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A Eulogy

February 23, 2024

This is the eulogy at the funeral of my father, Paul Jackson. He is the originator of “47.” On his 86th birthday, I posted a message to my team wishing him a happy birthday. Jason Torrence, our lead developer posted in response, “And on the 47th day of the year!” We told my dad and he chuckled. Always with the jokes…

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the work of the wonderful people at Alive Hospice, an Element 47 client. During his final days, Alive Hospice provided my father with as much comfort and care as we could have hoped possible. In lieu of flowers, we’ve asked donations be made in his name to Alive Hospice or Operation Stand Down Tennessee.


My father was born February 16, 1938 in Gaffney, South Carolina. James Paul Jackson was the second of three children born to Buford and Irene Jackson at home in their bed at the height of the Great Depression.

A few years ago, on Father’s Day, I told him, “Look at what I found; this is the census form your father completed in 1940.” Without missing a beat he said, “He didn’t fill out that form. He couldn’t write.”

Difficult was baseline for the Jacksons. Work wasn’t just something you did. It was your life. Mere existence was a struggle.

Our grandfather moved the family to Newport News, Virginia, in the 1940s, where he worked as a Newport News Shipbuilding Company welder, building ships for the war effort.

Our father joined the US Air Force in the early 1960s, which was one of the most transformational experiences of his life. I’d love to tell you more about his childhood and early adulthood, but he never talked about himself.

He possessed a trait we should all hope to possess: Presence.

So many of us – myself included – have forgotten what it means to be truly present. It’s a difficult practice, but he mastered it.

He had no concern for the past. He rarely discussed and never complained about the past. As children, Scott, Terri, and I would ask him about his childhood, he had very little – if anything – to say, though he would remind us we’re lucky to have air conditioning!

He prepared for the future but didn’t worry about it. He LIVED, in the moment.

He was there for ALL of us whenever we needed him. All you had to do was call. His work ethic was unparalleled. He worked tirelessly with Scott on his property. His fingerprints are on everything. Cutting down trees, building fences. You name it, he did it.

He helped Terri with yard maintenance and worked her like a rented mule. She’d be dying and he was still fine.

One of the many times he helped me move was in 2007. I was 39, he 69. We worked all day. Around 10:00, I finally had to tell him “I’m worn out. I can’t go anymore.”

He looked at me in shock and laughed. “You’ve got to go home now,” I told him. “What time do you want to start in the morning?” was his reply.

Terri had a terrible car accident on her 18th birthday. She dropped out of college, depressed and not sure what was next. He called her EVERY. SINGLE. DAY, always in the morning, and asked her what she was going to do. He was never mean, just persistent. No regret for what had happened to her, no worry about the future. What are you doing TODAY?

And it didn’t stop with us. He was and will continue to be an outsized influence in the lives of Valerie, Rachel, Kellie, Kaitlin, and Connor. He took the girls to their favorite Mexican restaurant, Dos Margaritas, every week. I took him to lunch there last year, and you’d have thought the King of England had entered the building. “Papa!” they shouted, welcoming him with joy.

Delivering his eulogy, I told his grandchildren: “Our advice is simple. Follow his example. Be present. Be involved. Be the Papa. You know what to do. Do it.”

Even at the end, he was teaching us. He asked Kellie, his granddaughter and Scott’s youngest, “Are you happy?” When she asked him the same question in return, he said “No, I’m not happy. But I’m just tickled to death with my family.”

He refused to complain. He celebrated until the end, with the people who loved him most.

We got lucky. We got to say goodbye in the best way possible. We had all the hugs, tears, and conversations.

I know someone reading this has lost family suddenly; no opportunity to say a loving goodbye. Gratitude unexpressed. Please let these words wake you. Say it now. Write that letter. Give that hug. Express your gratitude. Share your heart and emotions. Don’t think. Do. You will never regret it.