Donald Miller helped me write my dad’s eulogy.

June 14, I was at a picnic lunch with people from work. I got a call from my sister. My dad was having a hard time breathing. He wanted a ride to the doctor. She called the ambulance. She was right. He went to the hospital. A touch of pneumonia. Some other stuff.

I packed up and left for Illinois.

My heart was troubled. My mom can’t be alone. She and dad needed each other, though, to be truthful, they couldn’t do a lot for each other. I knew we were headed for some significant decisions about places to live and kinds of care. I had a lot running through my head.

I was listening to music, the music that usually helps. And then I found a talk by Donald Miller, one from a book tour a couple years ago. He talked about rewriting the story that our life is telling. I’ve listened before. I’ve read the book. But something clicked as I listened. I started thinking about my parents, about the journey I was making, about what I could do when I arrived.

I tweeted:  “What if ‘honor your parents’ means for me ‘help them finish the story of their lives as well as they can.’?”

And then I started thinking about how to simply summarize the story that their lives have told.

I tweeted: “and his story is ‘i kept my word to take care of her’ and hers is ‘i kept my word to make people feel at home'”

It changed how I listened to my parents for the next few days. I was looking for the story they were telling with their lives.

But how does that relate to the title? Dad didn’t come out of the hospital. And for his eulogy, I simply told his story.

Thank you all for your comments and your encouragement and your prayer and your support. If you know me well, you will know that reading that eulogy at the funeral without dissolving in tears isn’t my usual style. God was gracious to me as a speaker that day. I have a couple more posts coming about my dad. Bear with me.

19 thoughts on “Donald Miller helped me write my dad’s eulogy.

  1. Hannah

    Your eulogy is beautiful, and your father sounds like an amazing person. I need to give my broken things to God and let him finish my story.


  2. Gayle

    Your dad’s life story is beautiful, and beautifully told. Thank you for sharing it. You and Nancy are in my prayers often.


  3. Jason Dykstra

    Your father has an amazing story, a story that will be retold for many generations, a story that will not be forgotten. Thank you Jon for sharing his story with us.

    Jason (@jasondyk)


  4. Jim & Carolyn Johnson

    Losing a parent can leave one a bit in a state of trauma even though we know they have gone to a better place. Earthly ties are cut…no longer can we hear their voice and we miss terribly their prayer support. My heart hurts with yours. As you know, God is there to comfort…we will see them again in Glory. Hugs…


  5. Joseph Ruiz

    Rich thanks for a beautiful summary when words are failing me right now. Jon you and your father are teaching us and for that i am very grateful. May God’s grace and peace engulf you and your family. It is an honor and humbling privilege to share the journey with you. I am grateful for the technology and conference that made it all possible.


  6. Becki

    I think for those of us blessed with godly dads (and moms) it takes us a long time to realize that the ‘simplicity’ of their consistency is their real gift to us. I remember my dad telling us kids years ago (we were all grown & married already) when we were going over ‘important papers, wills, etc’ that the greatest legacy they were leaving us was not money but hopefully their example of a life lived for Christ and a long loving marriage. Amen huh?

    I hope you are comforted in these coming days, weeks, months and years as you cherish the legacy of your dad’s example even as you miss him so much in this life, and that his example helps you to move the story of your family onward.



  7. Jon Swanson

    I started to answer each of you. I can’t. I can say, however, that I am thankful for you comments. I agree with Becki that I was very blessed with the dad I have. I was reminded again today that there are lots of dads who aren’t around, lots of sons who never heard from their dad “I love you” or “I’m proud of you.”

    I did.

    But I can say this. I’m so sorry if your dad wasn’t like mine. But it’s his fault if you didn’t measure up to his outlandish standards or neglect, not yours.

    And I’m confident, though you may not be, that God’s a father that does care.

    It’s interesting. I’m not sure why I’m writing this particular comment. As I read through your words, they don’t call for this response. But I’m guessing some of you know what I mean. Again. Thanks for your encouragement and support.


  8. amyvanhuisen

    Just read the eulogy…perfect. I’m glad God met you in delivering those words…and I know He will continue to meet you in the days ahead as you remember your dad. It just occurred to me that losing a parent is a kind of rite of passage, isn’t it?


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