I would not call this my best writing, though I did do better sharing this at the funeral service than what is written here. Still, I’m having a rough day and it feels good to share the eulogy I wrote for my Dad.
My heart has a hole in it. A hole John Stewart filled when I was not even 8 years old. John Stewart came into my life to be a Dad. He didn’t assume that he was my Dad, but he was going to be a “Dad” as much as I would let him. The smartest thing young Molly ever did was to let Mr. Stewart, John, become John-Dad. He shaped me into a better person, and he taught me to drive when it was impossible for anyone else to do it. He imparted his love of James Bond movies, and took me to countless car shows. He taught me that Porsche is two syllables, not one. He listened without judgment, and he gave advice. He taught me not to slam doors (specifically car doors, of course), to turn out lights, to take responsibility for my actions, and that the only and best changes I make in life start and end with me.
Dan and I were lucky enough to entice him to Philadelphia on two occasions. The last time was for our wedding. My Dad was always my rock – cool in situations when I was a mess or (furious), and leading up to the wedding, he was the same as always. When it came time to walk me down the aisle, though, I saw a side of Dad that I had never seen before. He was more nervous than I was! He was shaking and could barely speak when asked who was giving me away. I could almost feel his heart bursting on that day – he was that happy and full of love for us.
We were married on Halloween 2015, and we had a costume wedding. The wedding party was changing into costumes after the ceremony, and Dad was keeping his costume top secret. I didn’t see Dad when we were announced and entered the dance floor, though I knew he had to be nearby since parents were going to be announced soon too. And, I’ll never forget that hilarious moment when John Stewart, my Dad, showed up as Stuart, the minion. Stuart was a blast – dancing the night away and charming everyone, most of all, me. Even in character, he couldn’t help but be the one and only, most charming John Stewart. Guests of the wedding, whether they knew my Dad before or not, all remember the minion.
Dad was memorable. He charmed the Honda employee at the Honda Heritage Museum so much that he scored a spot in a Honda plant tour just in October. Dad tried to tell me I was the memorable one who helped him score this because this young woman “remembered he was with his daughter” but I knew the truth. My Dad was the one who left an impression. As my husband noticed when we went to a car meet with Dad on Labor Day weekend, “he knew everybody there, so it’s hard to know who I met that day.” But did he know everyone? Or was it more that there are no strangers to him? He made lots of friends, this room and the outpouring we’ve seen in the last week are evidence. It’s touching to hear the stories, the care he spread around. He taught me so much about love and acceptance, and he continues to do so now.
To call my dad a “car enthusiast” is an understatement. He also enjoyed photography, so he could record all the beautiful and interesting cars he had seen over the years. He was the family photographer too, making sure that we sat still long enough to capture the moment forever. It meant a lot to him to record those moments with family, and I’m only now realizing how precious that is. My only sadness for that is that we don’t have more photos of him since he was so often behind the camera. He became an avid roller derby fan – as a result of me playing the sport – and he would send me article clippings long after I stopped playing roller derby. He had a box full of programs, articles, and more from my roller derby “career” – even a framed poster on his wall. He was StingRay’s (that was me) number one fan – pretty much the same role he played through my entire life.
Which brings me to this – I kept staring at what I’ve written and shared with you today…for hours I struggled with it. It isn’t good enough. There isn’t enough I can say or write to be good enough…to do my Dad’s life justice. He was a bright star in this world, and there are no words to express all that he was to everyone. I can barely express all that he was to me. John Stewart chose me as his kid, and he never stopped loving me fiercely. I wish I could have one last hug, but I’ll take the new guardian following me around now. I’m sorry I wasn’t more brilliant in my words dedicated to my dad. There was a hole in my heart when I was a kid, and John Stewart filled it and became my Dad. That place in my heart aches, but it will never be a hole again after him. That place in my heart is where my Dad will be forever.