This is the remembrance I gave at my father’s memorial last Friday.
When I was very young, I loved hearing stories about a gentleman rabbit called Uncle Wiggily who had many animal friends and several animal enemies. But he had one friend who was with him in almost every episode, his housekeeper, Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy the Muskrat Lady.
To be honest, I don’t remember if my mom or my dad or our beloved housekeeper Husy read those stories to me. But this is what I know. My father started calling me Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy a long time ago. I don’t even remember why. Over the years and decades that infamous title got shortened to simply Nurse Jane. I was Nurse Jane to my Daddy, and I knew that was his highest term of endearment, even though I never had any aspiration to become a real nurse—or a muskrat, for that matter.
That was my father. He made everyone he knew feel special. I imagine many of you here today smile to think of how my father had a nickname or title he called you. Or just a look that said he thought you were tops.
Daddy was a caregiver. Oh, he loved life, he loved attention, he loved fine restaurants, and a good drink, and a fancy trip, and a good party. An over-the-top extrovert, Daddy kept up a social schedule that put the rest of the family’s combined schedules to shame. But all of these revolved around his love of people. He loved people and he believed in them.
And he believed in me, his only daughter. I was my daddy’s girl.
A child of the Depression who had seen his mother pinch pennies all her life, Daddy was determined to make a good living. He believed education was the best gift he could give his children, and he paid for a combined almost 40 years of Westminster, plus Rice, Vanderbilt, Princeton, University of Chicago, Georgia Tech, Covenant, Heritage, and he might even slip in a few coins to his former housemate who’s at Harvard.
And through my education and the security of Daddy’s financial provision for our family, he opened the world for me. Unfortunately, my father’s dream was for all of his family to be well educated and to stay close by. In Atlanta. So when I announced I was leaving for the mission field, flying to France, it was hard on him. But Daddy and Mom gave me a wonderful gift. They gave me their blessing to go. Daddy didn’t necessarily approve, and it was hard for him to let me ‘raise my support’ when he was beginning to be very successful as a stock broker.
But he did it. He and Mom let me fly. I will add that they made the best of it by coming to visit Paul, Andrew, Chris and me at least once a year, often taking us skiing in the French Alps or to a castle in the Beaujolais. And always to a very nice restaurant with at least a few Michelin stars.
Daddy’s wit and humor delighted all, but throughout my life, one of my favorite activities was taking a walk with him. We’ve walked all over the world, but I especially loved our walks around the block on Nancy Creek Road. We discussed life, love, faith, and adventures. We did not discuss Georgia Tech or the stock market, but somehow that was okay with Daddy.
And he was my biggest fan, always carrying a bookmark for my newest novel in his jacket pocket. I apologize to all of you who have been ambushed throughout the years by my father, sporting a smile and a bookmark.
And his faith was as warm and witty as everything else about him. Daddy won people’s hearts as a man of integrity who cared about his family, his friends, his church, his clients at Merrill Lynch, his college. Honestly, as a devout girl growing up in a house with Jesus and mint julips, I sometimes felt a bit confused by my father’s faith.
But you aren’t. You’re here to honor a man who honored God by living a full, robust life of loving others well.
I’m grateful to have finally been able to live up to my nickname of Nurse Jane as I’ve helped care for my father during the last leg of his journey on this side of the veil. As many of you witnessed, he kept his wit and optimism until the very end. He told Dock early on after the cancer diagnosis that he’d checked all the boxes, he’d had a great life, and he knew where he was going. He wasn’t afraid. He also wasn’t quite ready to leave, and I sure hope he can see the party going on for him today.
I miss you already so much, Daddy, but I’ll see you soon on the other side. Much love, your Nurse Jane.
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog, Letters to the Lord.