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MY FATHER'S EULOGY
He was realistic & optimistic.
He was a master griller & crepe maker.
There is nothing he loved more than being with his grandkids & watching them play, hugging & kissing them to no end.
He genuinely cared for everybody. He was a people person --
he would literally choose to drive to make a doctor’s appointment instead of calling so that he could talk to the person face to face,
and when he worked as a salesman for Dawn Foods, he would drive over 450 miles every Thursday
to be able to place orders from his clients in person.
He was wise, simple & content, and as he would say,
“Satisfied with his life.”
How do you put into words what you so greatly FEEL within all of your heart?
How do you give notion of the strong, loving legacy he left behind?
I am going to be honest – I don’t have a clue.
But, I am going to give it one heck of a try because the type of man that he was is a true inspiration for all to hear.
As my husband would say,
“All of the greatest leaders lead by example & my Tata is a stellar example of that.”
He appreciated & genuinely loved everyone, despite any differences they may have.
He was not only the hardest-working man that I knew, but he loved us with his ENTIRE being.
He was always there for me. There wasn’t an event that he missed, a call he wouldn’t pick up,
a shoulder he wouldn’t lend for me to cry or lean on.
He gave his all every day, never allowed us to feel worried & prepared me for all that life would bring,
including this new journey without him physically here.
It must have been his father’s intuition because that camera would be used to shoot my first professional wedding
& helped ignite a passion that turned into a successful career.
Throughout the years, my father would often recall a memory of me playing so sweetly with my dolls while he painted the upstairs of our house.
He appreciated the “little” moments in life so much. I loved hearing him talk about this memory but what he didn’t know,
& that I just got to share with him in his final days, is that I simply always wanted to be near him.
Since I was too little to paint, I set up my dolls to play by him.
When I was too little to mow the lawn, I played on the deck while he mowed.
Wherever he was, I wanted to be.
And even as I grew, whenever he was near me,
that same childlike comfort was brought back instantly.
Since he never had a son and I always wanted to do whatever he did, he would call me his “sin” (Serbian for “son”).
Some may find that to be maybe even offensive, but to me it was the greatest form of endearment, love & admiration.
When I was 7 years old, I spent the entire summer with my mother & sister in the former Yugoslavia.
My father stayed back because he had to work, however he made me promise him that if anyone bothered me there,
I would tell them that my Tata told them “Idi u PM”,
which basically translates into, “My Dad told me to tell you to F off”.
Well, one day some of the kids in the neighborhood upset me but instead of telling them directly,
I decided to stand on the balcony of my cousin’s 5th floor apartment & scream it AS LOUD AS I COULD for all of the neighborhood to hear!
Of course, my mother was mortified,
but it didn’t matter because I knew I had just made my Dad proud.
When I was around 8, my parents put my sister & I in a fashion show at Saks Fifth Avenue.
At the end of the runway the host would ask,
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
& I said as loud as my little lungs could,
“I want to be just like my Dad!”
Throughout my teenage years, my father continued to work hard,
sometimes even balancing two jobs,
yet still always managing to be there for us.
He believed in me & encouraged me no matter what.
From the experiences to the best friendships that I made & have to this day -- that time literally changed my life.
When I returned home, my parents told me that while I was away, my father had lost his job.
However, what I didn’t know until recently is that he had gone to Ann Arbor during that time
to plead with my school to give him a loan so that I could continue my study abroad.
THAT is the man my father was.
He had a heart of gold & it led him with everything that he did.
His love was tremendous.
He wouldn’t get off the phone without saying, “Kiss my kids for me!”
Weekly he would stop by to see us, wearing his favorite black slippers,
bringing us Nana’s spinach pita and LOADS of hugs & kisses.
I always felt SO protected knowing he was here,
just like our Heavenly Father protects & watches over us –
my Tata did the same here on Earth.
When I say he was the smartest man that I know, I am not exaggerating.
I have heard him described as a “walking encyclopedia,” which is really quite fitting.
He had an uncanny memory – almost all of his stories started something like this:
“It was October 16, 1966. It was a Sunday.”
There were no details missed.
Even after retiring, he chose to get up at 5am every day & go to work at Milano Bakery & Cafe in Detroit (my cousin’s bakery),
not only because he wanted to help them, but because he loved being around his family.
He was grateful & joyful. He was content with the simplest of things.
He never complained, even throughout these past 3 months of sickness --
after 3 ER visits, 7 procedures, 3 hospital stays,
not being able to eat, feeling weak & tired -- he handled it all with such dignity & strength.
He was a true warrior.
During his last days, he would still summon up the energy to tell us that he loves us,
to stroke our cheeks with his big, beautiful hands, to tell my mother how beautiful she is,
to ask us if we were okay.
Throughout my life, he would always ask me if I had,
& I would usually reply with, “No, I’m good, Tata”
& he would always reply,
When he knew that he had days left, he still held my hand & asked me as he usually would.
“No Tata. My only problem is this.”
I went to grab the tweezers to get it out & he proceeded to panic & cry.
I told him, “You are strong & brave. You’ve got this.”
Without skipping a beat, he looked at me & said, “Like Dedo, Mama?”
My heart sank & lifted at the same time. “Yes, buddy. Just like your Dedo.”
To which he replied calmly with no tears at all,
“Mama, Dedo is just like the Hulk.”
Yes, my sweet boy, yes he is.
Whether you knew my Dad well or you had just met him,
you would know almost immediately how MUCH he loved his family,
but in particular, his grandkids. It was a love that made me love him even more, if that is even possible.
When I was first pregnant & found out we were having a boy,
we decided we would wait to see our son born to give him his first name,
but always knew his middle name would be Voja, after his Dedo.
I was so proud to give him that name & it takes on an entirely new meaning now.
A strong name.
A victorious name.
A name that was meant to live on.
We will never forget him, his unconditional love, his happy spirit & his incredible legacy.
I can picture him walking into Heaven, greeted with such excitement by his loved ones,
God shining His great light on him with open arms & saying,
“Come here my son. You did well. You did very well.”
Just a few weeks ago,
my father squeezed my hand as I cried not knowing how I was going to live in a world without him in it,
and so calmly said,
“I will always be with you, as you will always be with me.”
I know he is here in this room with us now, smiling that big gregarious smile of his.
And I know that he will always be our angel – watching, guiding & protecting us all.
And although this brings me some peace & comfort,
the truth is that even if I had another 79 years with him, it wouldn’t be enough.
He was the best.
The very BEST.
Now that my father is watching over me, I will work even harder to be something that makes him so proud,
& to show him that all his years of hard work & endless love were not wasted.
Especially in his final days,
he reminded me that nothing was more important than loving others well.
he will figure out a way to help me repair it all the way from Heaven.
To take something that feels so sad, and make it beautiful all in it’s own.
Because, that my friends & family,
is who he was,
who he is
& what he has instilled in me.
He will forever live on.
Neizmerno te volimo, Tata.
Nece biti dan da nam neces nedostajeti.
May you rest in peace.
We love you dearly, Tata.
There won’t be a day that you are not missed.
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