the flashlight: help friends find a path when they lose their way.
Turn up the elegance. Set the table with polished silver, sparkling crystal, fragile china. Treasure things that have endured for centuries, especially family.
Turn up your faith. Because though you can’t see it, God is working
Through hands that play drums, strings, woodwinds, brass, keyboards.
Through voices raised.
Through endless questions, endless answers.
Through spotlights and flashlights.
Through extra silver place settings at family dinners.
We are, all of us, meant to turn up the sound, the light, the curiosity
As we seek ways to love each other perfectly.