Eulogy For My Dad

Donald Burrill Fuller – 1937 to 2003

My Dad passed away recently. The following is the obituary that we wrote (my brothers and sisters and I) for the local newspaper:

“Funeral Services for Springhill resident Donald Burrill Fuller, 66, will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, December 22 at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida. Donald passed away in his sleep Wednesday afternoon, December 17, 2003, at his home with his family, following a series of complications from cancer. He was born April 23, 1937 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma the son of Burrill Earnest Fuller and Gladys (Hughes) Fuller. Donald moved around extensively as a child with his parents who worked in various civil defense jobs, and attended several schools. At the age of 17 he joined the U.S. Army and served in Taiwan as a radio technician where he met his wife of 46 years, Siu-Fong (Lei) Fuller. He received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army in 1957 and then worked for 20 years in the civil service as an electronics technician and supervisor, with 10 years at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and 10 years at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. After retiring from the Civil Service he worked continuously for another 15 years at Unisys, Ohio Medical, Nice Corp., Raytheon, St. Petersburg Times and volunteered most recently for “Meals on Wheels” in Hernando County, Fl. They moved from Spencer, Oklahoma to Sunset, Utah in 1974 and to Clearwater, Florida from Sunset in the summer of 1992 and then to Springhill, FL in 1997. He played golf religiously with his cousin Ed Hamblin of Winterhaven, Florida until his health interfered, during which he spoke confidently of getting well and playing once more. He lived a dedicated and honorable life; and instilled in his children and those around him the value of honesty and hard work. He was preceded in death by his father, who died in 1984, and his mother, who died in 2000. The burial will be held and administered by his children and families. Survivors include his wife, Siu-Fong of Taiwan; two daughters, May-Kei Lee and her husband Long-Song Lee of Roy, Utah and their three children Chi-wen, Chi-yow and David Christopher; Donna Siu-Fong Hoebich and her husband Walter Philip Hoebich of Tallahassee, Florida and their two children, Kaitlin and F. Jaxon; three sons, Samuel Burrill Fuller and his wife Yvette (Nielsen) of Austin, Texas and their six children, Jennifer, Karina, Bradley, Julia, Steven and Matthew; Benjamin Donald Fuller of Salt Lake City, Utah and his two children, Benjamin and Niklaus of Duluth, Georgia; Paul David Fuller and his wife Charlene (Booth) of Dunedin, Florida and their daughter Savannah; and two sisters, Carol King and her husband Vern King of Binger, Oklahoma; and Laura-Mae Johnson and her husband Verlis Johnson of Kermit, Texas.”

This is the first real loss to death that I have experienced in my life. I don’t think I am dealing with it well. I loved my Dad.

I love my Dad.

We weren’t extremely close, but we weren’t strangers to each other either. He came from a background that just was not really emotionally demonstrative. I don’t think his father was emotionally demonstrative, either. He tended to keep himself closed up, though in the last year since he was diagnosed with cancer he had been much more open to sharing with us his feelings.

Whether he said it out loud or not, we knew he loved us. He was a constant in my life. I always knew that if things were really tough I always had a place to call home to which I could go. He would be awkward with me and there would be uncomfortable silences while he tried to figure out how best to give me what I needed without taking away my ability to make my own choices, but he made it possible for me to be able to go home. He was a worrier.

He worried about all of us. I wanted him to be proud of me and not to worry.

In our last real conversation at Thanksgiving we talked about my job and my status as a divorced grownup type and the fact that I don’t necessarily believe I will ever remarry. He told me he hoped I could find a woman to love, one that loved me, but he wasn’t worried about me anymore and that he was proud of me and that he understood why I had made some of the choices I had made. I looked forward to spending time with him as we grew older and our relationship changed as our roles changed.

He was a good man. I remember once when I was a teenager, it was a Saturday and I was just hanging around the house on a slow day, Dad was half asleep on the recliner in the living room watching a game on TV. He woke up, looked at the time and asked if I could go pick up my Ama (my mother’s mother) at my older sister’s restaurant. He said he was too tired. I was a teenager and it was a chance to drive the big car and not the pickup truck, so I jumped at the opportunity. The next day he pulled me aside and apologized to me. I didn’t know what he was apologizing for. He said that he had been drinking too much that afternoon, I think when he was either playing cards or golf with some of my mom’s friend’s husbands or something, and that he was too drunk to make the drive. I was stunned, first he hadn’t looked drunk, I had watched enough TV and seen enough of high school life to recognize drunkenness, and secondly, he felt it important to apologize to me about it.

He believed in the virtue of hard work. It didn’t matter what you did or how much you made, as long as you worked hard at it. After they moved to Florida to enjoy his retirement he got a little bit stir crazy. He started going over to Job Corps and taking manual labor day jobs for something like 6 dollars an hour, just to feel like he was contributing something. At one point, he went and got his CDL and became a truck driver, something he had always wanted to do. But being away from my mom was too difficult for him, so he gave that up.

He was wholly dependent on my mom. Whenever my mom would go back to Taiwan to visit family, which she would generally do every other year, he would kind of shut down. All of my siblings have gone to Taiwan on multiple occasions. I only went once, when I was six. After that I always found a reason to stay behind with him so that he wouldn’t be alone. A couple of years ago he finally went back with her for several months. We were planning on having a family celebration there for their Fiftieth wedding anniversary in a couple of years.

He was a constant in my life. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but I always knew that whatever our disagreements, his part was always based on concern for me, that I do the right thing, no matter how hard.

I remember once, when I was little, probably eleven or twelve and we were visiting his family in Oklahoma, his sister asked me what kind of Dad he was and I answered precociously, “just about right.” And they all fawned over me at what a wonderful child I was, at what a lovely thing to say. But it was true. There are probably better fathers, but I know there are those that aren’t. And there are probably better sons, but I know there are those that aren’t. Are there things I think he could have been better at as a dad? Yeah sure, but there are things I know I could have been better at as a son. That is life, as I am quickly learning in my latent maturity.

I always made sure to tell him I loved him, ever since I went away on my mission for the LDS church when I was 19, whether he responded in like or not. I never wanted it to go unsaid.

When I got to his bedside, after they had released him from the hospital and he had returned home in the care of a hospice nurse, he woke up long enough to know that I was there and he did this later for my older sister when she arrived, and he called us by name and told us he loved us. But I already knew that…. because I knew him.

Before he passed away I got to hold his hand, I got to feel the whiskers on his face, I got to kiss him on his forehead, things I barely remember doing from when I was a child.

I love my Dad…. and now I miss him.

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