My Address at Dad’s Life Celebration

Hi beloveds. Most of you already know that my Dad passed away on January 11, after battling to recover from an aneurysm 14 months earlier. I am beyond heartbroken. This is the hardest moment of my life, and a dramatic emotional juxtaposition to the birth of our beautiful baby girl just 3 weeks prior, bless her little soul.  I spoke at his service on Saturday, attended by almost 400 people. The National Guard arrived on a dozen rumbling Harleys and welcomed guests with a flag ceremony. Here was my address:

“There’s nothing like losing someone you love, to remind you the kind of person you want to be. So when I was deciding whether or not I had the balls to get up here and speak to all of you …I asked myself, “what would my Dad do?” It was the first of I’m sure many moments to come, where I will ask myself that question. We all know the answer…there was very little that Charlie Moss backed down from.

The first thing I noticed when I woke up early on the morning Dad passed away was an immense quiet. Even with my husband in bed next to me, our newborn daughter between us, and our toddler in the next room over…the world felt absolutely still.  And in fact, our world had come to a standstill. This wasn’t just anyone who had departed…he was the center.

The patriarch of our family…the father, grandfather, husband, friend, and most of all, the ringleader. Many of you here know Dad from his college days, and I’m hoping you’ll share some stories to illuminate on his role as a ringleader during those days when we open up the podium.

But…the only explanation I can find for that piercing stillness I experienced was that…when a soul as large and as great as my Dad’s leaves us, it leaves behind a huge hole. And so much of the pain that we experience in mourning his loss, is the certainty that there is no one else in the world that can fill that hole. There’s no one else that can make us feel the way he did. 

So many of the emails and messages we’ve received from you all since his passing have mentioned how Dad made people “feel”…his ability to make people feel welcome, to make them feel special. Whether through his gigantic bear hugs …or offering a shot of whiskey when you walked through his front door, or through lending a hand of in your time of need…Dad was always there, and always ready to help. His friends and family were the most important thing in his life and his behavior reflected that, he took care of everyone…made us all feel important, made us feel special.

Beyond his immense heart, I think what we will miss most about Charlie was his ability to create a good time. Dad loved to have good time, and he filled the room …with his smile, his dirty jokes, and his charming wit that was somehow crass and genius at the same time. How often did we all look at each other in disbelief, thinking “did he really say that out loud?”  I will miss those moments.

As the throes of immediate grief began to pass, I started thinking about how to process his departure, how to make it ok. I received an email from Nancy Hannibal, “Aunt Nancy” …she wrote, and I quote:

Charlie has enriched our lives in so many ways, with his energy and love of life.  He has indeed left us all with gifts and an invitation to remember him.

Nancy’s message resonated with me, it helped me see past my sadness to understand what it means to lose someone like Charlie Moss. We mourn the loss…yes. But we honor his memory by carrying his gifts forward, by finding ways to do what he would have done. We look for ways to help each other like he would if he were here, and we seize every opportunity to have a good time together, like he certainly would if he were here. And we let go of grudges. Dad used to say:

Don’t sweat the small shit, and it’s ALL small shit.

So when I think about that hole Dad’s passing has left behind, at first I was certain it would remain empty for the rest of my days. But now I realize it won’t remain empty because… it’s our turn to fill the hole. It’s our turn to create the good time, to love each other, to live fully and live well, to be spontaneous, to fight for what we believe in, and to do the right thing, even when it’s uncomfortable.

If you all can tolerate me for a couple moments longer, I’d like to read you a letter that I wrote to my Dad, that I wish more than anything I could read to him now. I’m hoping that by sharing my letter with this room, it will reach him somehow, wherever he may be.

Dear Dad,

You weren’t just my Father, you were my dear friend.

We traveled, we camped, we danced, we chatted politics, we drank and we sang. We stirred shit, broke rules and had a blast.

Part of me is angry that you were taken away from us, that you waited so long for your grandkids to arrive and now you won’t be here to watch them grow. But… I now realize that to be angry would be a disservice to our relationship and to your memory.  To be angry would be ungrateful… because the time you and I were gifted together in this one lifetime, was full of more love and laughter than some fathers and daughters could accrue over 10 lifetimes.

You taught me to be kind, to be strong, to be brave and to think for myself. You taught me to care for the people I love, to look strangers in the eye and welcome them with a firm handshake and open arms. You taught me to lend help where it’s needed, and expect nothing in return.

Most importantly, you taught me to not take shit from anyone.

Pa…you occupied a space in this world that no one else can fill, for so many of us. You are an incredible soul and we will miss your dearly. To say that your life ended too soon is a null point, because no amount of time would be enough. You left us all wanting more.

I love you always,

Otto

Thank you.

Pa program_coverPa program_inside

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12 thoughts on “My Address at Dad’s Life Celebration

  1. So nice Autumn! Thanks for posting as I was too ill to stay for the speeches from you and your Brother. He is missed but we always have to be grateful for the time we do have with the special people in our lives and I know you know he was special to me also! XO

  2. Autumn, you write such beautiful words. Your letters made me cry. Its so hard losing dad, and I still can’t find the words to express myself in a letter to my dad, but yours sums it up. Sending cyber hugs xx

  3. Autumn, your passion for your father is inspiring. It brings me to tears. I so admire how you share your heart and soul and love for him. He raised a kick ass daughter. My heart is with you more than you know. Love you.

  4. Beautifully said – you covered the essence of Charlie for all to see. Our loved ones remain in our hearts and memories long after they leave this earth!

  5. Thank you for sharing this Autumn. Your words lovingly paid tribute to someone who was larger than life. What a great Dad he must have been! I wish we had been able to know him.

  6. Such beautiful words.. You were truly blessed to have such an amazing father. I am so sorry for your loss my dear friend and love you dearly xxx

  7. Aum, I’d been following the saga with heavy heart and many prayers. This is such a tribute to him. You know he’s continuing on, having a grand old time on some amazing new adventure. Giving you a big virtual hug, dearest.

  8. Autumn, Reading your loving and heartfelt address, you reminded me that he danced like Peter Pan but also had a wild side with high jinx that were great fun, but were unfit for print or more viral digital media. My last memories of him were of a wry and crusty elder statesman with pithy and unsparing observations of human frailty that were right on the money.

    If you have not done it yet, you should explore some of the 100+ miles of Redding area trails when you return to Redding. Bike or hike [biking is better on most of them], they are outstanding, and your father is one of the big reasons why they exist today, and they will outlive all of us.

    • Lang…high jinx and great fun indeed, he was quite possibly my favorite person to have fun with. And what a dancer, I love the Peter Pan reference. I’m proud that his stubborn pursuits of the trail system made a literal imprint on the City of Redding. He will not be forgotten. Thanks for your note.

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