On Monday, January 30, 2017, my father, Steven Edward Nichols died. While at times we did not always love each other the way we wish we could have or should have, he was my father, and for that I will always love him for raising me to be the man I am today. On Friday, February 3, 2017, we celebrated his life at a funeral mass at St. Ignatius Martyr, and I had the honor of sharing his eulogy. The few short words that I share with you below, will never be able to capture the life of my father.
Regardless of our differences and struggles, you gave me life and molded me into the man I am becoming. For that I will forever be grateful.
Faith, Hope, and Love. The theological virtues of the Church are ideals and a model for all of God’s people, but for my father, Steven Edward Nichols, these ideals were characteristics that defined his life.
Born November 24, 1952, Nick (as many called him) enter the hearts of our world and warmed others with his smile and simple laugh. His parents, Fran and Bud raised a man who faithfully reached out to others and from his “library” with dependable gossip that wove the family together.
His faith in others allowed him the grace to love everyone without judgement. From strangers to exiled family members, his good nature opened his home as a place of refuge that gave everyone a loving sense of hope. Where others gave up, Nick gave in. He hope for the best and willing gave everything he could offer.
Nieces, Nephews, and siblings went from screaming, “No Bennie No!”, as he chased them with dirty socks and smelly feet. To screaming, “No Bennie No!” as he doted on them with tools, equipment, and manual labor. Steve knew no end, and as the slightest comment of a mechanical problem, he would already be on his way over with a garage full of tools to rebuild your car from the frame up. Even as his body failed him, he continued to find ways to help.
Being on someone’s “shit list” is rarely a good thing… but with my father, it meant that you could expect a regular phone call from his “throne” of him singing an off-key, made-up song that expressed his love and compassion for you. Through his calls ended abruptly this week, we all had our chance to say our final goodbyes and express our love for him and one another. And while those goodbyes may have been painful, as believers of God and members of the Body of Christ we know that we should now celebrate these graced-filled moments.
We are blessed and broken people, and for the last 20 years, my father experienced a great deal of brokenness, but through it all, he continued to be a blessing to us all. Even in his weakest moments, he would always be the first to let you know how deeply he loved you as he reached out his arms for a hug. Through heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, surgeries, and procedures he continued to share his love with everyone because he knew that in every waiting room would be the strongest woman I know, my mom, Sandy.
Their love for one another seemed to know no bound. When Bud Nichols was sick, they changed their wedding plans to allow him to live to see his oldest son married. When Mary and Bob Runyan were sick, he understood that mom and I would need to move in with them for several months to see them through the end. And when my dad accidentally shot my mom between the eyes with a BB-Gun and she didn’t return fire, my dad knew that he found a good one.
My dad’s ill-health dominated most of their marriage, but rather than breaking them apart they recovered with bizarre Halloween costumes, phone-calls to Santa, and sharing their love with me. Their broken moments blessed us all, and their compassionate love strengthened as they held each other through my dad’s final breath.
As I stand here now before you all, I do not have the words to express the many blessed moments you shared with my dad. Those many broken memories are made whole in you as you continue to remember the faith, hope, and love my dad had for you.
For we are blessed and broken people, and like the communion we just shared we have been broken apart. The life of my dad will no longer continue on this Earth but his journey will never end. On Monday, January 30, 2017, a piece of my heart, a piece of our heart, was broken. But today as we send my father home, we become whole again. For it is in the celebration and communion of this life that brings us all together.
As the scriptures today told us. There is a time for everything.1 For my dad, that means the time for pain has ended. For us all, his family and friends, there is no more time to weep, it is now time to love. For God is Love, and for whoever lives in love, lives in God.2 May our love today and each day be God-loving. For it is now time to celebrate and rejoice, because our brother, uncle, friend, husband, and father has died, but he can now be found entering eternal life in heaven.3
I love you dad, and I am sorry for the times I did not love you enough. You gave me a faith I will never fully know. The hope and courage to see the goodness in others, and a love that will continue with me on my journey until we meet again.