H. Rick Goff
Updated: Mar 19, 2020
There were many touching moments during the funeral of President George H.W. Bush, but none more poignant to me than the eulogy given by his son President George W. Bush. President Bush talked about the life of his Father as only a Son who loved his Father could. He talked about his Father’s accomplishments, his public service, his character, but most of all he talked about him simply being a good Dad. It was a moving tribute that I am sure made his Father and his family proud.
The eulogy brought back the memory of the death and funeral of my own Father, Harold Goff (Big Daddy). Big Daddy passed away on Feb 18, 2004. I once asked him if he was afraid of dying, he answered in typical Big Daddy fashion and simply said; "Nope!" He knew his death was imminent and had made peace with his situation. Months before his passing, Big Daddy asked me to do his eulogy. It was a brief and almost comical conversation:
Big Daddy--“I want you to do my eulogy at my funeral, I know you will do a good job”
Me--“Well I will if I can make it, you know I’m a busy man and if I can squeeze your funeral into my schedule, sure I’ll do your eulogy”
He laughed his deep hearty laugh and we continued talking about something else, probably fishing or his favorite old western i.e. Gunsmoke or Bonanza. I could always make him laugh, but deep down I knew what he was asking of me. As I left him that night, I remember thinking to myself, my Father just asked me to eulogize him after he dies, I hope I can do a good job of this for Big Daddy!
The eulogy was in the back of my mind for months but didn’t get real until I received word that Big Daddy had passed. Although it was expected, the reality of his passing was still somewhat of a shock. The finality of death brings on strong emotions and dealing with the death of the Patriarch of my family was a sad time. I thought back to the night he asked me to do his eulogy and now realized how important it was to him. He wanted me to give an accounting of his life to all those he was leaving behind.
As I prepared the eulogy, I was surprised at how easy it was to write about my Father. The words just seemed to flow as I thought about who he was and what he meant to me. Like President Bush, Big Daddy was also a part of what has been called the Greatest Generation. The generation that grew up in hard times but stood tall in the face of adversity. The generation that understood sacrifice for the greater good and never hesitated to step up for the country or step in for a friend.
Big Daddy grew up in the deep south and was a product of his environment. He never knew his Father and learned to be a provider for his family at a very young age. While the times were challenging, they didn’t break him, but instead made him. He served in the Army during World War 2, and like most men of his generation who served, he rarely spoke of his experiences. He went to war, survived, and came home. I have a picture of Big Daddy in uniform dated 1945; he had the confident look of youth with the adventures of life still in front of him. Big Daddy had a zest for life and lived every moment like it was his last. He loved friends and took friendship seriously. I thought many of his friends were Uncles because they spent so much time at our house growing up. Big Daddy taught life lessons more by example than by words of wisdom. What he didn’t know how to say, he showed by his actions. But Big Daddy also had his share of faults and imperfections. He was a "Manly Man" who had a hard time showing affection. But what he lacked in compassion, he made up with hard work and an honest effort to try to do his best. He was a proud man who only knew one speed, full throttle! It took a severe stroke to slow him down, but even then, he didn’t let a twist of life cheat him out of living! He carried on and when it was time, he faced death knowing he had lived a rich full life.
When it was time to give the eulogy at Big Daddy’s funeral. I reviewed my notes and began to give an accounting of my Father’s life to his family and friends. I told his story from the perspective of a Son who loved him dearly. I told his story through my adult eyes where I saw the reality of how he grew up and the difficult times he lived through. I marveled at the strength and perseverance it took for him to work through his struggles and grow into the man he was. But I also told his story through my child eyes, where I simply saw him as a good Dad!
Big Daddy was buried with full military honors for his service during World War 2. As I walked by and touched his flag draped coffin, I said these final words, “I love you Big Daddy, I hope I did a good job”.