Submitted by Kimberly Dienes, guest blogger.
Sometimes, paradoxically, the most difficult times in our lives can lead to some of the happiest occurrences and memories. Although I had heard about Jonathan Turley from my father many times, I met him at my father’s funeral. Some of you may have seen his wonderful blog about my father, Charles Thomas Dienes (https://jonathanturley.org/2014/04/24/farewell-to-tom-dienes/). Jonathan suggested that I join his blog as a contributor and publish my eulogy for Dad.
The key message of the eulogy is this: it is not easy to love. Many words, phrases, and stories in our culture might lead you to believe it is, falling, instant, first glance, but love takes much more than effortless submission to a greater force…it is an act, and sometimes that act can be difficult. The act requires vulnerability, it requires communication, it requires thought and time. Loving can be so very difficult, especially in a fast paced modern world that puts a premium on speed and ease. There is a wonderful book by Eric Fromm called “The Art of Loving.” My mother read it before she married my father, and I read it before I met my husband. It carries the very clear message that loving is an art, that it takes effort, that it is more than something that happens to us, but is something that we do. That is my father’s greatest legacy. He loved and he knew how to love, how to communicate that love to those around him. Therefore, as my first act as a guest contributor on this blog, I would like to publish this eulogy in his memory.
My father left an amazing legacy in terms of achievement, but that was not his greatest legacy. His greatest legacy was that he was a truly good man.
A good man provides for his loved ones. Dad went from an apartment over a shop in a poor neighborhood in Chicago to a lovely house in Bethesda, and mom and I will be financially secure for the rest of our lives. A good man protects his loved ones. I used to call Dad my rock, because no matter what was going on in my life, I could go to him and one hug would make me feel safe. Mom and I knew that we never needed to be afraid of what life may bring, because he was there. A good man is honorable, a true gentleman. As Simon, my husband says, my father was a true gentleman and a scholar. He kept his promises, he was truthful, he helped and mentored hundreds of students, was a role model to fellow faculty, and had this huge sense of responsibility to people, represented in his giving to charity as well as his kindness and generosity on a more personal level.
He also had an incredible capacity for joy. I will always remember his face after he made a joke and was waiting for you to laugh..something like this. And then he would laugh at his own joke. He was terribly punny and would walk in to the kitchen announcing “your lives can start, I’m here!” Even during rough times, dad was always upbeat and had a smile. His consistent joy just radiated to those around him. You can really see it in those pictures I think.
All of these, providing, protecting, honoring, are components of what make a good man, but my father’s true legacy was this last component. My Daddy knew how to love. It seems like it should be a simple thing doesn’t it? Truly loving another so that he or she knows how much they mean. It isn’t simple, and yet he did. I knew every day of my life that I was loved, so did mom. He managed to have an amazing career, while always putting us first, so there was never a doubt in my mind that his family was what truly brought him joy. I knew it in the way his face would light up when he saw me, in the way his voice sounded on the phone, in his hugs, which let me tell you are legendary. His love was there to see every day and we knew, we knew we were loved. And the feeling was mutual.
He and mom have been married for 48 years and they still have the kind of romantic love that I am told usually fades with time. It didn’t for them. Everyone who listened to her sing to him, tell him how special he was to her, pray with him, heard them talk together in the hospital, said to me something I already knew, that their love was something special, and it drew people to them. They needed each other, and weren’t afraid of how beautiful that can be. You could see it in the way they looked at each other. But, I don’t have to eulogize that love, it will live forever. She wears his wedding ring around her neck even now, and he died with her head on his shoulder, and her hand on his head.
His love was very mutual for me too. I remember I was in a car with some friends who were teasing me about being a daddy’s girl, a princess. I was defending myself, and my independent achievements, when the phone rang. I answered and, after hearing his voice, said “Daddy!” The entire car cracked up. I’ve never lived that down. But, I admit it freely here to all of you now, I am a total daddy’s girl. He lit up my life and was my constant secure base. I will always remember him reading to me, and singing to me, badly, Davy Crocket was a favorite, every night, and driving me to school in the morning. He is the reason I’m an assistant professor today, because he instilled in me a work ethic and true love of learning. I could go to him with anything, whether in a phone call or our daddy daughter dinners. He was the best father a child could ever have.
Charles Thomas Dienes, Tom, my father, was a good man, one of the truest good men, and really a special human being. He is at peace with God in heaven now, so this is a day of joy as well as sorrow. I feel him in the breeze, I hear him in a funny joke that pops into my head, he is still here, and always will be. Daddy, I carry you inside of me and will pass your legacy of love on to my children, your grandchildren. I love you so much, and I will miss you every day of my life. He loved, and he will be loved, always.
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