Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Donald C. Mendoza 

 My dad went to Heaven on July 2, 2013. This is what I said about him at his memorial service.

What Dad taught me.

The last few months has made me realize just how valuable the legacy my dad left me is. He was a son, a brother, a cousin, a husband, an uncle, a father and grandfather and a friend. He was an engineer, a hiker, a camper and a teacher. He taught me a lot as I was growing up and into my adult years, right up until the day he died.

My dad loved books. He taught me to love the written word. As a very young child he would sit me on his lap and read the comics from the newspaper to me. He taught me to hunger after knowledge. He was a treasure chest of knowledge and of wisdom. I always said he was the encyclopedia salesman’s best friend. Our home was filled with encyclopedias and books. Often he would tell us to look up the answer and let us learn by our own efforts. My dad taught me to love to read and to love knowledge. My dad used to tell us that his mother once said to him “I hope that one day you have a little boy who asks as many questions as you do and he drives you crazy too.” Her wish not only came true it was quad tripled by three sons and a daughter who all loved to ask questions.

My dad taught me to love history. He made history come to life for my brothers and me with his love of museums and historical sites. We visited old forts, California missions, historical houses and battleships. We took a trip to the East Coast one year and since I had studied about the Battle of Lake Champlain that year, he made a detour just so I could get a glimpse of that lake.

My dad taught me to love nature. Our vacations were full of national parks, hikes, camping and beaches. He loved the outdoors so much that every house we lived in was close to nature. He even found a house in the city of Oakland that bordered on a canyon full of opossums and rabbits and an occasional deer. We lived in Gresham surrounded by forest on two sides and a dairy farm on the third. When I was in college, he and my mother and brother, Tim, moved into a house in Los Angeles that was a block and a really big step to the ocean.

He taught me to appreciate family. He loved his sister and Billie Jean and her family are still a big part of my life, as well was my dad’s cousin, Dick Austin’s family. As a child, I remember going to Fresno, California for family reunions. In the eighties, my cousin Christine, Billie’s daughter and I arranged family reunions that inspired my genealogy research. It was fun to listen to my Great-Aunts and my dad’s cousins tell stories of the family and my dad’s misadventures as a child.

My dad taught me how to be a faithful friend. He didn’t have a lot of close friends but those who were stayed in his life until either their death or his own. He went to every one of his high school class reunions until the one two years ago when his health was starting to limit his mobility. And as he grew weaker and closer to his home-going to Heaven, I heard wonderful things about his sweet nature and his knowledge from the friends who knew him in the final phase of his life on this earth.

My dad taught me that kindness was better then wisdom. A couple of months ago, my cousin Kent told me “Your dad is the kindest man I’ve ever known.” What a tribute to a quiet man who didn’t just expose his heart in words but in his deeds. I’ve been noticing lately that a lot of people use the word “kind” about my dad. He exposed his heart in the love and compassion he showed to other people. He worked in soup kitchens, tutored a neighbor’s home schooled children in math, and he and my mom welcomed a young college student who was a stranger to them at the time into their home several years ago. Yenny is now a part of our family and a legacy to my dad’s and my mom’s warm hearts. And Dad and my mom took my son and me in when we were homeless.

Dad taught me that I was loved. I have a very positive picture of what our Father in Heaven is like because of my dad. I am very, very fortunate to have had an earthly father who reflects his Heavenly Father. Theology was a great passion in my dad’s earthly life. He knew his Bible and he knew his God. As the gates of heaven open up for him, I can almost hear Our Lord saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  

My dad taught me a lot of things and I will forever be grateful to him for those lessons.