Eulogy to Another Great Dad

boys1979About five years ago, one of the earliest readers of this blog was generous enough to share the life story of his beloved father, who had recently died before his time. I called the post Eulogy to a Great Dad. It was one of my favorite stories, because it was apparent through his son’s words that this man had really devoted his life to being a good father and a good person in general.

Dad stories are also particularly meaningful to me because it’s my own primary mission in life right now. My main motivation for retiring early was a desire to put that role as the top thing in my life. At age 30, I set aside 20 years for this project with a goal of being cool, understanding and infinitely supportive to any kids I might have, with anything else coming a distant second. Now eleven years into that project, it remains the one thing in my current life that I manage to stick to without any compromise, and thus without any regret.

Lots of this was inspired by warm memories from my own upbringing. Our entire family, while not the glamorous and self-actualized group of perfect humans they used to make TV shows about, was still way up there on the happy outcomes scale. My Dad was a big part of that, always thoughtful and non-judgemental, encouraging learning and healthy behavior and frugal living through his presence in the household. Although my parents ended up separating in the early 1990s, they finished most of the hard work of raising us four kids first, and I know how much work that must have been.

The highlights of this father-and-son relationship revolve around music, writing, learning and travel. My Dad had been a musical semi-genius since birth, and as a result our childhood came with free impromptu concerts every day. He was always disappearing to play some badass jazz piano on the glossy black 1974 Yamaha upright, or picking effortlessly on the acoustic guitar, occasionally throwing in formal or silly lyrics with his fine tenor voice. In the 1980s, he let me move the family stereo system permanently into my bedroom to nurture my own budding love of Music All The Time. All four of his kids now place music at the top of their list of favorite things in life.

In 1983 he reached the age of 40, and bought a red and black Kawasaki motorcycle, joking it was a frugal way to address a midlife crisis. I was 9 years old at the time, and that summer we embarked on a long roadtrip down to Kentucky – just the two of us, with just some saddle bags full of clothes and picnic supplies. I still remember every detail of that trip – the thrill of highway travel with the asphalt rushing just below your feet, the novelty of crossing the US border and the stern nature of the officer who questioned us, the steep winding road to the Best Western hotel on a panoramic hilltop, and a week of spelunking and guided tours in the wild underground world of Mammoth Cave National park. Decades later, we would both still cite that Father and Son Adventure of Questionable Safety as one of the highlights of both of our lives.

Eventually all of us kids grew up, and our relationships remained loving and open. We’re oddballs in the sense that we don’t tend to remember each other’s birthdays, or remember to make the right phone calls or send the right greeting cards, but once reunited we resume the deepest and most interesting conversations as if we had never left the room a year earlier.

Starting this blog in 2011 brought an unexpected boost in my friendship with my dad, as he was one of the first subscribers and continued to read every article as they came out. He would often send me his thoughts on posts he enjoyed – searching my email reveals at least 50 such emails, with titles like “Latest MMM” or “Current Column.” He even participated occasionally in the writing, once sharing this post about frugal shaving, and another time interacting playfully in the comments section with my sister as if they were not related. Like me, he connected more deeply with people through writing and his own career was as a writer of advertising, editorials, books, and articles.

I learned a lot from Dad, and he claimed to learn a few things as he watched me grow into adulthood as well. Noticing the heavy emotional burden that negative thoughts would place on my life as early as high school, I deliberately became an optimist instead, reading self-development books and experimentally applying their principles to the world. The stuff actually worked, and he noted the ongoing benefits of what I called Outrageous Optimism, as he watched things happen in my life that he had formerly assumed were not possible. He decided he should work a bit more on optimism as well.

During university, he let me move into the spare bedroom in his apartment which was near the campus, and I enjoyed teaching him weight training and physical fitness while he taught me about stock investing and jazz piano chords. Those two years of being adult roommates were a valuable finish to my time of growing up as his son.

It was a good thing that all these good things happened during our lives together, because in October of 2016, he started having some difficulties with certain words, prompting his caring wife to start keeping track of unusual occurrences in a dated journal. His appetite shrank a little, and he lost a few pounds from his already-slim frame.

One day, in a slow-motion piece of cinematic tragedy, his wedding ring slid off of a narrowing ring finger as he walked through a parking lot, and it turned out to be lost forever, like the growing number of words he could no longer quite bring to mind.

He checked into a hospital, where they scanned his head and found that a dark mass had formed within.

When I went back to Canada to visit him in that hospital, I could hardly believe he was sick. He looked just fine – same alert eyes set in friendly wrinkles, the same compact and upright body, and the same familiar voice. But he was also significantly different – focused oddly on the present and with very little concept of the future.  He was able to understand advanced conversations and free from worry, but with quite a bit of difficulty expressing concepts or figuring out how to find his place in a book.

The problem was a rare but incredibly tough form of brain tumor called Glioblastoma. Affecting people seemingly at random, this type of cancer builds itself into a lump in your head that grows very rapidly, crowding out the blood circulation that allows your normal thought processes to take place. Patients of this form of cancer live only a few months to a couple of years, depending on whether or not you can slow it down with surgery and radiation.

These last few months were tough, as this brilliant, witty man faded quickly to become a confused, sleepy person with limited speech and recognition, who then faded purely to sleep. His last systems finally shut down on the evening of January 13th, thankfully in an extremely peaceful hospice with loved ones nearby.

We’re all sad, of course, but also much more grateful than I would have imagined. Although cut short by a decade or two, our Dad’s life overall was one of a lucky person. Like the first Great Dad at the start of this article, Dad’s four children and the loving wife that survives him have great respect for the way he lived, and his six grandchildren will have only fond memories of a man of readily offered kindness.

For my part, his sudden passing has shaken up my life. Originally shocked and depressed to hear what was happening to him, I eventually passed on to accept reality, and also become much more aware of what mortality really means. I’ve lived a long time already, and it has been quite an experience. But it really could end at any moment, and even if I evade disaster, the odds say I’ve used up a full 50% of my lifespan.

Perhaps even more notably, I’m suddenly on the tipping point between the labels “young guy” and “middle-aged man.” I’ve been a young adult forever, and this is the first time in life I’ve realized that stage can actually end. This means that it would be foolish for me to waste any of it, and I am suddenly much more hesitant to let any days go to waste.

If you found out this evening that you only had one month to live, imagine how deeply you would crave that warm carefree phase of your life that came just before – when the supply of healthy days seemed unlimited and you could do anything. That unlimited supply of life, which you took for granted and wasted on unnecessary arguments and commuting and television, would suddenly seem like the most precious and unattainable luxury in the world.

I realized that for now, I am still in that happy, carefree summer of unlimited life. I still have the luxury that my Dad lost so suddenly, and holy shit do I feel lucky to have it now. So I’m going to get up and enjoy a lot more good times while this sun shines.

Grandpa MM with son baby MMM, circa 1975.

Grandpa MM with son baby MMM, circa 1975.


Beyond the living descendants and many memories in everyone he knew, my Dad left behind plenty of written words and even some music. We found his little digital studio recorder sitting on top of that same black Yamaha piano, which still sits in the house where his wife now lives, newly alone. The memory card contained five beautiful little songs he had been working on recently, and they captured his memory for me above all other mementos.

I can hear his soul perfectly in the timing of every one of these notes, and see his hands, still infinitely nimble after 73 years, hitting the black and white keys as they flew across the piano, powered by a mind that had thought in terms of music since 1943.

I have uploaded a copy here just in case you want to put on some headphones and play it for yourself. These songs didn’t have names, but my sister decided this one can be called “Stars”


Rest in peace, Dad – we will all do our best to live on and live well, in your honor.


  • Huug January 18, 2017, 11:21 am

    Very sorry for your loss MMM! My thoughts are with you and your family. Take care.

  • Laura January 18, 2017, 11:23 am

    Such a tender and loving tribute to a man who obviously loved and lived deeply. You reflect and describe the feelings and experiences of grief well. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  • Girija Unnikrishnan-Rema January 18, 2017, 11:24 am

    I am very sorry for your loss. May his soul rest in peace.

  • toshio January 18, 2017, 11:25 am

    This is a nice tribute with sweet memories. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry for your loss.

  • Seth January 18, 2017, 11:25 am

    Why is there water on my face :(

  • Rygor January 18, 2017, 11:25 am

    Deepest condolences on the loss of your father. I can’t imagine what it must be like because I never had one around that I can truly remember. He chose to leave our family when I was barely able to form memories and haven’t seen him since, so I feel some sense of envy when I read this eulogy. You are a lucky man having been able to be close with him for your childhood and most of your adult life, and he was lucky to be able to watch you grow into the man you are now, a good father who values his time with his family, and his own son. I’m sure he was proud of you. You’ll have some awesome memories to cherish for a long time to come.

  • Mark Myers January 18, 2017, 11:30 am

    Makes me tear up. Thanks for sharing. Reminder for me to enjoy my dad while he’s here. I hope you’re feeling OK. Best wishes.

  • John Meyer January 18, 2017, 11:32 am

    My condolences to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your father’s music. So beautiful.

  • Rob January 18, 2017, 11:34 am

    My condolences to you and your family. Your eulogy here paints a picture of an amazing man, and I hope your many wonderful memories of him will continue to bring you much joy in the journey.

  • Kat January 18, 2017, 11:35 am

    I am sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like a great man. I really like the quote that is attributed to Winnie the Pooh: “how lucky am i to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”.

    I lost my dad on July 28, 2016. He is still alive. He suffered a cardiac arrest and now has a hypoxic brain injury (brain damage from lack of oxygen). He is not the same and never will be. I interact with him as best I can but he does not know who I am during most of my visits. I do not wish this on my worst enemy. I will lose him a second time when his eventual passing happens.

    Anyway, I am not trying to make this about me except to say that this really resonated with me. It is very touching. My wish for you is that all your happy memories stay in the forefront of your mind.

  • Tawcan January 18, 2017, 11:37 am

    Very sorry for your loss. Beautiful eulogy.

  • Isaac January 18, 2017, 11:37 am

    As a young dad of 2 little hooligan boys, this hits home. I couldn’t help but choke back a couple tears here in my cubicle thinking how important it is to live every moment, especially with our little ones. Thanks for sharing MMM, always an inspiration.

  • Sandra Burkholder January 18, 2017, 11:42 am

    My mother was born in 1943 and died 17 years ago of cancer. It is a gut punch but surely a reality check for the years left, how we choose to spend them and what we will or will not regret should we die too early. Beautifully written piece…we should all be remembered with such love. My condolences…it does get better, but it is difficult to believe that at the moment.

  • Darlene January 18, 2017, 11:43 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Sensim January 18, 2017, 11:47 am

    So sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michelle January 18, 2017, 11:48 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. What a brilliant father he sounds like he was x

  • Petra January 18, 2017, 11:48 am

    I’m so sorry to read this, MMM. My thoughts are with you and with your family.

  • Shanna January 18, 2017, 11:50 am

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  • RocDoc January 18, 2017, 11:52 am

    Hugs to you and your family. Your Dad’s star song is lovely. So sorry for your loss.

  • Miranda January 18, 2017, 11:55 am

    What a beautiful tribute to your father. I’m sure he was proud of you.

  • Julia January 18, 2017, 11:58 am

    Thanks for the post. I’m sorry about the loss of your Dad. Stars is beautiful music, I listened twice.

  • KnittingMole January 18, 2017, 11:58 am

    Terribly sorry for your family’s loss Pete. Thank you for sharing your dad’s music with us. It is simply beautiful.

  • Leigh January 18, 2017, 11:59 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Kirstin January 18, 2017, 11:59 am

    A wonderful tribute to your father. Thank you for sharing. Hugs, MMM.

  • Christina Brunk January 18, 2017, 11:59 am

    I know exactly how you feel. I lost my Dad 2 years ago and am still shocked at the size of the empty cavity in my soul that I feel from the loss. I still reach for the phone to call him! I also realized that I have never in my life really MISSED anyone! I am so thankful for the 76 years he had on this earth and the 46 of them I got to be a part of…but I am convinced that I will miss him forever, which is a really good thing!

  • Joel January 18, 2017, 12:00 pm

    A beautiful praise-song to your dad. I’m going to send it to my own, who’s leaving today for a lonely, two-week business trip in Kazakhstan… This post will bring many fathers+sons closer. Thank you so much for everything you do!

  • Jeff C January 18, 2017, 12:00 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. What a great tribute to a great Dad. I fully agree with not wasting the next 50% of our lives and dedicating ourselves to be great dads as well.

  • Lisa January 18, 2017, 12:04 pm

    So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing the private man with us.

  • Cathy January 18, 2017, 12:04 pm

    What a beautiful piece , so heartfelt and touching. So wonderful to have such great memories of Your dad
    who taught you so much. It’s good to not take life for granted and live fully each day. My deepest sympathy to you and your family.

  • Amber January 18, 2017, 12:04 pm

    Such a beautifully written article about your father. I’m so sorry for your loss. The music is wonderful – thanks for sharing.

  • Bernadette January 18, 2017, 12:04 pm

    So very sorry for your loss. What a lovely way to remember your dad.

  • Jonas January 18, 2017, 12:06 pm

    This brought tears in my eyes. I’m very sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds a lot like mine. I’m going to call him right now.

  • Stacey January 18, 2017, 12:06 pm

    Such a beautiful tribute to your dad and your family life! Our condolences on your family’s loss and may he rest in peace.

  • Julia January 18, 2017, 12:07 pm

    What a fabulous read and delightful insight into your dad’s life! He LIVED, and so will live on through your words and memories, and thus down to your son. That’s so incredibly precious.

  • Sarah January 18, 2017, 12:08 pm

    Just read your post and appreciated it so much….especially the music, as my dad (in his younger and healthier days) enjoyed playing piano too. It’s been a year and a few half since losing my dad and I still miss him, but think of all I learned from him. So sorry for your loss and take care.

  • Miss Mazuma January 18, 2017, 12:08 pm

    I am so sorry for you and your families loss. This is a lovely tribute to an incredible man and, moreso, an amazing and supportive father. What a gift to have this music to enjoy and pass on to future generations. I wish you the best in these comings months as this shock turns to reality. It is amazing the impact we have on one another as human beings. Your writing is a good reminder that no one is invincible…Even our heroes. May he Rest In Peace.

  • Tracey January 18, 2017, 12:09 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Beautifully written post. Thank you for sharing your memories and thoughts. Big hug.

  • Matt January 18, 2017, 12:10 pm

    Sorry for your loss, MMM. My grandmother, an incredibly vibrant, energetic woman full of life well into her 70s, died from a glioblastoma around five years ago. We had always thought she could easily live past 100, and she ended up being my first grandparent to die. Nasty, nasty cancer that one.

  • Brian January 18, 2017, 12:11 pm

    This beautiful tribute moved me to tears. Your father had to be very proud of you, Pete. And that Kentucky road trip truly does sound like a lifetime highlight.

  • David January 18, 2017, 12:11 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this. He sounds like an amazing man.

  • Faye January 18, 2017, 12:11 pm

    Pete, my heart goes out to your whole family. Your eulogy was moving and thoughtful and the piece your father played is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing such a touching and personal experience with your many devoted and grateful followers. You have motivated me yet again to seek a healthier balance in my life.

  • Antoinette January 18, 2017, 12:11 pm

    My deepest condolences. It is always the greatest tribute to a loved one that they will be so missed.

    When I turned 50, a commercial plane in France was purposely crashed into a mountain, with children aboard, who never got halfway. It profoundly changed my perspective about thinking of life in percentages, and that I would no longer worry about how much time I had left, or of getting older. Our life is so lovely, imperfect, and right now.

  • Chris January 18, 2017, 12:13 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your father passing. Thank you for this eulogy though. It is a good reminder of what is important. I kissed my wife and we listened to your dad being a badass on that piano. Stay strong, Mr. Money Mustache.

  • Pete January 18, 2017, 12:13 pm

    Beautifully written, MMM. May he rest in peace.

  • Stacey January 18, 2017, 12:14 pm

    Beautiful, made more so by the clear appreciation and love you and your father shared for each other.

  • Tissue King January 18, 2017, 12:15 pm

    Your Dad sounded like a great guy. He obviously did well as we’ve all come to know you and what a great person you are. Best wishes for you and your family. The music download was very soothing. Sorry for your losses MMM.

  • Ken January 18, 2017, 12:16 pm

    Hi ya, Pete.

    Thank you, man. You don’t know me, but I know you, if only through your writing (and that TED Talk ). You make my life better – a richer and more mindful experience.

    Near as I can tell, enriching the lives of others is reason enough for our own lives. Thanks for your touching tribute to a man who clearly enriched your life, and, even just by hearing about him, my life, too. Ripples on a pond sometimes travel pretty far.

  • Chris January 18, 2017, 12:17 pm

    Beautiful and poignant post, prayers to your family

  • Tom January 18, 2017, 12:17 pm

    Very nice remembrance. He sounds like a really great Dad.

  • SJ January 18, 2017, 12:18 pm

    Great post. I absolutely love the song you shared with us. What a wonderful blessing he left for you and the family to discover. Your Dad was very talented.

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