Words of Love
Eulogies given by Don's daughters . . .
Talking in front of people is hard for me to do but if my Dad was brave enough to do what he did then I am certainly brave enough to stand up here and speak.
I was up late last night working on this and even on the way here I was still scratching things out and re-writing it. I wanted this to be perfect but the truth is, I could re-write this every day for the rest of my life and it would never be good enough.
A man who courageously attempts to overcome obstacles for the benefit of others without regard to personal consequences is a hero. I am honored to stand here today and talk about the hero that I knew and loved; my father. Don Spillane.
Growing up, he taught my sister and I to work hard and never stop chasing our dreams. He taught us to be strong and told us that we could do anything we want to if we put our minds to it. He raised us to be respectful of others, caring and humble. My father showed us how we should live our lives and this past Friday, he showed us how to die: honorably and bravely.
My father risked his life for someone he didn’t even know and he did it without hesitation and without fear. He selflessly and courageously attempted to save a young girl who had fallen from the rim of a waterfall at McConnnell's Mill State Park, but he, too, slipped and fell while trying to get to her.
I was shocked when I heard that my father had passed. It is still so hard to believe. However, it is not so hard to believe that he was trying to help someone in distress. If you knew him at all, you knew that he was either going to save that girl or die trying. That’s just who he was. I cannot think of a better way to leave this world. Of course, we all would prefer it that he didn’t leave us at all but if he had to go, he did it right.
I was reading some news articles about my Dad and the story of his heroic efforts was all over the country. It was on MSNBC and USA Today’s websites and even some newspapers as far away as Colorado and Nevada. Reporters have been calling and stopping by the house non-stop. Everyone wants to know more about our hero. He would hate all of this attention. He didn’t even like to celebrate his birthday. That’s just how he was. He did not like to be the center of attention. He was very humble.
I know that my father loved my Mother, my Sister and I with all of his heart. There is no doubt in my mind that my Dad saw my sister and I in that moment when he was riding along on his motorcycle and he was flagged down by a young girl who needed his help because her friend had fallen. Down in that water was somebody’s daughter and if that were Dana or I down there, he would want someone to do everything they could to save us, so that is what he did.
If you ask me, the world needs more people like my Dad. I am so proud of him. He is a true hero and his bravery and noble effort will be forever remembered.
I wish I could see him smile and hear him laugh just one more time. I’d give anything to feel him wrap his arms around me and hug me again. He meant so much to so many people and he will be missed, for sure.
Over the last few days, there were a lot of people who came to pay their respects to my Father. Some that didn’t even know my Dad but admired him for what he did. They told me that he seemed like he was a really great guy and then they told me how sorry they are for my loss. I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought to myself that I should be telling them that I am sorry for their loss because if you didn’t know my Dad, you really missed out.
I know that I was blessed to have such a great man as my father for 26 years. It is still hard not to think about everything we never got to do together and all of the things that he won’t be there for. But I know that he will be there. He will always be there - in my thoughts and in my heart. Forever.
When I think of my Dad, scenes from the past two years keep replaying through my head. When CJ could barely crawl, my Dad would sit with him for hours and try everything imaginable to get him to scoot across the floor. When CJ just started to walk my Dad couldn’t wait until he could run. He always was so excited about CJ's milestones, and so proud when he reached them.
My Dad would call me daily to hear about the things CJ had done, or said, or what sort of trouble he had gotten into. And then he would babble on the phone with CJ for five minutes, in "CJ talk," about their days, and I truly believe they could understand what each other was saying.
Last year, we took a family trip to Idewild Park. To be honest, I might as well have not even been there. When we got to the park, my Dad took CJ’s hand and never let go. I believe CJ was the first one year old to go on every ride in the park.
When those two were together, you couldn’t help but smile. My Dad would set up blocks in our basement and put CJ in the laundry basket, push him around and around, and crash CJ into the blocks. Boy did he ever giggle! My dad would take CJ for walks when he would babysit while I was at school and they would go to the baseball fields and watch the games. Being coached by my Dad, I can only guess that he was already giving CJ pointers on his batting stance.
There was an unexplainable attachment between my Father and my Son that went beyond the normal Grandpa/Grandson relationship.
When we walked into my parent’s house my Father’s eyes lit up at the sight of CJ. CJ would run to my Dad and yell “hiiiiii” the entire way, until he was snuggled closely in my Father’s arms. My Father’s words in those moments stick with me, and they were always the same, “We are going to be best buds, aren’t we buddy?” and he would give him a big kiss.
It was through my Son that I got to know my Fathers gentle side, his playful side, and his goofball side. Anytime CJ was upset my Dad would act totally ridiculous to cheer him up, by dancing around, or making CJ feel like he had magical powers, because when he would yell, my Dad would all of a sudden turn into a crazy monkey jumping about. And it worked every time.
Getting to know my Dad as a Grandfather has probably been the most breathtakingly beautiful thing I have witnessed in my life. I didn’t think my Dad could be any more perfect then he was as a Father, but I was wrong. He surpassed his perfection as a Father and became a Grandfather.
In my heart, I find peace knowing my Dad will be there for every moment of CJ’s life, but not in phone calls or on weekend visits to see Dave and Yenna, but as a guardian angel and protector from Heaven.
To my Son: CJ, your Grandfather provided to you in abundance; unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life and most importantly, cookies. And remember when you look to the sky, Son, just remember: it’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s your hero Grandfather, Super Dave!