“As a Father” – Olivia Kirkham

Speaker: Olivia Kirkham

Writing a talk is hard, so I decided to write a song for my dad instead; it goes: “This is our Daddy Song. It isn’t very long.”

If dad were here he would start by telling us about “Life as it is” for 65 years dad saw life as it is; joy, laughter, and happiness beyond belief. As he loved to say it’s “unbelievable”. Of course there was pain, misery, and cruelty beyond belief as well; we live in a fallen world. But more importantly, there is healing and peace because of our Savior Jesus Christ. Dad knew that and he loved sharing it with people.

Very few days went by when he wasn’t asking our opinions about some Gospel principle he was pondering for an upcoming lesson. He loved to visit people and share messages about the Gospel. His favorite way to share Gospel truths was through parables, like the parable he wrote that started “many are cold, but few are frozen.” Or his elephant collection, which started with the parable of the blind men and the elephant.

Before coming to this earth, dad must have been one of the noble and great ones. His testimony of the Gospel was unshakable. He lived what James referred to as pure religion to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction

In every calling dad had mom was right by his side. They were home teaching companions for most of their marriage. Their relationship was important to them, and they had a date night scheduled for every Friday.

Mom and dad summarized their courtship with the phrase: “We Wrote. We Met. We Married.” My mom had been writing one of my dad’s mission companions who gave my dad her address. Dad wrote her a letter and they started writing somewhat regularly. Then after my dad returned from his mission, he ended up as mom’s home teacher. They dated for a while until one day they pedaled up to the zoo on bikes. After pedaling over to This Is The Place monument my dad presented my mom with a 1-carrot ring (made from a real live carrot). They were married in the Manti Temple on October 18th 1980; the covenants they made there give us the assurance that we can be a family forever.

When we were babies dad would bounce us on his knee and shake our hand vigorously in all directions. Knowing that we could only see 9 inches in front of our face, he would walk around the house showing us things, and using his hand to measure 9 inches from each object he showed us. When he ran out of his own babies to hold, dad often borrow babies from others at church. He was tickled pink when he finally got grandchildren of his own and became “Grand Daddy Dearest.”

As children dad involved us in everything he did. If he was working on cleaning an ice cream machine, he would ask us to stir the ice cream mixture in the bucket or put our ear to the machine and tell him when it cycled off. We learned to clean refrigerators to help him with his business. He would cart the whole family along when someone was moving, so we could carry boxes in a bucket brigade, while he helped move the heavy furniture. Or he would line us up on the sidewalk with snow shovels and have us shovel the sidewalks all up and down the street.

Our family song was “Have I Done Any Good In The World Today?” and dad’s life was an example of that song in action. Even when he was too sick to walk by himself, he would ask if there was anything he could do to help, without actually getting involved?

We learned about hard work through dad’s example. When we were young we were often eager to help, but as we got older, dad related to the comic that said “there is nothing like a family project to get a little bit of alone time.”

As we became teenagers dad got the notion in his head that he wanted our house to be a “hanging out house.” It started out meaning that our friends liked to hang out there but it ended up meaning that we had pictures and replicas of outhouses hanging on the walls. Luckily my friends did enjoy hanging out at our house. Every time they would come over dad would ask them their names and their favorite colors; he never remembered them from one time to the next, but to be fair, they never told him the same the same color twice in a row either. Once every person in the room claimed their favorite color was yellow just to mess with him.

Dad cared deeply about our education and expected us to do well in school. If we made the mistake of telling him we didn’t have homework, he told us to go up to our teacher and say “it’s my right to have homework!” (we never did.) Both my parents attended every parent teacher conference for every one of their six children. Even when we were all in high school they personally visited upwards of 30 teachers at parent conferences; afterwards they would sit us down individually and tell us what our teachers said about us. My dad himself had numerous technical degrees from the community college and all of his living children now have college degrees.

Once most of us had grown up and moved away dad was always anxious to hear about our lives. He’d say “How can I live vicariously through you if you don’t tell me what’s going on in your life?” His favorite time of day to communicate was the middle of the night.

Dad also wanted us to be self reliant as adults. He taught us to cook for ourselves, mow the lawn, change a tire, etc. We didn’t know how often the skill of changing a tire would come in handy until we lost every single tire on the van during a road trip to Kansas.

Traditions were also important to dad. He believed strongly in Gospel traditions like Family Home Evening and Family Councils. Like Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof he taught that “because of our traditions that everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.” At our house if you did something at least three times, even if it was by accident, it became a tradition. One tradition that made dad famous was hanging the Christmas tree from the ceiling so the children wouldn’t knock it over. On our birthdays we would get money wrapped in color coded duct-tape, either as coin necklaces or sequential bills in a duct-taped envelope. Dad was most pleased with himself when we couldn’t get them open; he thought it would make the money last longer.

I wish I had enough time to tell about family road-trips, hiking excursions, favorite movie quotes, dad breaking out into song, and all the other memories that remind us how much dad loved life and family.

After a faithful life of service and testimony dad has now joined loving family members that are waiting for him in the spirit world. We miss dad. But we’re grateful to know that he is finally pain-free. And that because of Jesus Christ he will one day be resurrected and receive a perfect, glorified body. Hopefully they let him wear a beard.

In the spirit world, dad gets to continue the work of preaching the Gospel, which he loved so much in this life. We’re grateful for the knowledge that we’ll see him again. And we are thankful for his legacy of humor, service, and testimony.

We love you dad.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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