We Interrupt This Levity to Bring You Loss, Episode 482

Well. Christmas came and went, though the "wenting" is proving to be fairly stubborn—so I use the term loosely. I'd be pleased to take out the tree right now, but the pine needles are hanging on, white-knuckled—and don't move too fast or the floor will be a spiny blanket of the ghosts of Christmas past. This year, two seats were empty at the table, and two other seats were less full than they used to be. Our writers at Casa del Soul have gotten stuck wading through discarded plastic crap and can't make it to the computer. Instead, to honor one of the empty seats, I've decided to post the eulogy I wrote for Dad back in September. With love.

If Not for Dad
July 12, 1935-August 30, 2019
Shared at Clem's funeral, Sept. 7.

A few months ago, my dad handed me a worn sheet of paper that had been folded in three and obviously saved for a very long time. He said, “I hope somebody writes something like this about me some day.” It was the remembrance I had written about my grandfather in 2001, a few days after he’d died, full of wonderful memories and observations on how he’d made the world a better place for us as a family. 

I don’t know if you know what it’s like to take care of a sick person for a long time, but I’ll just tell you that when you are caring for a very sick person, all the things you love so much about them are not always top of mind. You do love them and you will do everything for them, but you’re so busy wishing things were just a little different right now that the huge, deep love and gratitude that is driving all that caretaking is buried deep under a heavy pile of worry and tiredness and overwhelm.

I’m feeling that love now and I was feeling in his last few moments when Marian, David, Connie, Sam, and Stephen all stood by his bedside and held hands with him in a circle as he took his last breaths. We were all there, and I hope he knew it. He would have seen that he had taught us to be there for the most important moments in life. Family relationships are complicated and people are complicated, and under it all, we are there for family, and I’m proud to be part of a little family that lives that way.

We all come here tonight with different memories of Dad, Grandpa, Papa, Clem. Like every one of us, he grew and changed a lot over his lifetime. The Clem my mother Connie Mariano married in 1956 at age 21 was different than the Clem that Jackie Dale married almost fifty years later, after the kids were raised and had lives of their own. With my mom Connie, Clem established a career, his own swimming pool business, a home in Quincy, then Marblehead, then Plymouth—an adult life with stress and bills and rent. That can be hard on a young person, and as a result the Dad that Paul, Marian and David had was a little different than the Dad I had when I came along as the fourth kid many years later.

None of those things were easy, but wasn’t he lucky to have had them. He ran his own business, so he had the satisfaction of the reward of very hard work, and also the flexibility in his life to go off on amazing family adventures camping in New Hampshire, boating in Boston Harbor, Sunday trips crossing Plymouth Harbor in our little motorboat and camping out for the day on the Point. He went snowmobiling in Maine, snowmobiled across Canada to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis, sledded past the bison in Yellowstone, and also the geysers and hot springs in Iceland. He went off on many streetbike trips with my mother on his Honda Goldwing all over New England, and he taught Paul, David and I to dirt bike—and we all experienced many happy hours buzzing through the woods of Southeastern Massachusetts. (Marian was too smart for that, she stayed home safe with Mom.)

And how lucky Dad was to have known very deep love. In his last years, he got very sentimental. He would cry every time he spoke about my mother and about his later wife Jackie, telling what seemed like everyone he met how fortunate he had been to have had two great loves in his life. He told the nurses. He told the doctors. He told the secretaries behind the desks. He told the ministers and the people at church. He told everyone at our gigs. He told a LOT of people, ok?  (Connie and Jackie, you are now famous around here.) Cleaning out his apartment this week, I saw just how deep was the love that he and Jackie shared; I found love notes in every conceivable corner of his apartment, post-its he would leave all over Jackie’s room, the cards they made for each other over the years. It was romantic and sweet and super sappy—but I’m glad he had it.

Our lives would have been different if not for Clem. Me, I’m very, very grateful for how much good he brought to my life. I’m sad that he didn’t live to at least 91 like he was sure he would, but when I look at his life, I see a very full 84 years, and I see all the ways he made my life pretty darn great. What would have happened if not for Dad?

If not for Dad, my own life would not have had the color and the fun that it has now.

If not for Dad, I would never know the amazing beauty of a blanket of orange needles in a scrub pine forest.

If not for Dad, I would never have known what it was like to stand atop a mountain in winter, the filigree ice crystals sparkling off puffy, snow-covered trees under a wintergreen sky.

If not for Dad, I would never have experienced the rush of a New Hampshire mountain brook on my feet, on a summer drive through the mountains, when he would let me and Marylou, Tara, Pamela, or Dana stop whenever we wanted to explore.

If not for Dad, I would never have eaten cotton candy while watching a team of oxen pull a giant pile of cement blocks at some random county fair in the middle of nowhere. He took us to museums, to fairs and festivals, to the tops of buildings and the tops of mountains. He loved to get out and see things and do things, and he taught his kids to love it too.

If not for Dad, I would never have seen phosphorescent algae on the Point at night, heard the sound of rain buzzing off the powerlines in Myles Standish at midnight, or felt the exhilarating ocean wind on a winter walk on the beach.

If not for Dad, I would never have owned my own Honda MR 50 dirt bike at age 9. Other girls maybe were encouraged to have proper manners and pretty dresses; I was out in the woods with Italian leather biker boots making noise and tearing through the trails. Thank God for that. And thank Dad.

If not for Dad, I truly doubt I would have stuck with music. It was Dad who made sure I went upstairs and practiced every night, and boy that pissed me off, and it was Dad who talked me out of it every time I thought I wanted to quit. Music has brought such uncountable joys to my life, one of which is named Stephen Lindsay. Thank God for that. And thank Dad.

It was Dad who taught me to value my relationships. One day at around age 7, I came home from school after an argument with a friend, and I remember he told me that friendships are too precious to waste with silly arguments. I kept that idea with me forever and as a result I don’t sweat the small stuff with friends. I’m so fortunate to have some beautiful besties in the crowd here and we have my Dad to thank for some of that too.

This week so many memories have come to mind. I want to share all of them, so that everyone knows how much good Clem Gedutis helped to cultivate in this world. He did. He raised us, he loved us, and he did the very best he knew how, and like all of us, he got better at life as he went along. He volunteered at Lions Club, he helped at his churches, and everyone who met him in his last couple of years told me how sweet they thought he was. He was kind to the hospital staff, the people at church, his neighbors in his new apartment complex, and to the doctors. The woman at the Plymouth housing office told me this week that if she was 80, she would have married him herself.

As sad as it is to see someone pass on, we can have so much joy knowing that he has passed on having lived a long, full life. Maybe it wasn’t 91, but 84 is good innings, and those who passed on too young before him—we lovingly remember his brother Allan, his wife Connie, his son Paul—they prove that to be true.

As a family we are all very grateful you came tonight to offer your support and your love. I want to express a special thanks to angels in our midst—you know who you are. We have received so much love and support from friends and family and from our church community. Your love and kindness is what helps keep us strong as we mourn Clem’s passing and his journey from this life to the one in the Great Beyond. It’s there that I hope he reunites in love and peace with those who have gone before him, waiting there for him, with open arms.