Eulogy for my Dad

Taken six months ago before his decline. It was the last time he was strong enough to go out to a restaurant. He enjoyed himself that day and for that, I am glad. And yes, he ate that huge waffle!

Delivered on February 10, 2017

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Barry and I am Bob and Jenny’s eldest son. I had the honor of providing care for my dad over the last two years in our San Jose home. I want to thank you for coming today; it means a great deal to me, my mother, and our entire family.

As I wrote on social media the evening he left us:

“My dad was one of the most generous, compassionate, and wonderful men we have ever known. As a father, he was our protector and most ardent champion; as a grandfather he was a tireless playmate, and as a loving husband of 65 years, he was loyal and true. He was every person’s friend and a hero of gargantuan stature.”

He would also be the first person to deny that any of this was true. That’s because his humility was such that he found it difficult to accept compliments and praise, a trait he has passed on most of us who are related to him. If you want to see a Morris squirm, just pay us a compliment. It works every time.

He would, in fact, be very uncomfortable with this whole service and with me delivering a eulogy; a word that literally means a speech offered in praise of him. But that was who he was; a kind, generous man who didn’t have a single enemy and instead saw friends in every face.

Pictured here with my mother, his spouse of 65 years, in the rehabilitation center where he worked very hard to strengthen his right leg after a septic knee joint in July 2016.

In his later years he was known in our neighborhood as ‘the man who walks with his poodle.’ His longtime canine pals, Gabbie, Sammy, and later my black lab Buddy, were individually his ever-present companions. My dad’s habit was to walk about two miles twice a day and on Fridays he would often retrieve garbage and recycling bins for those that he knew might have difficulty doing so.

Last summer after he stopped driving and could no longer walk the neighborhood due to his pulmonary fibrosis, we would sit on the porch and he would tell me how much he missed talking to his neighborhood friends and how much he missed helping others. Yet even in his final days he was helping us; teaching those present how to face reality head on and live life with full commitment to the present moment.

Dad spent his 40-year career in aerospace engineering; a career made possible by his service is the US Air Force; and it took he and my mom around the world. He moved our family all around the country in order to provide us with the best educations possible and maintain what was ultimately a 40-year tenure with the same employer. You might have known him back then, and may have simply seen a friendly man with candy in his pocket for the children of the church.

But what you might not have known was that he carried in his incredible brain classified information that required Secret and Top Secret clearances granted by the government. You might not have known that he met two sitting US Presidents, received presidential commendations, and as my son Jeremy remarked just a few days ago, that he was true to his word, true to his country, and never revealed the information with which he was trusted.

As kids we’d often ask him what he did for a living, accusing him of being a spy. He’d just laugh and say that if he told us the truth, he’d have to neutralize us. In our younger years my siblings and I counted it fortunate when asked the question, “What does your father do?” to respond with no small amount of swagger….

”My dad puts men on the moon.”

A certificate honoring his achievements and contributions to the Apollo 11 liner landing mission.

And it was true. In the late 60’s he managed an entire floor of engineers and technical staff at NASA’s Mission Control in Houston as the Apollo lunar landing program was developed and successfully executed. Instead of photos of Joe Namath and Bart Starr, my bedroom was often decorated with astronaut photos and lunar landscape printouts he’d bring home from work.

But beyond his work, his grandchildren gave him the most joy. Grandchildren, great-grandchildren, even children that he didn’t know all made him come alive, drawing out his own inner child. He was perhaps never happier than when he was in the floor playing with his grandkids or sharing conversation over a milkshake at Foster’s Freeze.

‘Papa’ with great-grandson Jeremiah Barry Morris, July 2016.

He was the quintessential grandfather who modeled such innate qualities as generosity, compassion, kindness, and charity to them all. In fact, to such a degree that my youngest son Jay, in his memorial post honoring his grandfather said, “the man I knew was a strong, loving, generous grandfather who set an example that I will follow for the rest of my life.”

There is one memory of my dad, a very early one, that means everything to me. We were in Tennessee, my parent’s home state visiting grandparents and family. We were in my paternal Great Grandmother’s house and I was very small. My dad was holding me against his chest and talking to the adults in the room. I remember to this day the immeasurable safety and security of that moment; how loved and protected I felt listening to the rich timber of his voice as it resonated through his chest and into my heart. In that moment, I knew that he would always be my protector and nothing bad would happen if I could only make that moment last. But that moment, like all moments, did pass. It was the one time I felt the safest in the world.

His love for his family, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren knew no limit. As the sun sets on his life, it’s my hope that each member of our family will remember him in his more active and happier days when he was full of life. When he was sitting in the floor with them playing with blocks, walking hand in hand with them around the neighborhood, or helping them plant trees in their honor.

I want to close with this: Each morning since his passing, I’ve awoken enveloped in an immense sense of grief. But what I’ve noticed is that it’s focused on the physical suffering he endured in his last two years. Though these experiences are freshest in my mind, I know that they will, in time, fade and give way to those that are more accurate representations of his true character: kindness, generosity, friendliness, compassion, and unconditional love.

It’s my hope we will all take his example of selfless love and ever-present compassion and pay it forward as he did so many times.

We love you, Papa; to the moon and back.

The last photo of my dad and I, taken in August 2016. I miss him most in the early mornings.