Dad – My Funeral Talk

I have lots of cute, funny stories, pictures and things about the boys to share… But I don’t know.  I don’t feel like posting those things today because it’s grey outside, and this morning and afternoon I’ve been thinking about my Dad.

I think we all know I gave up hope of this blog being in perfect chronological order a LONG time ago, so even though it’s totally random, today I want to post the talk I gave at his funeral.

I actually listened to it today (Thanks Uncle Kyle and Aunt Nat!) and I went ahead and transcribed what I said, because as I compared it to the talk I had prepared, I was surprised by the amount of in-the-moment changes.  So even though it doesn’t read very well (I think I’m a better writer than speaker, plus inflection and delivery really do matter.  I think they changed conference addresses on to always show the video for exactly that reason!)  I’m going to post what I said when I actually gave it.  It’s just more accurate, and I’d like to think at least a few of the changes were inspired.

To preface, right before speaking I had performed a musical # on my flute with my cousin Joshua.  We played an original composition of my Dad, a tribute he wrote to the Savior, entitled “Galilee.”  And my Uncle Kyle, who had written lyrics with my Dad for the music, introduced the song and told it’s story. (A story deserving it’s own post later).

Also, when I talk about “the Broadcast,” I am referring to Music and the Spoken Word.  Mormon Tabernacle Choir members refer to it that way, and my family and I picked up the habit.  And when I talk about him “playing,” I mean the piano (which was well talked about before it was my turn to speak).  My dad was an amazing pianist.  Self taught, by ear (couldn’t read piano music and play it, he just heard songs and could sit down and play them… even difficult classical music), could play anything… but always transposed it to the key of C.  Truly amazing.

Ashlee’s Talk at Dad’s Funeral, January 24th, 2013:

Sorry to be putting on the Ashlee Show for a minute.  I knew a long time before I thought I would speak that I would play.  It was a rule at our house… my dad wouldn’t let me do things before I would play.  My best friend Katie and I… we… anytime before we could go on our date or whatever, we had to sit down and play for him.  So it felt only fitting that before I do anything else, that I remember him in song.  A big thank you to my Uncle Kyle for explaining it and to Joshua for accompanying me.  I think you did great, Joshua.

Almost all of the memories I will carry of my Dad are in some way related to music. Whether it was hearing him practice in his office for the Broadcast on Sunday… or how he forced trick or treaters over the age of 12 to sing the National Anthem before they got their candy… or hearing him thump on the steering wheel of our car, Neil Diamonds Jazz Singer, and just belt it out on car trips… music and my Dad are inseparably connected.

As a little girl I think the most comforting feeling in the world was laying in my warm bed at night and hearing him downstairs just playing… and I felt like he was playing just for me… and everything was right in the world.

I still remember the day that my Dad found out he had been accepted as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. You may not remember, but he was rejected the first time that he auditioned, but that didn’t deter him from trying again, and working tirelessly to prepare for that.

Calvin and I are very much in agreement that there was no one who wanted to be in the choir more and who worked harder to get there.  It was literally a lifelong dream for him. When he was a little boy… pretty little… he and a neighbor boy built a radio transmitter… and I don’t… what other little boy would take it to the attic, and blast the Mo-Tab?!?  That’s what he did!  And he had his arms (I put mine up like I imagined he would have done it)… and he conducted the Mormon Tabernacle Choir just as a little guy, so it has truly been a lifelong dream for him.

Singing in the choir required a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice on his part. He always said that he didn’t think he was the most talented singer, but that he loved it so much, and it required him to work a lot harder than maybe some of the more talented, naturally gifted singers in the choir.  So he would sing in his office at night in addition to singing on Tuesday and Thursday nights and on Sunday morning to prepare for those broadcasts.  Even though it was hard for him, I know he would say that without a doubt it was worth it, and he found great, great joy in it, and I really think that his testimony found it’s greatest expression in singing the hymns of Zion.

And what a blessing it was to my family to be constantly surrounded by such beautiful, uplifting music. He played that music in our car, he played it in the home, and of course, we went often to his performances. I think… I’ve been reflecting on what an impact that really did have on me… and I can remember really quiet moments in the car driving home from Nat and Kyle’s house, or the Harris’… and hearing that music and the spirit having a chance to testify to me that what they were singing about was true.  There were those quiet moments, and then there were really  powerful moments in the Tabernacle, where my own father was singing to me, and the spirit had a chance to witness to my heart… and I’m so grateful to my Dad for instilling a love of music in me, and for giving me those opportunities.

Even though it’s a little silly I feel like have to share one story from the choir. He taped… every single Broadcast…  and he would come home… and after he had had, you know… lunch or whatever… he would watch it.  And he was watching with a purpose.  There was one thing he was waiting for… and it took him years, but finally, one day… he got his “Fade to Pipes,” shot. And that is exactly what it sounds like… he wanted… a picture of his face… alone! not in a group! … and at the end of the song, his face would fade into a shot of the pipes… and then one day he got it!   And it was just like a little boy at Christmas time opening the perfect present!  It was very, very endearing.

My dad worked very hard for our family. He did the best he could to provide for us and he wanted us to have a good education and to grow up in the gospel.  I don’t remember a lot of things… I don’t remember him talking to me… a lot… about the gospel… but I very, very clearly remember his example.  I gained my testimony of tithing in tithing settlement when I heard my dad declare himself to be a full tithe payer.  I gained a love of the temple watching him and my mom attend regularly… and the love that they had for that.  I think maybe the most prominent example that he set for me was in the caring of his aging mother.

He loved her… so much… and he would require us, even if we were complaining and we didn’t want to go, every Sunday we went, and we visited her.   And I remember him talking to her with such love and such care.   She had a really hard time with technology… like VCR’s were so hard!  She would call him up in the middle of the week and say “Rob!  I can’t get it to work.  Will you come down?”  and he would drop everything, and he would go, and make sure that she had what she needed, and that she was comfortable and happy.  And I’m very grateful for that example of the priority of his family.

My dad hated onions. He loved microwaved hot dogs and bologna. He ate his “usual,” which was toast with peanut butter and Jelly and a glass of milk…sometimes warm… every night alone in his office. He loved computers and always
wanted to be up on the new technology.  My mom had a brick cell phone, which they were really proud of. We were among the first DVD player owners… and laserdisc player owners…  he should have waited on that one…  And he is the only person I know who could take pleasure in watching own eye cornea transplant… on video… repeatedly!  He was also the most embarrassing person to take to a restaurant.  And because of him the phrase “KB7EIO This is Rob
Whitehead KB7EIO,” will always come to my mind whenever I see any kind of hand radio.

As a little girl I was very much a Daddy’s girl. I used to crawl up on him every night in his recliner, and just lay with him, and he would rock me, as he relaxed in the evening. The little nightly ritual ended well past probably what is acceptable… only because I got to be too heavy. But I remember wanting to be near him, and wanting to feel comforted and loved by my Daddy.  I was very, very proud of him.

We’re gathered to say a final earthly goodbye today, but I think most of you know that Calvin and I have been saying goodbye to him for quite some time.  While I have struggled with my relationship to him and have worried about what our eternal family would look like, I want to tell you that the tender mercies of the Lord have been with us this week.  I’ve been filled with peace… and I’m not worried.  I know I’m not the judge, and I don’t want that burden, but I have great hope for him and for our family.  I have not only felt the Lord’s love for me this week, I have felt His love for my dad.  And I feel certain that my mom was there when he passed.  I know she was, and I am so grateful that they are together again.

I want to testify of the power of the Atonement, and of the Savior to forgive our sins, to heal broken relationships and to swallow up every kind of pain.  His arms are truly might to save.  There is nothing that is beyond him.  I trust in that with all of my heart, and I love Him for what He has done for us.  I know that He is our only hope.  I know that He did not fail us when the stakes were the highest. He took on pain and death and sadness and sin and He came out conqueror.  And I know that if we reach out to Him now, and in our lives, He will not fail us.

I hope that when you think of my dad you will think of the man who loved my mom. The man that brought her a single rose in a cream colored cup on the anniversary of the day they met, every year. The man who worked day in and day out to provide for his family. Because that is the Dad that I will be remembering.

I am still very proud to be his daughter.

I want to say thank you to the 8th ward for being here.  This is our home, and your love means the world to me.  Thank you.

To all of our friends and family who have been here for us during this difficult time… I think I’ve been blessed with best family in the world.  Some people have told me that “Now you’re an orphan,” but you know what?  I’m not.  I have so much wonderful, loving family surrounding me.

I leave you with my testimony and say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

5 thoughts on “Dad – My Funeral Talk

  1. Just like when you spoke, this was beautiful. I didn’t get to know your dad as everyone remembers him, but I feel like I got to know him better through the talks at the funeral and through RJ’s love for him. I think I really missed out on knowing a great person. Thankfully I get to know you and Calvin and your sweet families.

  2. You and Calvin gave such a beautiful tribute to your dad. I hope my kids are like you two…you are just awesome people! I loved your “fade to pipes” story. I remember us having that discussion and the one about the Kirtland temple back when we were young gals eating cookie dough and watching Le Corsaire. Love you, Ash!

  3. Ash,
    That was the most beautiful fitting tribute you could have possibly given! I am in tears. I loved reading about your Dad exactly the way I remember him too! Playing music with you over the phone for his mom….and do you know Brandon and I still both watch for fade to pipe shots every conference because I’ve told him about that so much? Reading this I feel like I’ve been transported back in time to a sleepover at your house. I love you Ashlee! And I love your family. So very much. Wish I could give you a hug right now!

  4. I’m so sorry for your loss Ashlee. I only remember meeting your parents a few times but I remember them being the “fun” parents. Take care.

  5. Ashlee, I’m so sorry for your loss. Death is an inevitability in life but you have lost your sweet parents at a when most people expect to have them for many more years. May the Lord comfort you with his Grace and bring Gilead to your soul until you are reunited again. Your family is in our prayers.

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