Last December for my grandfather’s funeral—he was the patriarch of dad’s side of the family in ways modern female Christian scholars such as Beth Allison Barr point to as examples of what biblical, Christian, male, headship should look like—each of his 4 childrens families were given 5 minutes to provide a short eulogy for the man; I got the honor of giving our family’s speech. The following is a transcript of that eulogy, editted ever so slightly to remove the verbal ands-and-uhs-and-errs that litter my non-professional spoken words.
What is it that makes a great man? Because we are all here today because Norman Davis was a great man.
When I was a boy, I thought it was because he was so big, he was so strong, and the man could fix absolutely anything. When I became a teenager that changed; I thought he was a great man because he was so respected. Respected in his Church, respected by his family, respected in his business, and respected in the community that is so well represented here today. When I became an adult, I thought I know what makes him a man: its his love for Christ. A love for Christ that was at the center of who he was. A love that radiated out into everything that he did, everyone he knew, and everything he touched. As I became older though, I began to mature from an adult and into a real man. And I realized there was one other thing I had to add.
This summer, my wife, Morgan, and I got to see the The Music Man1. At one point in the musical, a handful of future grecian urns are teasing Marian the Librarian, asking her: why aren’t you married? Don’t you want to get married? Can’t you just find a man and settle down? After those hen peckers mercifully leave her, Marian stands on her front porch and begins to sing about what she actually wants in a man. And it is notable for what she does not wish for. She never once asks that he’s rich. Not once. She never asks that he protect her mom or her brother. This woman doesn’t even ask that he would love her. No, what this brilliant book-smart, wordly-wise woman prays for, what she sings for, what she dreams for, “is a man that is more devoted to us than he is to himself”.
I’m going to read to from Ephesians, Chapter 5, but before I do I must tell you this: last night, I called my Aunt Sally to ask her to bring Norman’s Bible so I could read from it. I should have know these passages would be marked up, because they most certainly were. Beginning in Ephesians 5:28, Saint Paul writes:
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their own body, just as Christ does the church—
30 for we are members of His body.
31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”2.
32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the Church.
33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself
New International Version
That is what makes a man great. That is what he taught me, and I didn’t even realize it.
At the center of Norman’s life was this profound mystery. A mystical union between himself, Patsy, and God. An unbreakable union that lasted 70 years. Many of you know that our Pop was a gardener; just as he tended and cared for his garden, he tended and cared for his marriage to Patsy. He adored her. He respected her intellect. He valued the gifts that God has given her. He loved her just as she was, and loved every aspect of her; even the parts he could not always understand. He elevated her in their marriage, and he put her first.
When I think about the legacy of my grandfather, their marriage is the first thing that comes to mind. By putting his marriage first, we see that echoed in the marriages of his children, the marriages of his grandchildren, and then one day in the marriages of his great-grandchildren.
I love you Pop, and thank you for teaching us what it takes to be a man.