On Sunday, February the 27th while the rest of the world went about its business, I, along with no small number of other people mourned the loss of a truly great man. That man was my father, Ralph Evans. For those who didn’t have the privilege of knowing him, I will attempt, as best I can, to illustrate what made him such an amazing person, beloved by so many.
First a little background; my parents divorced when I was quite young, Dad remarried when I was four years old and remained (very happily) married until he passed away, nearly 35 years. Dad and my step-mother had two daughters and I always felt that I was blessed to have two mothers and two sisters; plus, getting to celebrate Christmas twice definitely had its advantages. Despite geographic distance and not getting to spend as much time together as either of us would have liked, my Dad had a tremendous influence on me. My father truly was, and will always be my biggest hero and role model.
He was a man whose actions and deeds spoke of a purity of character few can hope to achieve. Dad’s life was filled with medical emergencies and brushes with death, but throughout these and his final battle his faith and sense of humor were indomitable. In 1985 my father was in the hospital, near death. For days he had been delirious with fever, not recognizing anyone and hallucinating. I rushed to be with him and when he regained consciousness and awareness the first thing he said to me was “Hi Greg! How’s your leg?” Asking me about my (relatively) trivial injury while facing down death; that typified my father’s care and concern for others above himself.
One of my father’s great passions in life was fishing, for as long as I can remember his bass boat was very dear and precious to him. One night he and a couple of his fishing buddies were launching his boat when a Coleman lantern fell over and spilled, setting fire to the boat. The boat was a complete loss, but that didn’t deter my father, it just meant they had to fish from the bank. The next morning a ranger came looking for him, at first he thought it concerned the boat fire, but no, there was an urgent phone call for him. His father (my Grandfather) had passed away. When my dad retold the story of that fateful night, he could amazingly see the silver lining to the situation. If the boat hadn’t burned, he would have been out on the lake and the rangers couldn’t have found him. That typified my father’s incredibly positive outlook on life.
My father was quick with a joke, a smile, or a kind word; whatever the situation warranted.
Dad, I’m sorry I couldn’t articulate my love and admiration for you better at the funeral, but I know it doesn’t matter; everyone there was fortunate enough to have known you or to have somehow had their lives touched by you and that is truly a blessing. I’m sorry for the millions of people who didn’t know you and didn’t have the opportunity to see the incredible light and beauty of your spirit.
I’m sure the fish will be biting when I join you on that big bass boat in the sky, so save me a pole and a seat in the back of the boat. I love you Dad, I couldn’t have asked for a better father.