Michael Howard, my Dad passed away on Saturday 9th June at 7.30pm.
My sister had said her goodbyes on the phone as she boarded the plane to come home and my mother and I held each of his hands while he slipped away peacefully.
I had the opportunity to speak about my Dad at his funeral and I am forever grateful for that.
Several people have asked that I share that tribute so I’ve opted to share some of it here.
CELEBRATING THE LIFE OF MICHAEL HOWARD
I want to welcome you here today to celebrate the life of my Dad Michael Howard.
Daddy’s life was a life filled with love, kindness and a quiet strength that he used to make the people around him feel lighter for him having been there.
He always had a smile that lightened your load… even when that load was to care for him.
It was a smile that came from deep within his gentle heart and transformed into a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Later when the Parkinson’s even made this difficult for him, it still reached his eyes and again you were lighter for having been there with him.
Daddy loved a good story.
He loved to hear them and he loved to share them.
I remember coming home from school one day and saying to him…
Dad… I learned a new word today. And he would say… What’s that Finola…
and I said to him proudly… with a big smile on my face…
He loved that and he loved to tell that story.
Dad was born in Castleroe, Maganey, Co. Kildare the eldest of a family of 11.
He loved his parents and each one of his 10 brothers and sisters.
They would tell me often how much they loved him and how he had made a difference to their lives.
My aunts told me once the story of how he bought their school books for them and gave them their pocket money.
It was small acts like this that he did for so many during the course of his life.
Dad married the love of his life; Nancy Howard over 52 years ago.
It was a coming together of two hearts that loved each other equally.
They shared everything together and that love was such a great inspiration to me and Michelle all our lives. And it is why we have such wonderful men in our lives too; Kevin and Lucio.
Not long after they were married they moved to Waterford for Daddy’s work with CIE as it was known then.
Dad would cycle to work every day and because he was on shift work he would often be home before Mammy so he would get the dinner going… put disinfectant on our knees when we fell… give us a cuddle… or whatever needed to be done.
Together they taught us that nothing was impossible.
They put a screwdriver in Michelle’s hand and nurtured her love of how things worked.
She was one of only very few women in her class studying architecture.
She has travelled the world working with some of the best, designing & building award winning spaces & homes and sharing her own love of architecture with her students.
For me it was the storytelling and I used to watch Dad as he listened to several people tell him the same story about how something happened.
He would listen as if it was the first time he heard it because he wanted to hear it from their perspective.
Then he would piece it all together to get to the heart of it.
And this is the very nature of my own work.
Mam and Dad have 3 grandchildren.
They have held his hand throughout his illness and his face would light up every time he saw each one of them.
He loved them so very much.
Dad’s other great love was the railway and the many friends he made there.
Once or twice we got to go on the engine with him too.
It was such an adventure for us; the highlight being to blow the whistle.
And when Dad retired and was involved with the Suir Valley Railway he even got to share that experience with my son Sean.
There is a lovely picture of them together on the engine here in Waterford.
My cousins have memories of this too because if he was driving the train through Athy and Carlow he’d blow the whistle for my Grandfather in Jerusalem, my cousins in Maganey and in Athy too.
They all knew it was Dad and if he saw them he’d give them a little wave.
Dad was a lover of sport and was an avid reader.
He could sit and chat with you about any topic that YOU had an interest in.
He made people feel special that way.
He wanted you to feel comfortable and over the last couple of days this is one of the stories that is told most.
People just loved to sit with Dad and have a chat.
There is so much more I could share with you about Dad but I will leave you with this.
He was a Gentle Man in all he did and he made the world easier for him being here.
I want to thank all of those who helped Mammy over the last number of years care for Dad from the carers who came to the house, the nurses and carers in the hospital when he went there and all the carers, nurses and staff in Killure Bridge Nursing Home.
They were each so wonderful to him and to us.
I want to thank Mam and Dad’s wonderful neighbours who have been such a great support now and over the years.
Most of all I have to pay tribute to my Mum for all the care, love and attention she gave him during his long battle with Parkinson’s.
There is something deeply special about watching two people love each other who had to go through all this together and still Dad would tilt his face up even at the end for a kiss from the love of his life.
Go in Peace now Dad.
We love you so very much.
You made a difference to all of us.