Eulogy for Jim Stout

by Dan Stout


A number of people have asked for copies of the eulogy I delivered at my Dad's funeral. I thought it would be easier to just put it up in one spot, so here it is:

 

My name is Dan, and I'm the youngest of Jim and Maryann's children. When my Mom asked me to speak today, I had no idea what I was going to talk about. I knew that it would be impossible to list all of the ways that Jim Stout touched the lives of those around him, and I didn't want to come up here and give some variation of “He's not gone, you just can't see him”. So I thought I'd talk about the stars, and how on summer vacations my Dad taught me to look up in dark Canadian nights, so far away from civilization that the Milky Way is lit up like million neon signs, and how you could feel the awe and respect it inspired in our ancestors. 

My Dad bought me my first telescope, and taught me how to find the constellations. He started with the easy ones first, the Dippers and Cepheus, the one that looks like a triangle sitting on top of a square. He taught me to be thorough and careful and precise. And he showed me how to navigate a row boat into the middle of a lake, and then just lay back and let it drift, so that the sky forms a bowl over your head, and the only thing you hear is the lapping of waves and loons in the distance.

So this is what I wanted to talk about, and because I'm a nerd I got on the internet. I read about stars, and I read about planets, and I read that for years there was an argument over how we could find planets that circled other stars, planets far too distant to be seen with telescopes. Some questioned if it would ever be possible. But in 1988 while a little boy and his dad slipped out onto a lake to stargaze, three astronomers on the other side of Canada looked into that same dark sky and realized that they'd done it.

Think of a planet like a rock at the end of a rope. If you spin that rope around, you'll see that your hand is also moving, pulled back and forth by the motion of the rock. In the same way a star gets tugged back and forth as its planets circle round. Just a little bit - it's just barely perceptible - but it's enough.

This trio of astronomers had collected data over decades, patiently accumulating evidence. As Jim Stout worked at the Blade, raised a family, volunteered at church, loved his wife, they looked at the stars. Jim's children grew up and had families of their own, and he watched his grandchildren grow up, and all the while these astronomers searched for subtle tugs of influence, those gentle nudges, until at last they did it. On the crown of Cepheus, that triangle sitting on a square, they found the first planet outside of our solar system even though no one could see it with their eyes.

And I thought about my family, and about how sometimes my mom smiles to herself remembering one of my dad's jokes, and how that lifts her heart for the rest of the day. I thought about all the times one of his kids or grand-kids or great-grand-kids does something right the first time, without being asked. Or when we make the right choice, even though it's more difficult, or when we treat a stranger with respect. Or when any of us whose lives have been touched by Jim just does something to be a better person, friend, parent, or spouse. That's my Dad's influence, tugging on us like a hidden planet.

I thought of all that. And I am proud to stand here and say: My Dad isn't gone, you just can't see him.

by Dan Stout