As I've written about on other social media outlets, my father, Fred, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away last Friday night.
Even a week later, I'm still reeling from this loss. It seems utterly surreal to be living in a world without my father, who was unequivocally the greatest man I've ever known. I still remember my total shock when I received a phone call from my brother telling me they were rushing my father to the hospital because he had apparently stopped breathing, and then hearing a short while later that he had passed away.
I was fortunate enough to have driven home the previous Sunday for Mother's Day, and spent a few hours with my family. When I said goodbye I never could have imagined in a million years that would be the last time I'd see or speak to my father, although we traded comments on social media and via email later in the week. How could I have known? And what would I have done differently if I did?
My father's funeral last Sunday was honestly the most difficult day of my life to date. Having to say goodbye in this fashion was hard, and the fact that my father was buried next to my baby brother, who died of SIDS in 1984, made the day even harder.
I honestly don't know how I feel right now. I'm devastated from this loss, worried about how it will affect my mother and siblings (being the oldest does that), and I'm a little angry, too. But more than that, I wish I had one more opportunity to spend with my father, just to tell him again how much I loved him and how important he was to me. I know that no matter how many times I had that chance it would feel inadequate, but that is certainly my wish.
To demonstrate that in some small way, I spoke during my father's funeral. Many people marveled afterward that I was able to (just barely) keep it together for the entire speech, but the truth is, it was important that I was able to say everything I wrote without falling apart. I'm going to share the entire speech below, and I'll add the one thing I wanted to say that I knew would bring me to tears, so I omitted it from the speech to be safe.
Dad, I miss you more than words can say. I'm grateful for everything you taught me, everything you did for me, and everything you were. My life won't be the same without you. But despite the obvious fact that I owe my existence in part to you, I owe so much of who I am as well. And I hope you knew, and know, how much I love you.
Today is a day that none of us could ever imagine. Now that we're living it, we keep hoping that this is only a dream, that we'll wake up and all of this will not be real. But we know that's not the case.
On behalf of my entire family, I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being here today. If you're here, hopefully you had even a small chance to know what an incredible man Fred Hoffer was.
Hopefully you had the chance to talk with him a little bit. He could and would talk to anyone, anywherethe gym, the grocery store, the mall, my nephews' school. I've had friends reach out to me the last few days and share with me memories of random conversations they had with my father during parties or other events, conversations I never even knew about.
If you knew my father, you undoubtedly knew he was a man who loved life. He was a man who enjoyed such a wide variety of experiences. He coached soccer for years for both my sister and my brothers. (He had a less-than-spectacular run as my soccer coach for one year, until he realized he was the only coach who would rather not ever put his kid in the game. And that was fine with me.)
He loved working out, and of course, on the flip side, he loved to eat. So many of us probably not only have memories of meals shared at restaurants, in homes, and at special events, but also those "secret" meals, the ones snuck in between other meals, which we just never mentioned to anyone.
He also was an incredible friend.
And if you knew my dad, what you knew more than anything was how much he loved his family. He was an incredibly devoted husband to our mother, a father beyond compare to my sister, brothers, and me, a fiercely devoted son, brother, cousin, and uncle, and one of the proudest, most involved grandfathers ever.
Without a doubt, Fred Hoffer was the greatest man I've ever known. A man with an unending generosity, an incredible personality, a gusto for life, and the most enormous capacity for love.
This loss is utterly incomprehensible to us. I keep walking into a room expecting he'll walk in any second.
We are so tremendously grateful to have had this man in our lives. I couldn't have been luckier to have him as a father, a friend, and a role model. So often in my life people told me how much I look like my dad, and how we share many of the same mannerisms. I have never had a problem with that. But all I keep thinking is of a line from Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al: Who'll be my role model, now that my role model is gone?
The support and kindness and love you have shown my family and me is appreciated more than words can ever say. I can only imagine how touched my dad would be to see this outpouring of love for him.
Thank you from the bottom of our bruised and aching hearts.