Celebration of Life
My dad didn’t have a filter, so I am going to not filter this either. I want to share with all of you some things about my dad that you probably wouldn’t know unless you were one of his children or closest friends…
Two things stand out to me about dad, one is his sense of humor, and the other is his desire to share, whether that was share knowledge, share money, share stories, he was always teaching and sharing with everyone around him.
One summer when we were on Maui and I was about 8 years old, our family and friends took a catamaran over to the island of Molokai, where we swam, ate lunch, climbed trees, swung on vines, and played in a giant valley of mud that we used to cover ourselves in from head to toe. Some of the little kids were running naked in the mud and my brother Sands asked my dad if he was going to get naked and run in the mud too. My dad replied to us that he couldn’t get naked and run in the mud for three reasons. The first was that if he did, all the women would go crazy over his peeper (our family word for penis) and chase him all over the island. The second was that the kids would mistake his peeper for a vine and try and use it as a swing, and the last was that his peeper would drag on the ground and get scraped and he didn’t want to get hurt. We were in hysterics over his responses and to this day we have never forgotten those reasons, even though this happened some 20 odd years ago.
My dad is funny, really really funny, and every time we were together we were laughing and telling stories. My dad rarely had a simple answer for any question we may have asked. Just a few weeks ago we were taking Sailor’s pacifier out and dangling it in front of her, trying to encourage her to use her hands to reach. My dad was laying there watching and said “this is like the myth of Sisiphus, every time she gets close you take it away.” Having no clue what he was talking about he went on to explain the greek mythology of Sisiphus, all of this was before breakfast! He was always telling stories and teaching us, his children.
He was creative in his story telling, he had his own language, he could deliver a punch line like no other. He was obsessed with not wasting things. He never wanted to throw anything out and because of that, his fridge was full of items way passed their expiration date. He would sense Skye or myself sifting through the fridge looking for things to throw away and he would fly into the kitchen and exclaim, mustard doesn’t’ expire! I don’t care if it says 2009 on it that mustard is perfectly good you are not throwing that away. He went one entire summer using one paper plate for his toast every morning just to prove that could. One paper plate for breakfast for the entire summer.
He and technology had a terrible relationship, he could never figure out how to use his ipad and would call me and say something like “the google isn’t letting me youtube the website” or I want to send my website to someone in an email, how do I give them the password. The first time he saw one of us put in a password on a computer he smirked and said, I know your password! And we were like oh yea dad? What is it… and he was completely serious when he said “four stars.” I was at the mall with Matt and my dad called twice in a row, which meant a technology panic, and I answered while matt was in the dressing room, and for the next 30 minutes I had to explain to him how to copy and paste the link to a website that he wanted to email to someone. Other people in the dressing rooms were cracking up listening to our dialogue..
Another summer we put a couple of pictures of our family on the wall in the kitchen and when we came back the following summer, the collage of pictures was now covering the cabinets. That Christmas when we were all there the photos were now spreading out to the walls, but the best part about it was that about a third of the photos were of people we didn’t even know. We would say, dad, who is this kid? And he would say I don’t know, his mom sent me his picture so I put it on the wall…. His condo on Maui is basically covered in photos of our family and friends and complete strangers. His love for people always so apparent.
Dad had an inherent sense of justice, of doing what was right, even when it may have been easier to ignore something or take the lower road. He is just so good, so full of love, and he did so in ways that never brought attention to himself, and I would like to share some of those with you.
He saw an HBO show a few weeks ago that highlighted a story of an elderly African American woman named Harriett Cleveland who was 61 years old, living in Montgomery, AL and was raising her 3 year old disabled grandson . Unable to pay a driving fine as well as her medications and food, she put the bill in a pile of unpaid bills to be gotten to later. Over time, the fine compiled and built, eventually going from $75 to over $4000. She was arrested in her home in front of her grandson and brought to jail, spending 2 two week sentences in a confided cell. My dad, having seen her story, was so moved that he had his assistant, close friend, and coauthor, Dee look her up, locate her, and he wrote her a letter and sent her $4000 to cover the fine, and additionally sent her two multiple thousand dollar checks just to make sure she was alright. The woman called him in tears, she couldn't believe that a complete stranger sent her more money than she had ever had at one time in her life. This woman’s story aired on HBO and only one person, one person in the whole world, reached out to help her, without fan fare or praise, and that on person was my dad.
He received hundreds of pieces of mail a week and there were always letters asking him for money or financial assistance. Coincidentally, there was always money being sent to him from his fans as well. People who believed in tithing would send him odd dollar amounts all the time. He had a system where when someone wrote asking for money, he put it in a pile, and when he received money from someone, he would take a letter from his pile and sending that person the money he just received. He maintained a constant flow of financial support to complete strangers just because he could.
He has paid for the education of over a dozen children unrelated to him, children of friends or even strangers just because he believed in the value of a good education and he was capable of providing one. He set up a million dollar college fund at his alma mater for inner city kids struggling to pay for school.
Every time we took a walk together on Maui, which often times was everyday I was there, someone would stop him to tell him that his work changed their life and every time he would engage with them as if they were the most important person in the world to him at that time. Then, he would ask what hotel they were in and what their room number was and he would send me to deliver a few signed books to their room. This happened constantly. Daily, really.
He had an incredibly powerful platform. He attracted huge audiences all over the world and he knew how much sharing the stage with him could impact someone's career. Every year, without fail, he would find someone whose cause or story or message he believed in and he would include them in his program for that year. He would endorse their work and if they did work together, he gave them every dollar of the royalties he collected on it, never taking any of it for himself.
As weird as this sounds, I had a longing to be near my dad. I had a longing to talk to him, to hear his voice, as he has always been the person I most wanted to be like. Incredibly kind, generous to a fault, interested in the world and in people in particular, funny. On his birthday this year I sent him a card and in it I wrote that on his 75th
turn around the sun, he should be so proud of the fact that his children take all of their free time to be with him, to be around him, and that that is the mark of a great man and an even greater father. He called me after he got my card and told me he loved that, he loved that his kids always wanted to be around him. I am so grateful that he knew how much I loved being with him.
My dad and I took several trips around the world together, just the two of us, and on one of those recent trips I wrote him a letter
and told him how much I loved him. He read that letter at every one of his talks afterward and my sister Skye even turned it into a song that she sang to us while we danced together at my wedding. I am so grateful to have that memory. In that letter I told him that I could feel that he believed in me, and what greater gift could a parent give their child but to make them feel how much they believed in them?
When we came up with the idea to write a book together, a book about how I was raised and what it was really like to grow up in the dyer household I felt daunted and thrilled. I wasn't sure I could adequately express what it was like to have him as a father in just 10 chapters. But he was so encouraging, so loving. He worked with me, telling me over and over again, Serena, you have a gift at telling stories, just tell your stories and it will be perfect. At the end of writing that book together, we were both so proud of it. I felt his love and pride for me. I am so grateful he is the kind of dad who shared that. I am grateful that he taught me to go within and find God. Grateful that he taught me to be open to other people's ideas and ways of living. He taught me to leave the judging to someone else, and instead, to just treat people with compassion, understanding that everyone is just doing the best they can. Most importantly, in this moment, I am most grateful that he taught me that even in death, we are just shedding one coat and putting on another. He told me he would never leave me, even when he left this earthly realm, and I am most grateful that I know this to be true.
Everyone that knows me knows I am a talker. My dad is a talker too. Talking to him is and was my most favorite thing in the world. I think that is what is so hard for me about all of this. Our relationship was built on talking to each other. We spoke on the phone almost every single day. We talked so often and about so many things that for me it is impossible to narrow down who my dad is to me on a few pages
In closing, I want to tell you that Dad and I agreed to name our book don't die with your music still in you because for me, it was the most important lesson he taught me. Dad came here with music to play and he played it so loudly, it changed the world. One man, with some really big ideas, changed the lives of millions of people for the better. My dad, with his love of teaching, of sharing, of story telling, helped millions of people improve their lives. It is now my promise to you dad that I will not die with my music still in me. I carry who you are within me, and I will do everything I can to continue your message as you had just recently asked me to one day do. For me, this isn't goodbye. I could never say goodbye to the person who is everywhere and everything for me. To me, this is just learning to see you and hear you in a new and different way, cause as you said, when you die, you will still be here, just in another room… I love you forever and ever dad. Thank you, for everything.