Riker's Mailbox

Friday, October 08, 2004


James Arthur Riker
March 31 1950 - October 3 2004

James Riker, like all memorable men, was many things to many people. He served the role of husband, brother, uncle, and friend, and in each capacity he served with love and devotion. But as I stand here, it occurs to me that of all the people in the world, he was the only one who could serve the role he served to me, and of all the people in the world, I am the only one who knows how it felt to have him serve that role: the role of fatherhood. As such, it is in this regard that I choose to celebrate him with you now.

My father's defining characteristic, as anyone could confirm, was that he was a creator, a builder. In every aspect of his life in which he had a passion, he used that passion to bring forth good things. It was intrinsic to him. He made it his career and he made it his hobbies; in each thing he created, he poured a little part of himself into it.

My father was also wise. He naturally assumed the role of 'elder' and of 'mentor'. You hear the ubiquitous claim from many young children, "My daddy knows everything!", and so it was with me at that stage of my life. But the remarkable thing was, as I grew older and wiser, as I opened larger eyes to a larger universe so vast in scope and so full of uncertainty, he still had all the answers. Even into my young adult life, I could come to him with any unanswerable question, and as always, my dad knew everything. That was a rare and remarkable gift.

He led by example, and as such, the one most important lesson he bestowed upon me is one that I will not fully comprehend the importance of until I have my own children: he taught me about fatherhood itself. He taught me exactly what kind of father to be and perhaps even more importantly, exactly what kind of father not to be.

Like all the things he created as a builder, my father put a part of himself into me, and I dare say he put more into me than into anything else he was responsible for. There is quite a lot of my father within me. I believe this puts me in a unique position to carry his legacy forward, and to take on the massive burden of that responsibility, because he was such a big person. If I can make myself as successful in life as possible, and do great things in my life, and become that mentor and that elder, and to lead by example as he did, then I will have fulfilled my duty to that legacy.

My goal is to become the greatest thing my father ever created.

Before I finish, I want to remind everyone here that while we all possess our own private and internal suffering, a suffering that is unique to each person and will remain until its purpose is served, we all as well shared in a greater outward suffering for the sake of my father's own suffering. But I will say this: whatever true suffering he endured, that suffering of his is past and gone, and so too should be the outward suffering that we extended to him. I submit that in its place we should present something positive. If my father left his mark upon you, if he impressed something of himself onto you that you feel, then I charge you: please nurture it, cultivate it, acknowledge it, and do not deny it; do not feel guilty that you have something of him that makes you feel happy, despite the loss of the man himself.

If all of you who care for him and have his mark upon you can join with me, and celebrate that part of him he left with you, then he will be with us forever.

-taken from the eulogy I gave at my father's funeral service on October 5, 2004


  1. Riker: That's quite possibly the best piece of writing from you yet. Not having met the man your description reminds me of my father whom I cherish. I hope someday you'll meet him.

  2. Our fathers were once anxious young men with fathers of their own. We're gonna be OK.