Ivan Flaschner, 1942 – 2008

ivan.jpg

My dad died suddenly and unexpectedly this past Thursday. This is the eulogy I delivered yesterday.

I always knew that I if I lived long enough, the day would come that I’d stand up here to give my father’s eulogy. When I was younger, this thought scared me deeply, and would literally keep me up at night. What would I say? How could I honour, celebrate, and summarize the vastness of this man’s life in just five minutes?

When I sat down to start writing this last night, hundreds of stories started to pour out. So many memories, so many ways to approach this talk. I thought I’d pick a few stories to share, but looking at my notes, I realized that there were two very clear themes running through all the memories. These themes tie the myriad facets of my dad’s personality together. They drove him, and shaped him into the son, husband, father, grandfather, friend and colleague we all knew.

Take my dad, and peel away the details of any situation, and what you find are passion and love. Passion and love were the only things that mattered to my dad. Getting him to do something he wasn’t passionate about was tough. I’m sure we all have stories to illustrate this point. Luckily, he was passionate about everything. My dad was crazy about:

  • skiing
  • biking
  • hiking
  • driving
  • eating
  • drinking
  • music
  • reading
  • movies
  • traveling
  • politics – he’d be so upset he’s going to miss the outcome of the US elections
  • sailing
  • partying
  • but most of all he was passionate about his family

I can’t honestly think of anything that my dad would not do for his family. When he did something for us, it was with complete openness, with no strings attached. He took us places, he opened our eyes, and showed us how to live. When we needed help, he was there before we asked, and so long as we were following our passions, he never judged.

One of the things my Dad loved most was to share his passions with others. He took us to all the places he loved, and taught us to love them too. His own enjoyment was magnified by seeing others get a kick out of something he discovered. As a kid, I often resisted, getting annoyed as he read every single sign we passed on a 12 hour drive. The irony of course is that I now do exactly the same thing.

The desire to share his passion is a bit of a running joke within the family. It wasn’t enough for him to enjoy a movie. We ALL had to enjoy it too. I’m sure if he had his way, he’d want us all to get together after the service to watch Love Actually and Pulp Fiction.

My dad was the unlikeliest fan of cheesy hollywood romantic comedies. I never really understood why, but in the context of passion and love it makes sense. He was passionate about love. His capacity to feel and to give love were limitless.

If I could ask my dad “what do you regret about dying?” I know exactly what he’d say. He’d say “My life was perfect and there’s nothing I’d change, but I sure would have liked to have some more time to spend with Judy and the kids”.

In my own nearly 40 years, I’ve never known two people as in love as my parents. I don’t know how my mom is going to make it through life without my dad, but I know she loves him so much she’ll do it for him.

My dad’s greatest legacy is that he taught my brother and me how to be husbands and fathers. Our kids will always have the huge advantage of coming from a foundation of love and respect. My dad taught us how to love, and the best way that I can honour his memory is to love my wife and my children with the same ferocious passion and enthusiasm he held.

Listen, I’m very happy for my dad. He was in a very good place. He made the most of his life, and I think he knew how much he was loved. He certainly knew how lucky he was. I sure wish he’d stuck around for a while longer, but like anyone who’s the master at his game, he exited the playing field at his peak.

I know my dad, and I know he’d be tickled and more than just a little embarrassed at the fuss we’re all making here today. He’d honour the ceremony, but he’d be in a hurry to take off his tie and join the party.

So it’s in this spirit that I ask what can we learn from all of this? What nugget of good can we take from this tragedy?

  • we can remember how much we are loved
  • we can follow our hearts to the most unlikely of places
  • we can love each other with the same kind of “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” zeal that my dad showed us is possible
  • we can celebrate with abandon, as often as possible.

I do want to leave you with one very short story, that for me, sums up my dad. This summer, Krista and I had a party for about 50 friends. My parents were there, and it was perfect. There was no inter-generation awkwardness, no “I haven’t met you before” timidness. My folks were just there, being the absolute life of the party. One friend told me she’s marry me in a heartbeat, just to get my parents. My dad was the heart and soul of the party and EVERYONE loved him. In the end, I had to go to bed long before he and mom called it a night. And that’s the way I’ll always remember him.