Eulogy for Oren Miller: A Blogger, A Father, A Friend

Since my friend Oren Miller was diagnosed with cancer in May of 2014, I’ve written about him only once. Between Oren’s own devastating and inspiring words and those voiced by so many others, I’ve not felt the need to share my own. Perhaps because I was too close, too involved, or because I had the privilege of offering my support and friendship in person — my words have not found their way onto this page.

Last Wednesday I was able to share what were to be my final words and moments with my friend. Three days later, Oren passed away.

One of Oren’s greatest passions was for the words of modern fathers — regardless of the size of their audience or the strength of their voice — to be heard. His wife Beth asked me to speak at Oren’s funeral, and the flood of words finally came…

oren miller, blogger father and friend
Oren Miller at my wedding, April 26, 2014. Photo by Soo Park.

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I have the unimaginable honor today to speak about my friend Oren. And though you can’t see them, I’m standing here with more than 1,000 other men, who, like Oren and his online handle, are bloggers and fathers. We’re fathers from all across the country and around the world. We’re young and old, new and experienced fathers (and grandfathers). Fathers who work outside the home, and those that work at home, raising their children. Fathers of every ethnicity, religion and economic level. Straight, gay, bisexual, and transgendered fathers; biological, adoptive, divorced, single, step, estranged, and reunited fathers.

You all know that a couple of years ago, Oren started a group on Facebook for dad bloggers. You’ve likely read that it started as a small group (I was the sixth to join) and is now at 1,051 members. You probably know that the vast majority of us write about being a father — sharing our stories through sentiment or humor, as advice or entertainment; as a way to share ourselves with our children, our peers, with strangers, and with ourselves. You may also know that when Oren was diagnosed with cancer, this group he started rallied around him and his family, helping to raise more than $35,000 towards his medical costs. And you may have heard that just a mere 9 days ago, a scholarship was named in his honor, helping men attend a conference that’s all about being a better, more engaged, more visible father.

But what’s so wonderful about this group? Why would it inspire such high praise, and such an outpouring of love, prayers and support from a group of men that for the most part have never met each other in person?

We joke that the first rule of the Dad Bloggers Facebook page is to not talk about the Dad Bloggers Facebook page. Sorry guys, I’m breaking the rule today.

Oren started the Dad Bloggers Facebook group late in 2013, out of a desire to connect so many of the other dads he’d met online. To connect them to each other, so that they could be better writers, better fathers, gain more opportunities, and to further the message that dads could and should be involved in not only supporting, but also nurturing and raising their children. An avowed introvert, Oren also started it out of a desire to connect himself.

The group serves many practical purposes. It allows newer writers and bloggers to learn from the more experienced. It enables dads to join forces to bring about change in the way fathers are portrayed in the media and advertising, and to affect policy in the way they are treated by their employers.

Beyond the “practical” blogging-related benefits, the group has come to function on many different levels. It’s become a place to share our most personal stories and our most inappropriate jokes, a place to vent and to boast, to swap war stories, to butt heads, to make peace. Advice on nearly any subject is frequently asked and freely given. We’ve surrounded and supported those dealing with depression, anger, addiction, divorce, custody battles, estrangement, sickness, and now, death.

The last time I saw Oren was on Wednesday. Beth told me Oren had some things to discuss with me, and that I should come as soon as I could. As I drove the 40 minutes from home, I tried to prepare myself for anything. Perhaps Oren wanted to give me a final message for the group. Maybe he’d ask me to speak at his funeral. I even imagined him requesting that I take Liam to see the new Star Wars movie when it came out.

I arrived, gave hugs to the family, and was ushered to his bedside. After a bit of catching up, Oren started giving me instructions on his processes for running the Facebook group. How to reply to new requests, how to screen them, who to ignore, who to accept. He told me how he likes to do this at least once a week, suggesting a program to help remind me — in order to keep the backlog of requests from getting too long. Beth came in a few times to let Oren know he had other people wanting to see him, and that I didn’t come there to be put to work. He assured her we’d be finished soon.

After nearly an hour, Oren (and me, too) started to grow weary. We put our laptops away, Beth helped Oren downstairs, and we ate dinner together, making conversation with the family and friends gathered at their home. Before long Oren began to drift off, the pain medication taking its toll on his weakened state, and Beth helped him back up to bed.

Granny Frannie, in her unending exuberance, declared that this had been “a good day.” I was curious as to what constituted a good day at this point. She explained that she hadn’t seen Oren that engaged or focused in the last few days as when he and I were working on the dad bloggers page. And he hadn’t been down for a meal in those same few days. He was enjoying what would be one of his last moments of normalcy.

And while it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was a sight to behold. This man, full of so much love and compassion, passion and opinion, with a sense of community and striving for all to be included, was tending to his legacy. He was ensuring it was in good hands and would continue to do all the good it had done in what shouldn’t have been — but were — his final years.

Last night as I finished writing this, I skimmed through the Dad Bloggers group before heading to bed. The vast majority of the 1,051 members have not met Oren in person. Yet as I scrolled through, I saw all the numerous and creative and heartfelt ways these fathers were choosing to honor our Founding Father. Some performed songs; some shared photos of themselves with their families; some are even planning on getting tattoos; and of course they honor him through their writing.

Oren, please know that your legacy, your group, your fathers — are in good hands. In the hands of those that have shared and supported your vision. We’re in the hands of each other, continuing to laugh and argue, comfort and counsel, inspire and challenge. And even more importantly, our families are in good hands. Hands that come together to learn, to hold firm to one another for support, to learn wisdom and patience and compassion, hands that allow us to be better spouses, partners, sons, and fathers.

When we search our souls and pour them onto the page, we will carry on your legacy. When we hug our children just a little bit tighter, we will carry on your legacy. And we will always hold you — and your family — close in our thoughts and in our hearts.

On a personal note, I want to say — as I’ve said all along — what an honor it’s been to be a stand-in for the group. I already counted Oren a friend before he became ill, yet through this experience I came to count him as a dearly loved friend. And through this experience I’ve come to know and love his family — and they never hesitate to show their love and appreciation to me, Nick and Jon. Oren truly was surrounded by love as he left this world, and he left the world a much lovelier place.

Thank you Beth, Liam and Madeline — for allowing me to be a part of this very difficult journey. And thank you Oren, for being a part of my journey, and the journey of over a thousand other bloggers, fathers and friends.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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You can make a contribution to the Oren Miller Dad 2.0 Summit Scholarship Fund, which the family asked funeral attendees to do in lieu of flowers.

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