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Bob's Service

My Eulogy for my friend and Dad-in-law, Bob Miller:

I wrote this in the early morning before dawn, by the light of a kerosene lantern. The cat scratched at the door, so I stood up to let that rascal in. I couldn’t help but notice the shadow of the man getting smaller and smaller as he walked away from the light of the lantern, and the giant he became as he stepped closer to that glowing flame.

Bob asked me to stand and speak on his behalf today. Can you believe that?

We sure didn’t start off on the right foot together. From the get-go when I asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage he told me I was crazy if I thought he was going to let a hillbilly like me marry his daughter.

The irony was learning 30 years later that same man once stood tapping his foot in a driveway in 1970, on the receiving end as he got the same exact speech from our beloved grandma Bobbie. She chewed him out, up one side and down the other, and asked him what business he had to marry HER daughter since he had no money and was only making a buck twenty-five an hour down at the Stockyards Cafe.

Bob and I started off at odds,

But we sure didn’t end up that way.

He knew who I was, and while he didn’t know exactly what I would say if I stood up to speak for him, he trusted me, he knew that I loved him, and I would honor him to the best of my ability.

I loved him very much.

He was loved deeply and he deeply loved.

I’ve been soaking up the stories about him all week, downloading all I can.

Some of the words I heard as people tried to describe him:

Complicated. True.

Private. A hard man to know. Yeah, that was true.

A Patriot.

A Great cook.


A Jokester.

All true too.


That one got me to thinking that,

like the cuts on a diamond,

there were many sides to Bob reflected in all of us here that give us a little light into this deeply personal man. The shadow of the man magnifies as we get closer.

That’s what makes coming together and telling our stories about Bob so beautiful. Through the many angles and perspectives, you start to get a much better picture of him.

We do this so we can remember, recount, and rejoice, then pass on to the next generation who we were and what we stood for, what we lived for, and what we died for. We need to hear the story from Grandma Bobbie about giving him a tongue-thrashing to know Bob and what shaped him. What drove that young man as he counted pennies on his coffee table during those long South Dakota blizzards?

Bob had a strong desire to have his own business one day and work for himself, to build up a great restaurant and through it to provide for his family for generations, and that’s exactly what we did. Grandma Bobbie, I know you’re watching remotely today. I can’t help but think his success was in some way forged out of his great love and respect for you. He thought the world of you.

Bob was also a man of integrity and great conviction in his early years. Did you know? He would correct people if they slipped up with a curse word in front of Renee. Maybe you didn’t know that side of him, but Renee did.

He was an Air Force man, and became a Top Gun,

aviator glasses Tom Cruise type - in the kitchen- thanks to the Air Force and the Greeks, as he would say. Kari could tell you that story about him because we sat down with him and interviewed him years ago at the steakhouse. He talked on and on about how he got his start. We got to hear it in his own words as we found those video clips this week and watched them again.

Bob was many things to many people.

He deeply loved his country and South Dakota.

He loved hunting and fishing and the great outdoors, and you only need to talk to his best friend Jerry Backer if you want to hear about Canada and the whopper that got away at the Evergreen Lodge up there. We have a picture to prove it. Photographic evidence, though it may have been doctored ;) I’m still not convinced.

His son JJ knew a side of him none of you knew. I loved hearing him recount the stories as we went through the old picture albums this weekend. Bob’s wife Marie knew yet another side, and cared for him through the fun-loving, carefree days just as much as through the health and sickness, as the cancer began to overwhelm him. His daughter Kari was processing all week what to say, up even into the early hours this morning, trying to find the perfect way to share her Dad. There was a message for me by the coffee pot to please let her sleep. :)

This is probably my favorite: One of Bob’s long-time friends and coworkers said to me this week. “He was a STINKER, but one thing about Bob, he was generous. Now and then I would want to take home some steak for supper, and he would never let me pay for it.”

So true. His generosity and his love he shared through his giving. That’s how Bob knew to show his love.

The grandkids knew yet another side that none of you knew, and in the days and months to follow my greatest hope for all of you is that you too would write them down and maybe share them sometime over a cup of coffee or a Strawberry Sundae. He would have loved that.

I knew a side of Bob also that no one else knew. In the last 9 days of his life, he came to live with us, and we talked, laughed, and reminisced more in those 9 days than in the entire 30 years of life we shared before. We all thought we had more time, but we made good use of the time we did have, and I’ll always be grateful that he came to stay in our home. That he was surrounded by family, even the dogs and cats, was a great comfort to him. Since my office was just around the corner from his room, I often heard him talking to them and carrying on whole conversations with our dog Koda, who didn’t want to leave his side.

Kari’s #1 greatest desire was for her Dad to know Jesus and to have peace.

In the last year, Bob was in a great deal of pain and agony as simple things like walking began to give way and his body just wouldn’t do the things he wanted to do. He kept that private. It was hard to witness that and not be able to give him any lasting comfort. But in his last week and on his last morning I can stand here today and give you my word, there was peace.

Bob told me he had the most restful sleep of his life with us, and that was so comforting to hear. I bought him an Apple Watch and he thoroughly enjoyed calling everyone from his wrist and telling them all it was “007” James Bond or McGeyver when they answered. It was so strangely pleasant to see the joy it brought this guy who just couldn’t stand all the technology and the “‘puters”, now saying, “Hey Siri, call JJ.”

When I took Bob in my arms at the end, I told him I had him and I loved him and we focused on one another, face to face. We talked about Jesus and how now was the time for Bob to make his decision for Him. I told him to go to Him, listen to Him, and follow Him.

And I would say the same exact thing as I said to this man I loved to any one of you here today,

not from some lofty place, but far from it, from my own experience. I’ve lived in hopelessness, despair, and fear, and there has only been one place I’ve ever found to wash that kind of misery away. It’s in the arms of Jesus Christ.

I watched great peace wash over Bob in his final moment on this earth. I saw a man of sorrow, agony, and great pain transformed. His eyes became so gentle and soft. He shed a tear, he tried to smile, and then he breathed his last. He became in that moment a giant in my eyes as he approached the light.

Isn't that such good news? I’m so glad I get to stand here today and share THAT story with you and not another.

I believe Bobby is at peace. He has a new body, and he is transformed.

To any who might say, ‘But he lived his whole life not believing, how can this be?’ I would say only this:

The Bible takes the time to tell us about a thief on the cross next to Jesus. That man too ended up in Heaven, and it wasn’t because of a life lived as a priest. It wasn’t on account of anything he did at all.

That thief was hanging there with nothing left to do but die, receiving the just penalty at that time under Roman law. The only reason that man had for gaining passage into Heaven was the fact that the Man on the cross next to him said he could come. Think on that awhile today.

Maybe Bob is fishing or golfing. If he is, how whopping big might that Whopper be, how perfectly green might that golf green be? We can only imagine. I think maybe he’s just having some of the greatest conversation in history with the Lord as Bobby gets to know Someone who already knew him, every single side of him for his entire life, and still called him beautiful.

What would Bob want for all of you today? I think it would be this, that you experience not just one breath of the freedom that I believe he found, but an entire lifetime of it.

I would like to close with these words from a song I heard this week:

“Because He lives

I can face tomorrow

Because He lives

All fear is gone

Because I know

He holds the future

And life is worth the living

Just because He lives.”

And that is how I honor Bobby.

I hope he found it sufficient.

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