Remembering Peter C. (My Dad)

A few people have asked me for a copy of what I wrote and read at my Dad’s memorial, so I thought I would share it here:

Thank you for coming today! My Dad’s death wasn’t a surprise. He had been sick for quite some time. But what was a surprise was the outpouring of stories, and love, and phone calls, and messages from all of you. It was so amazing, humbling, and eye opening to realize what an impact he had on so many people. I just knew him, really, as my Dad.

Psalm 27 says, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” This is what I saw, in those days after my Dad’s death. The goodness of God poured out through so many people, in so many ways. Love, care, and words that somehow helped me fill in details of his life I never really noticed. A friend sent coffee; others sent flowers; someone even donated a grove of trees near where we lived in California, in my Dad’s name.

Psalm 119 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.” I’ve come to realize that one of the best ways to combat sadness or despair is to give thanks. So I began to make a list of the things I was thankful for, about my Dad’s life. As I wrote, it turned into a prayer, and that’s what I will read to you, today.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this day. Thank you for the chance to come together to celebrate my dad. Thank you for his life. I can’t help but be amazed by your faithfulness to him. Thank you that on September 8, 1941, he came into this world. He was born eight weeks early, yet you saw fit to keep him alive, living his first many weeks in an incubator. He was the firstborn child to his parents, who were 38 and 46 at the time—old first-time parents in that era—thank you that you changed the course of their lives, and wrote a baby boy into it, and three years later, a second baby boy. Thank you that, before he was born, they separately chose the name Peter, because he was their favorite apostle from the Bible. The name Peter means “Rock”. 

Thank you for providing for my dad, my uncle, and my grandmother when my grandfather passed away when my dad was only six. He was delivering a message on the Catholic radio station, and he died. It changed the course of their lives. Thank you that, when seven-year-old Peter, inspired by watching Tarzan at the local theater, decided to make flaming arrows of his own, and burned down the neighbor’s garage—that put him in Catholic school, maybe as a punishment, but also it resulted in him gaining an excellent education, which led to a full-ride scholarship to a private Catholic college. Thank you for providing that education, because it gave him the foundation he needed for all he was to become, and all we were to be.

Thank you for his mom, Mody, my grandmother. Thank you for her faith, her tenacity, and her feisty spirit. Thank you for the way she spoke truth into our lives, every time we saw her, and for the way she adored each of us, in a different way. I believe I first felt your love, by being with her, Lord. 

Thank you for the talents, skill, and passion you gave my father. Thank you for growing up with a Dad who valued following your heart, sometimes over reason, and who appreciated and felt music, light, and sound. 

Thank you for your faithfulness to my father in his health. His first heart attack was when I was 10, and I remember being concerned he may not make it to my graduation, or my wedding. He lived another 38 years, and through all four of our weddings, and even the wedding of a grandchild. He was able to hold and hug and love every one of his twelve grandchildren.

Thank you for the many sacrifices he and my mom made in raising us, teaching us, investing in us, and putting us through college. 

Thank you for your faithfulness at the end of his life. Thank you that, in his final healthy years, he was able to enjoy living in a beautiful place, with kind people surrounding him. Thank you that you put it in his heart to move from California to Ohio, just before his health took a serious turn for the worse. Thank you that he decided in February that it was time to move into assisted living, and thank you, God, for providing a place for he and my mom to go. Thank you that, despite a 2-year waiting list for memory care, my father’s declining health led to my mom being placed in memory care almost instantly. Thank you that this eased his passing significantly for her. Thank you for my sister, Colleen, who had it in her heart to help my parents, and took on the considerable responsibility of helping my father live his final days with grace. Lord, bless her for the way she blessed them.

Lord, I thank you for my Dad. I thank you for being his daughter, even though his rock n roll lifestyle could be hard to endure, over the years. I love him, and I thank you for him, and I pray he is resting in your care, overwhelmed by the beauty of the music of a million angels with the heavenly host. Music that transcends the finest chords of the most highly-crafted guitar, strummed by the most skilled artist.

Lord, all we are, and all we will be, and all that ever was, is because of you, your grace, and your faithfulness towards us. We thank you for it today.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

A few more details about the memorial, and my dad:

My dad, Peter Lawrence Cavanaugh (Peter C.), passed away Friday, August 13, 2021, just a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday. He was a rock n’ roll DJ back when it was a brand new idea, a concert promoter, a writer, and much more. He led a full and interesting life, and as the messages and phone calls rolled in, it became quickly apparent that he was not the typical 80-year-old who would pass away with few people noticing. A virtual memorial would not suffice.

So, we rented the Maumee Theater in Maumee, Ohio, and hosted “A Day at the Movies with Peter C.” on September 19, 2021. My sister Colleen and I shared memories, played a slideshow of his life, opened the mic to anyone who wanted to share a story, then showed the full-length documentary about my Dad, rock ‘n roll radio, and how he helped lead a radio station in Flint, Michigan, from relative obscurity to being #1 in the nation. The memorial lasted four hours, and seemed like a fitting way to celebrate his remarkable life.

Read my Dad’s obituary

Watch the slideshow

Video of the first part of the memorial

Enjoy the full length documentary film (password: 1234)