I write. I give speeches. I have no fear in speaking in public, and that it because of one speech that I had to deliver at the worst time of my life.
Let me explain:
When I graduated from high school in 2009, my mother asked me to join a Toastmasters club with her. Toastmasters is a club for people who want to learn and improve on leadership and public speaking skills. I was 18, barely eligible to join, and learned quite a bit while there. Also that year, my dad started turning yellow. Seriously, his eyes, nails, and skin had a yellow tinge with no explanation.
It took a few doctor visits and a trip to the ER when they located blockage in his gallbladder. Further scans showed there was also a tumor in his pancreas that was spreading.
Even with his diagnosis, mom and I went to Toastmasters. We gave our talks and did the roles, and came home to dad wanting to hear what we did.
2011 began, and so did the decline in our presence at Toastmasters. I used what I learned in writing a few stories, and reading them aloud to my cousin over the phone. Something we learned at the club was rewriting your speeches multiple times, even weeks or months after writing it, so she and I took care of that. But I didn’t go to the club meetings anymore. I couldn’t, as dad’s tumor was still spreading. On top of that, my thyroid decided to sprout its own tumor. That jealous bastard, I know. But taking care of dad and myself was more important than any club, or school at the time.
It was in September that year when dad died. I already had my surgery and my cancer markers were clear, so at least dad knew I was okay before passing. The day after he died, my mom and her cousin sat me down and said they wanted me to deliver a eulogy. In my family, we have multiple speeches given, so everyone gets to talk about their experiences with the person who died.
I was down for the job, but the moment I sat on the fluffy rug in the middle of my parents’ room, laptop in my lap and memories floating in my mind…I couldn’t figure it out. What do I write? What do I say? How do I tell a room full of sad people how awesome my dad is? Or…was, I guess.
It took a day and a night, but I had my eulogy done and ready. I saved it as “Dad’s Speech”, and printed it out. One copy. For the funeral.
My sister stood besides me, and listened to the speech she heard me practice for hours in our room. I saw not a room full of dad’s acquaintances listening, but just an empty room. And just dad. Sitting in the front, smiling with his reading glasses on and arms in his lap. I envisioned his legs crossed at the ankles to stop them from shaking, a nervous twitch I inherited, and that one thought kept me steady the whole way through.
Then there was the ending. My final “I love you Dad.” Halfway through saying it, I made the mistake of letting that image in my mind go, and reality set in. I made it to my seat before the tears flowed, burying my face in my aunt’s arms and telling myself to get some damn self-control.
It’s been 3 years now, and I still have that speech, saved in a folder on my desktop. I see it from time to time, but I have never opened it or read it again. And I never rewrote that speech since delivering it.
Do I want to? No. Will I ever read it again? Maybe. But there are 3 things I know for sure:
1.) I’m keeping that speech forever
2.) It’s ok to not revisit an old speech
3.) My dad is still, and always will be, awesome