Funeral Talk by daughter Dawnette
Talk Given by (Bish) Vincent’s daughter, Dawnette T. Clayton-Muir Funeral Services for Vincent Tolman
Died December 26, 2000
A great man died this week. “He wasn’t a world leader or a famous doctor or a war hero or a sports figure. But he was one of the greatest men who ever lived. He was my father.” Through the years, I have affectionately referred to my father as “Popsie.”
Popsie never took me fishing. He never took me on a trail ride. I never went hunting with my father. I don’t recall ever going on a horse ride with him. He never taught me how to milk a cow or clean the barn. I never heard him give a talk in church. He never read the scriptures to me. But my father gave me many gifts of the heart. I would like to tell you about some of Popsie’s gifts to me.
1) Courage and Perseverance
I was a senior in high school when I learned what happened to my father when he was a kid regarding his struggles to learn to speak and his inability to read. I have pondered many hours since then wondering how he had the courage to accomplish all he has done. I have never felt ashamed that he couldn’t read. I felt sad for him because I love books so much and they are such an important part of my life.
I was able to interview him a few times over the years about his feelings regarding these difficulties. He was always cooperative and eager to share his thoughts with me as I played “genealogist.”
He said that many people kept their distance from him when he could not speak because they just didn’t know how to relate with him. He felt closer to the animals and he would practice talking to them out by the barn. That is how he learned to communicate. The animals didn’t care how he sounded. Is it any wonder that he always had this special bond with animals of every kind? They were his support and his friends through a trying time in his childhood.
He tried really hard to succeed in school. He said, “Many times I knew the answers to the questions, especially in arithmetic , but I couldn’t say the answer. If I said anything, they’d laugh at me.” I recall many times when I asked him a question about math, he could tutor me after hearing the story problem. I was always amazed at how smart he was in math.
Dad told me once as I was learning to ride a horse – “Horses are very smart. They will respect you if they know you aren’t afraid of them. You have to be in charge. They can sense fear. Pretend that you know what you are doing and it will show up as being in control.” This simple example of learning to control my fear taught me a lot about perception.
2) Integrity and Honor
Dad’s philosophy was “An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.” His word was who he was. If he promised you something, he would work his heart out to keep his promise. And he expected the same of everyone else. He was sorely disappointed if people ever dealt with him unjustly.
Integrity is what we do, what we say, and what we say we do. (Don Galer)
Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep. (Denis Waitley)
For every person who climbs the ladder of success, there are a dozen waiting for the elevator. (Unknown) Dad was one of those people who never waited around for an elevator.
President David O. McKay said, “It is a greater compliment to be trusted than to be loved.” I can truly say that I have trusted and loved my dad all my life.
3) The Gift of Example
After Lehi had the vision of the tree of life, it states in I Nephi 8:37 “And he did exhort them (Laman and Lemuel)…with all the feelings of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words.” In the following verses Lehi continues to exhort, preach (declare), prophesy, and bade them to keep the commandments. Finally, Lehi ceased speaking to them about the matter. He knew when to stop talking. Dad was like this – He showed the feelings of a tender parent as he encouraged us to keep the commandments, but he also knew when to stop and to cease with the preaching and continue with the unconditional love.
Nothing is so potent as the silent influence of a good example. (James Kent)
4) Humor – The Gift that Heals
My daughter Jennifer and her family visited my parents this last spring. As they were getting ready to leave, she hugged my parents goodbye. As she touched my dad on the hand, she said, “Grandpa, why are your hands so cold?” He replied with that mischievous twinkle in his eye, “Because I’m half dead.” They all had a good laugh.
Dad has always been a big tease. This was his way of bringing humor into our lives. Nearly every April Fool’s Day we would call him in from the barn, telling him he was wanted on the phone. He never seemed to catch on to the trick. It seemed like we surprised him every year or at least he went along with it.
5) Value of Friendships and Family
When Robert Louis Stevenson was asked the secret of his radiant, useful life, he responded simply, “I had a friend.”
Dad has always appreciated great friends. He loved going on a truck ride, trail ride, horse ride – anything to get out of the house – with a friend. I am so grateful to the many friends and family members who have taken time out of their busy days to spend time with my parents and to give them their care and support. There are many “angels on wheels” in Star Valley.
When I left for college, Dad said to me, “Let me know if you need anything.” I knew he really meant it and would have helped me in anyway he could. I always had the confidence that he was my friend.
Popsie loved taking us kids on sleigh rides and to the movies. It seemed we all enjoyed seeing a good Western. When television first came to Star Valley, we didn’t have one but we had a couple of great neighbors who let us enjoy their screens with them. We loved going to Budd and Erma Pead’s house to watch wrestling on TV.
Dad loved suppertime. He appreciated Mom’s good cooking and timely meals. I helped Mom in the house so that made me feel appreciated too as I would watch him enjoy his dinner with the family. Popsie was grateful for a devoted wife who kept a clean and orderly home. He willingly took off his stinky clothes on the back porch when he came in at night after doing his barnyard chores so that our house smelled clean and fresh.
6) Faith in the Lord
My husband Steve left for his mission in the spring of 1962. We were engaged. We decided that the most practical thing to do would be for me to finish college while he was away. I had always wanted to go on a mission but I felt that it wasn’t logical for me to go. My older brother Jerald was already serving a mission in Japan. My younger brother Vince was turning 19 in the fall (just one month before I would turn 21). I felt that it would be just too hard on my folks financially for me to go on a mission, too. I felt content with that decision until I started getting regular letters from Steve from the mission field. I created a study program for myself so that I would be learning a lot about the Gospel so he wouldn’t get too far ahead of me.
After a couple of months of writing to Steve back and forth, I fasted and prayed on Sunday about the possibility of my serving a mission. I felt the Spirit of the Lord very strong and I knew that I should go. I sat down that very afternoon and wrote a letter to my folks and asked them if there was any possibility that I could go.
I recorded by father’s words in an interview in 1990 as he recalled the events that happened to him back in 1962.
Dad said, “The Lord talked to me out in the barn. I couldn’t understand what He was trying to tell me so I shut the milker off. I got down on my knees and talked to Him. I was worried about Bruce being able to go on a mission. I asked him right out, ‘Isn’t Bruce worthy to go on a mission? Is that what you want to tell me?’ He said, ‘No it’s not that. It is your daughter.’”
Dad asked, “What about my daughter?” He said, “She wants to go on a mission, too!” Dad recalled, “It was just as plain to me as if He were standing right there talking to me. I know He was. I hurried and finished milking and went in the house. I told Mother that we ought to go to Rexburg and see Dawnette. She said, ‘Well, let’s wait and get the mail.’”
Later that same day, they got their mail and received my letter asking them if it was okay for me to go on a mission.
Dad then bore his testimony in the interview by saying, “All while you kids were on your missions, the Lord was right there. He had his hands on both my shoulders constantly and I don’t think he has ever taken them off since. Dawnette would have been able to go on her mission even if I’d had to give my life to send her. That’s how I feel about a mission.”
At the end of October, I received my mission call to the Great Lakes Mission. Vince (Bruce) received his call to China. He and I were in the mission home at the same time. What a blessing it was in my life to have a father who listened to that prompting from the Lord that came early in the morning in the barn as the cows were being milked. Dad listened then and continued through his life to bear testimony of the power of revelation.
He also recalled an earlier memory in that same interview. He said, “One night I came in the house because the boys had not come out to help with the chores after school. I ran in to get them. They were just little tykes but I wanted them to learn their chores. Both boys went right up to me and one of them grabbed me around the leg. Jerald said, ‘Guess what, Dad, I want to go on a mission!’ It just stopped me dead in my tracks. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Then Bruce who was 3 years younger grabbed the other leg and said, ‘Me too Dad!’”
My father continued, “I could feel the Spirit of the Lord with those two boys right then and it never left them. They lived to go on a mission. I always felt that there were two more honors that were better than going on a mission and that is being WORTHY and the other is to be able to send one. I think those are some of the best blessings that a person can have.”
Dad added, “It is amazing how things will work out if you are in harmony with the Lord and put Him into your program.”
Just this last spring, I had an opportunity to talk one-on-one with my father one afternoon when he seemed to be doing quite well. He spoke about his jobs, places we lived, wages he had earned, animals – and then he bore his testimony to me about all the blessings he felt while his missionaries were serving the Lord and what a strength it has been to him all his life.
Even though my father never read the scriptures to me, he lived the scriptures. He taught us about faith in the Lord and in ourselves. Barbara J. Winter said, “When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.”
George Herbert said, “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would reach heaven; for every one has need to be forgiven.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Our parents deserve our honor and respect for giving us life itself. Beyond this, they have almost always made countless sacrifices as they care for and nurtured us through our infancy and childhood, provided us with the necessities of life, and nursed us through physical illnesses and the emotional stresses of growing up. In many instances, they provided us with the opportunity to receive an education, and in a measure, they educated us. Much of what we know and do we learned from their example. May we ever be grateful to them and show that gratitude.
Let us also learn to be forgiving of our parents, who, perhaps having made mistakes as they reared us, almost always did the best they knew how. May we ever forgive them as we would likewise wish to be forgiven by our own children for mistakes we make.”
(Ezra Taft Benson, To the Elderly in the Church, Gen. Conf. September 1989)
I believe that one of the greatest adventures we have as children and as parents is the journey of forgiveness. There were things I had to forgive my parents for and there are things my children have to forgive me for. By learning to forgive each other, we can then really remember and appreciate the true character of who we really are.
8) Charity – The Greatest Gift of All
No man can possibly know what life means, what the world means, what anything means, until he has a child and loves it. And then the whole universe changes and nothing will ever again seem exactly as it seemed before. (Lafcadio Hearn)
Victor Hugo said, “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.”
When a father instills in the hearts of his children the conviction that they are loved, he has given them a father’s greatest gift. (Thomas E. Kelly)
Popsie never climbed Mount Everest or made the Guiness Book Of World Records. He never read the classics or even a newspaper. He was proud, self-taught, and left no debts. If he had any hidden dreams, other than of being a good man, a committed father, and a loving husband, no one ever knew about them.
Yes, Popsie did shower us with love and that is his greatest gift to us – and it will continue to be.
Thanks Mom for dedicated care you has given Popsie the past few years as he has needed nursing care. She has felt a little lost having him gone. I ask a special blessing to be with her that the Holy Ghost will bring her peace in her heart so that she can be comforted. She and Dad together have been a great team. It has been through them both that these gifts have been felt by all of us.
Personal Closing Remarks
– Talk Given by Dawnette T. Clayton-Muir
Funeral Services for Vincent Tolman
Died December 26, 2000