After my dad’s passing, I wanted nothing more than to be able to write and deliver his eulogy at the memorial service. I wished to honor the wonderful man he was and leave lasting impressions of his beautiful heart, rather than his earthly struggles. I can only pray that I did him proud. Rest in peace, Daddy; I love you.
We are born into this early life with a pure heart. A heart that God created so lovingly and put much thought into. This heart of ours shapes our personality and our relationships. I can say with certainty that my dad had one of the biggest and best hearts around.
Most of you know that Daddy struggled with alcoholism most of his adult life. Over the past 20 years he and I have been at odds over many of his decisions, however I still melted into a daddy’s little girl every time I spoke to him or passed him on the road. Over the past three weeks as I watched his body begin to fail him, God’s grace surrounded us. It was no longer about the beer, but about love. It was no longer about disputes, but about forgiveness. Caring for my father over the last few weeks has given me the greatest peace I could have ever hoped for in the course of our lives. It was humbling to let go and let God bring us back together. I am forever thankful for the gift of being by his side the last week of his life. So that being said, I stand before you today asking you to think not of his earthly struggles and of his disease defining him, but of his God given heart and personality.
Marvin Leander Stevens lived a life for others. As a child he was always making people laugh, entertaining his siblings, cousins and friends, helping teach his little sister when his brothers wouldn’t, being kind to the unpopular kids at school, and putting a smile on others faces. He was a jokester and often received punishment from his momma as a result of those jokes, but don’t let that stop you from thinking he wasn’t the biggest momma’s boy around. He enjoyed playing football, fishing and hunting, and fell in love with my momma during his high school days. He was an all-around great guy who everyone enjoyed being in the presence of.
Fast forward a few years and his heart grew even bigger with the birth of my sister Kelle, and then me (his favorite, of course). He was a hands-on dad and in all reality he was a big kid raising kids. My fondest memories include him running after us around the house and yard, riding in his brown truck with the flashing orange light on top acting like we were chasing down the bad guys, and swimming until we could swim no more in Grandma Gussie’s pool. After my parents’ divorce, Kelle and I would spend every other weekend with him. Those weekends were jam packed as he made the most of our time together. A stop at John’s Curb Market for an Icee and a tater log, then we were off to the creek to slide in the clay, camping at the river, or even just simply sitting in his big bed eating cereal for supper. It was wonderful.
I have tons of memories with daddy, but I’d like to share with you two that linger in my mind.
–Daddy let me go to middle school dances in 5th and 6th grade. I say that because my mom didn’t. And now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know if mom ever knew that he let me go… Sorry mom. Anyways, Daddy arrived to pick me up after a 6th grade dance and I quickly got into the truck. I sat there sniffling, my arms crossed and he said, “Koot, what’s wrong?” I shook my head trying to brush him off so I wouldn’t have to say anything because I knew if I started talking I would start crying. He leaned in closer to me.. “Koot?” I looked at him and saw his concerned face and I lost it. He scooted over and hugged me asking me what happened to make me so upset. I explained that a boy who I was “going out with” broke up with me because he liked another girl. I further explained that this girl was much curvier and developed than my bean poled self. Daddy began laughing. I looked at him in horror thinking how he could laugh at my misery! He said, “Koot, I’m gonna tell you something you need to remember. You don’t worry about those boys. They see those big curvy girls and get all dumb and stupid. But don’t you worry because you’ll have the last laugh. Those boys don’t know that those curvy girls are going to be fat one day and my girl, my little Koot, is going to be perfect because you take after your daddy!” I couldn’t help but laugh thinking OMG please don’t let me take after my daddy! And here we are today and my husband calls me “Marvin” for some reason or another at least once a month..
–A few months after my Connor was born with multiple special needs and we learned that he would live a much different life than typical kids, Daddy came by to visit us. In typical Marvin fashion, he arrived bearing gifts…fresh vegetables, deer sausage, and a coke Icee for his girl. He sat down and I explained to him what all of Connor’s diagnoses meant. I had never seen my dad cry before this, so when the tears started to fall down his tanned face I broke down too. He asked if they knew why Connor was born with all of these issues. I said no. He asked if Connor would need surgery to fix it? I said no because his issues weren’t fixable. His tears began to dry and the man who was hardly serious a day in his life looked me in the eyes, held my hand, and said words that I’ll never forget. “Koot, if there is any one person in this whole entire world to care for a baby like Connor, it’s you. The good Lord trusted you with an angel and I know that you are going to make sure this boy has the best life possible. I’m proud to be your daddy and his grandpa.” I hugged him for what seemed like hours and thanked him for those words and how much they meant to me. From then on out daddy always referred to Connor as our angel and every time he spoke of him or interacted with him his eyes sparkled as if he were truly in the presence of an angel.
Big Marv was loved by so many people….his family and friends, his school mates, his union brothers and sisters, community folk, everyone. They all knew who he was and where he stood.
He was a generous man. He didn’t have much, but what he did he’d give you in a heartbeat.
He was a hard worker. Although the actual act of working was not his favorite, when he did work he worked with all his might and was skilled at whatever he did.
He was stubborn. He often told me that it was his way or the high way and getting my two cents through his thick head was a feat-especially if he sick needing to see the doctor!
He had the best personality. He met people with a smile and left them with an even bigger smile.
He was a good friend. He hardly ever met a stranger; it didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, high class or low he treated everyone the same whether they liked it or not.
He was a big kid. He loved playing with the kids instead of talking to the adults, whether it was playing a game of softball, swimming and diving contests, or teaching them how to fish or shoot a gun.
He was a simple man. He lived a life with very few needs and was never one to worry about what anyone thought of him.
He was a kind soul. He ensured his loved ones were okay and thoroughly enjoyed checking in on them during his 20mph morning, afternoon, and evening drives.
Daddy made his own rules and didn’t mind not conforming to society’s standards. Even weeks before his passing, Daddy’s personality stayed true as he joked that he was going to call the cops on the nurses for child abuse as he displayed his bruised elbows to me. His need to feed people, to make people laugh, and to bring happiness to everyone he met made him wonderfully unique. My daddy may not have been perfect, but he tried to overcome his disease so he could enjoy this life with his two girls, family, and friends.
Since my dad has passed I worry that I’ll forget him or that my memories will fade, and you might be thinking the same. But don’t worry; daddy’s presence is all around us every single day.
He’s Walmart jeans and a faded Hanes T-shirt. He’s tomato gravy and biscuits with a glass of cold milk. He’s a Merle Haggard song playing in a pickup truck with the windows down. He’s the slow driver in front of you on the day you’re running late. He’s laughing until your sides hurt and you can’t breathe. He’s an ungroomed mustache with a mischievous smile underneath. He’s a calm evening with only the sound of the crickets chirping. He’s calloused hands after a long day of working. He’s porch sitting with old friends. He’s fish jumping in the creek on a summer day. He’s the sun creeping through your window at 6am. He’s the brightest star in the night sky shining down upon us forever more.
I stand here today missing Daddy’s big brown eyes, deep voice, and strong hugs more than I could have ever imagined. After all of our ups and downs, I am proud to say that I am Marvin Stevens daughter and I’ll carry the best of him with me until we meet again.