Eulogy for Neil Davis
Written by his son, Gary Davis
As my father, it was his prerogative. Whether a speech, article, toast or even eulogy, my Dad found pride in my words and thoughts. It was the only thing about which my Dad would openly brag to others in front of me.
So Dad, listen well to my final words of tribute in your honor and memory. What follows is written from the heart and is spoken with eternal love for the man whom I called Daddy for 42 years.
Quietly, simply and honestly. This is how my father lived his life. He sought and required only the safe space created by his loving wife, his children and grandchildren and a few loyal and true friends. His needs were nothing more than a kiss hello and a hug goodbye. He never sought, nor wanted to be the center of attention or the focus of others in a room. Like the character Chauncy Gardner, he was always content just by “being there”.
My Dad never felt comfortable in a suit and tie. He was driven neither by money nor any of the widely sought after indicia of material wealth and stature. When many men of his generation were training to be lawyers, accountants, doctors and businessmen, my Dad was simply a Teamster working for more than 40 years in a lumber warehouse. He was a blue-collar man who found himself surrounded by the white-collar world.
It was not an easy lesson for me to learn, but I now know that what appears to be the absence of ambition to one man, is simply another man’s fulfillment. Acceptance, not judgment, is the only true cornerstone of a father-son relationship.
Over the past several days whenever I closed my eyes to rest, I heard in the memory of my mind the voices of Bob Murphy,, Ralph Kinner and Lindsay Nelson calling the play by play of the New York Mets. The year is 1969; a miracle was in the making. Unfortunately, when I awake, there is no note from my Dad atop my transistor radio telling me know many batters Tom Seaver had struck out or how deep over the left field fence Ron Swaboda had hit another home run. Then I realize these things happened more than 30 years ago, that I will never be 12 again, and I start to miss my father even more.
I truly cannot recall a mean bone or streak in my father. My father sought out and embodied fundamental fairness. For years my Dad coached my baseball and basketball teams. League champions we were not; often we did not win many games. But, my Dad made sure we all felt like, and believed we were, winners.
To my Dad, playing the game was important, but enjoying the game was what really mattered. He would have none of the meanness and myopic competitiveness that all too often infiltrates kids sports. Each team member played and did so equally. The good and bad, the tall and short, he gave each kid a chance. Then he stood by us, cheered us on, and made us feel special regardless of the results.
During those years, my father imparted to me a very special life’s lesson – it is always best to be fair. It is a less I hope to pass on this his granddaughters as a lasting legacy to this fair and decent man.
My father was the antithesis of a pushy parent. He certainly did not take well to others pushing him. He wanted whatever I wanted; he never pushed me to obtain things he thought I should want or goals he thought I should achieve. He would never pretend to tell me what I needed or what was good for me in any respect. Telling me “I told you so” was not to be found in his vocabulary. He simply trusted me to make good decisions and then smiled when I found ways to make my dreams come true. It took me many years to appreciate that my Dad’s silence was not indifference. What my father was giving to me was unconditional love.
A parent’s unconditional love is among the strongest of motivators. Whenever I achieved a goal, it was often my Dad with whom I wanted to celebrate or share it with the most. I have always known that my achievements and accomplishments made him happy for the simple reason that he knew they made me happy.
In the spring of 1977, at the end of my sophomore year in college, I celebrated and academic milestone by sharing a beer with my Dad when he came to pick me up for summer break. Although I have never forgotten that beer in the Pub with my Dad, today I wish more than ever that I could savor it with him one more time.
My Dad faced his death with dignity and characteristic quiet courage. As I sat with my sister and wife along side my father, I had a profound sense of pride and love for this very simple man; the man who gave me life. As the hours passed and his death approached, it seems so grossly unfair and inadequate that all I could do was hold his hand.
During the darkest of those moments, I would remember my Dad’s last admonition to me – “you never know how much time you have left”. It was his final and most important less to me – and one we all need to heed.