This past weekend, I was asked by my aunts and uncles to prepare the Eulogy for my grandpa, as the representative for the family at his Memorial Mass. I was honored and humbled. I started collecting stories, memories, and nuances from my family members... it led to fits of laughter and a few tears. He was a good man, thanks for reading and go hug your family.
11/4/18, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, 3pm Memorial Mass for Melvin Lawrence
Hello. Thank you all for being here. I’m Sam DuRegger, Cathy’s son — It’s my honor to read the Eulogy for Melvin Lawrence, my grandpa.
First things first... While some of you knew him as “Captain Lawrence” or “Dad” or just Mel, I think it’s safe to say that formality is out the door with this Eulogy. The grandpa I knew, was retired lakeside, with boat shorts, flip flops and a tank top that may or may not have been washed in the last week and a half. My hope is that these words today will honor his memory and spur you to share your stories with each other, stories centered around his laughter, his passion for life, and his service.
The earliest memory I have of my grandpa, is one stolen from pictures of my first birthday, and while I don’t remember smearing cake all over my face—the picture of me shoving cake into Grandpa’s mouth, is one seared into my memory. His love of us grandkids was palpable, he loved big and taught us well.
He taught me how to take a bluegill off the hook, to knee board on the lake, and wasn’t afraid to critique my shooting when we went to the basketball courts with TJ, Uncle Ron, and Sean.
These memories seem to be a lot like your memories.
Marian remembers being taken to the firehouse, given ice cream cones, accompanying her dad in the small day-to-day tasks like picking up a paycheck.
Liz shared fond memories of Grandpa’s presence and sporting events, performances, and weekly functions for her and her kids. Always rooting, coaching, and being heard by all in attendance.
His kids memories of the three hour drive to the family cabin in Clear Lake, fishing and swimming on the lake, a life outdoors!
Sean’s memory of Grandpa telling Ronnie to do a barrel roll on the knee board to show us kids up. Grandpa pulling TJ on the slolem ski, proud of the way he carved the glassy surface behind the boat.
Michelle’s recounting of many a phone call ending with Grandpa’s favorite catchphrase... “VERY GOOOOOOD”
On a walk this morning with my mom, we were reminiscing a bit about her childhood and what she remembers most about her dad. She remembers a dad who loved to laugh, a dad who wrestled with his kids on the living room floor after a long days work (this lasted until he was quite outnumbered, and risked serious injury wrestling the gaggle of kiddos). She called him her anchor. And I think we all can understand that.
These memories we share and the memories just between you and him are ones to cherish.
We witnessed his love of sports, from baseball with his fire department, to coaching his kids and grandkids. He was also fond of coaching the Oakland A’s and Raiders players during regular season and postseason play... though they may not of heard him yelling through the television, all of us in the room with him sure did.
In 2007, I came to stay with Grandpa for a few days. I’m sure I threw him off his very meticulous routine. During those few days — I observed a generous man dedicated to service in the small things. On Saturday night, we set the chairs up for Mass and made sure everything we ready for church the next day. He did this every week, as well as handing out books pre-service and opening and closing the doors before and after mass. He greeted many, and anchored the communion line only two weeks ago in his scooter.
There are many stories that can be shared. And I could be up here for hours longer recounting many of my own... though the last story I want to share, I heard for the first time last night.
Now, Grandpa worked for the Oakland fire department for 25 years. He made Captain, and had a goal of retiring on the Departments Tugboat Unit which serviced the Bay. This last assignment for him was a dream, and one that took 20+ years of experience to achieve. His routine, his service, his experience, allowed him to respond to a massive fire on a tanker, one so big that the San Francisco Fire Department turned down to come help. He directed his team, led them through a dangerous task and put out the fire.
The city of Oakland honored him for his and his team’s response.
He would never tell you this story. Though I’m sure proud, bragging on himself was not something he did well (unless it had to do with bowling or poker... sorry Father). I think this story is one that we can all rally around... It shows something that we’ve all experienced, his consistency in the small things through all those years, daily routines and tasks done right—allowed him to lead those men to put out that fire.
And as we look back on his life, I can say for certain it is those small things, the things that are the hardest to be consistent at, these are the memories that carry us.
In this life, Mel, was to many an anchor, keeping us in safe harbor.
In death, he sails away on a new adventure and as he weighs anchor, we mourn the loss of this security, this anchoring. But rest assured, he has given us an example, a legacy to follow.
So, as we too put our sails to the wind, may we honor him by making these stories our own—weaving service, laughter, generosity, and a passion for life throughout.
Thank you grandpa.