Saturday, February 24, 2007

Eulogy for William M. Homan

Today at my father's funeral service in Columbus NE, I'll be eulogizing my father as follows:

I’d like to thank all of you for coming here to celebrate the life of my father, William Homan. And his was to be sure an amazing journey. Over the past several days as I’ve glanced through pictures and records from his life, and spoken at length with many of you who knew him on so many different levels, my love for my dad, as well as my pride in his accomplishments, have both increased. I could say that my father’s 75 years meant that he lived a full life, but I understand that age is relative. I used to think that 40 was a full life, and now that I’m over 40, I changed my mind. On one of the last mornings that he was cognizant, while he was very ill, my dad opened his eyes and asked “What’s on the agenda?” He still had things to do, and 75 years just wasn’t enough time for my dad.

I think we’d all agree that Bill Homan was one-of-a-kind. Some might say, as many have, that interpersonal relationships with my father were difficult. Others would perhaps go further and describe my dad using language not appropriate in this sacred church. It makes me smile to think of all the stories involving my father’s behavior that end with people shaking their heads, laughing, and concluding that though the action was grossly inappropriate in our polite society, it was vintage Bill Homan. When my father was upset with someone or something, you’d no doubt hear about it immediately. The feedback couldn’t wait. By way of example, my father didn’t like tailgaters, especially when his kids were in the back seat. So when a semi-truck would be tailgating our car on the highway, my dad would slam on his breaks, get out of the car, and storm towards the terrified truck driver cursing that said driver had endangered the life of Bill Homan’s kids. I guess in retrospect it’s a miracle that he lived to be 75, and that all three of his children are here today. This is just one of the million great Bill Homan stories.

My father was born on June 21, 1931, in a midwife’s home in Cedar Rapids, Nebraska. There was a natural disaster that day, as massive rains flooded the city. To punctuate the flood, a severe draught followed for the next several years. It was as if God were telling the people of Boone County that things were not going to be the same from that day forward. But as my father came into the world with a natural disaster, I would claim that his life ended with the opposite, sort of an unnatural blessing. I say “blessing” because my dad suffered from several diseases, and as his pain ebbed and flowed during his final eight days, we were put in the horrendous position of wishing for the timely death of someone we dearly loved. And my father’s death was “unnatural” simply because my father’s life has been based on a tenacious independence, and his mind had been one of the sharpest that I’ll ever encounter. But my father spent his last few days in a state unnatural for him, bed ridden, slowly slipping away into unconsciousness and death. I’ll remind you that it took Parkinson’s and about 10 types of cancer to slow down Bill Homan. He had the sort of grizzled toughness and determination that you can only find in Nebraska farm country.

In between my father’s birth and passing, he lived a full life. He was something of a polymath. During his 75 years, he was a son, brother, farmer, athlete, soldier, carpenter, student, real estate agent, lawyer, community advocate, husband, and friend. I was very proud when he was elected Platte County Attorney in 1999. For me he was a father and a role model. He embodied the instructions laid out 2,750 years earlier by the Judean prophet Micah, as Micah called on his fellow humans to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. My father often worked hard to make the world a better place by representing the misfortunate, in a similar vein to the readings we just heard about the vision of New Jerusalem from Revelation and the Good Samaritan parable from Luke. One of my dad’s first legal cases involved some kids who cut down an evergreen tree at Omaha’s Memorial Park for a Christmas party. Society was ready to crucify these kids as they had desecrated a war memorial. But my dad fought a hard and unpopular fight to make sure that these kids didn’t spend the rest of their lives incarcerated because of one stupid mistake. It was for hard work and high morals such as these that I proudly gave my son the middle name Atticus, in honor of my father, a good and righteous attorney. Bill Homan set high standards for all of his companions, especially his children. Like so many of his generation raised during the Depression, he was strict, frugal, and the hardest worker I know. I’m thankful that before he passed I was able to tell my father how much I love him, and how the many sacrifices he made for me over the years were appreciated.

My father was married to my mother, Julie Homan, for 24 years. Their divorce was ultimately the right decision; nevertheless, it was difficult for my father, as it was for my mother and everyone involved. I was happy that their relationship ended amicably, as my mom and dad exchanged some kind words towards the end of my dad’s life. I would also like to offer my family’s heartfelt gratitude towards my father’s friend Elizabeth Allan who helped my dad so much for his last five years. My father’s independence would have been handicapped had it not been for Liz’s devotion and companionship, so thank you.

My father passed away in the company of people he loved. My brother Jim and my sister Chris were by his bed. Chris’s nursing expertise had been especially helpful in my father’s last days. My dad’s sister Mary Jo, his brother Richard and Richard’s wife Johanna, had come to visit my dad just a few short minutes before he passed. It was as if he had been waiting for that appropriate moment to leave us. One of the last things my father heard was Mary Jo telling him that he could go now and see his mom, dad, and his brother John. I know my father was proud of his family. He loved his children, and he loved his five grandchildren very much. The part about all of this that makes me the most sad is that my father won’t be able to share with me the joys of seeing my children, and my brother Jim’s children, grow up into adults. But to Kalypso, Zane, Gilgamesh, Cedric and Lena, we’ll try to remind you that your grandfather loved you very much, and that he’ll always be with us, in so many ways.

I want to end by saying that I love you dad and I miss you so much. Thank you for being my dad.


Anonymous said...

You're a good son, Michael, and your father was a great man. The death of people like him always make me tear up despondently because this earth will never have them back. We need their strength, hard work and discipline, but the best we can do to honor them is to emulate them, knowing why.

Micah and Atticus ... are they in us?

Anonymous said...

All I can think of after that beautiful eulogy is:

"Jean Louise. Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing."

Anonymous said...

I like the story about the semi truck. Good job. I bet it was hard to deliver this.

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful, Michael. Reading it made me sorry that I never met Bill. He sounded like a helluva man.

Anonymous said...

Well, you've made me tear up in my office for a man I'll never meet. Well done, Michael. You should be proud.

Anonymous said...

I was simply doing research for my job, to find out who William Homan had been, as I had evidence that another person is now (February 2015) the Platte County Attorney. Like others, I've teared up reading this tribute, and I'm the poorer for having never met this man. I appreciate so much your having shared these thoughts about your dad. Kindest thoughts to you and your family.

Mark Barnhart, Lincoln