It’s been quite a while since I last posted something on this blog, but I’m hoping to begin again (again) and I thought I’d share what I wrote for my dad’s memorial service. It’s hard to believe that it has almost been a month since he died. We’ve had so much going on that the time has flown by.
I wanted to post this as a way of officially marking the return to daily life after dad’s passing. Tomorrow I’ll post a crappy recording of the song I wrote for and sang at his funeral. Someday soon, I’ll make a better recording and share that.
Please continue to pray for us. My mom’s last visitors went home this week and I know it isn’t easy for her to be alone in that big house. If you happen to know any other widows, do something nice for them, too.
Thanks to everyone who was so generous and loving over these past few weeks. I’ve told many people how surprised I was at how much comfort I personally felt from the condolences we received. Maybe people don’t suck?
My sweet wife likes to remind me to “be kind to everyone you meet for they are all fighting a difficult battle.” We are so grateful for the kindness we’ve been shown during this difficult battle.
My dad was like a father to me.
I realize that sounds silly, but in today’s day and age, it’s not. My dad was like a father to me because he did what good fathers do:
- He loved my mother with all his heart, faithfully, for over 52 years.
- He loved my sister and me unconditionally and never gave us any reason to doubt it.
- He loved the people we loved and welcomed them into his life and home—my wife and kids.
- He set an excellent example of how to love others—waitresses, nurses, salesman, mechanics, barbers.
- Most importantly, he loved God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. He “sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and, in so doing, gave us the greatest gift any father could give his children: an image of fatherhood that drew us closer to God, the origin and source of all fatherhood.
My dad did not teach me how to fish, how to fix cars, how to fight (though he did tell some amazing stories about throwing guys through plate glass windows in Kansas and second-story windows in Thailand (earning him the nickname Ṣ̄ūny̒ ṣ̄ūny̒ cĕd – “Double-O Seven”).
He never tried to “make a man out of me” in any stereotypical way, but he did make a man out of me because he taught me how to love sacrificially and how to take up my cross and follow Jesus.
When he retired from the Air Force, he had a job lined up at the USAF Academy in Colorado. This was in the early 80s—before fax machines and the Internet—so he had to drive out to Colorado Springs to physically sign the contract. While en route, Congress passed a law prohibiting newly retired military from returning as civilian contracts until six months had passed. When he arrived, the job he had persuaded the Academy to create for him was unavailable. Because he had done such a good job convincing them of their need, they couldn’t hold it open for him. With no prospects, we came to Phoenix and moved in with his parents—just what every 38 year old man wants to do.
He had been in hospital administration in the Air Force and tried to get a job in that field here, but no one would hire him. One guy told him (off the record) that he had too much experience and that if he were to hire him, Dad would have his job in a year.
He wound up working as a janitor at the V.A.
This was not what he wanted, but he did it to take care of his family. Because that’s what men do. They die to themselves out of love for others.
Throughout my life, Dad did many un-glamorous things for our benefit:
- He delivered pizzas
- He worked night shifts on the freeway putting up traffic barricades
- He drove for Super Shuttle
Dad always wanted to retire young and die rich. One out of two ain’t bad.
Whenever he got close to getting rich, his luck ran out. His business partner drained their joint account and spent it all on women and drugs in one weekend. Dad took out a personal loan to cover payroll and subsequently ruined his credit.
He was never a financial success, but he was a success at life.He lived well. He died well—surrounded by loved ones and friends. He leaves a legacy of love that is an inspiration for many, many people.
I saw a horrible thing the other day: an obituary written by bitter children who hated their mother. They called out all her failures and ended it by saying that the world is better off with her gone.
Well, my sister and I could never write such a thing. We love our father more than we can say. And, as the Scripture says, “his children will rise up and call him blessed.”
And, so we do rise up and call him blessed. But, I will add that I do think that the world will be a better with my dad gone—not because he was a wicked man, but because he was a righteous man.
The Bible says, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I know that right now my dad is still praying for us and I am confident his prayers will avail much.
Someone on Facebook—and my father, for that matter—warned against canonizing Dad before the Church does. I understand the sentiment and I am fully aware of his many shortcomings (now that I see his financial situation, I’m sure he’s going to have to serve some time for leaving that mess for my mom to deal with), but I am convinced that God would not keep someone out of heaven who wanted so much to go there.
A few years back, I wrote a blog post about carrying our crosses and following Jesus. I’d like to end by reading the last few paragraphs of that post:
We must learn to respond to all our suffering with cheerfulness and love. St. Josemaria Escriva gives this counsel:
. . . don’t drag the Cross…Carry it squarely on your shoulder, because your Cross, if you carry it so, will not be just any Cross: it will be…the Holy Cross. Don’t bear your Cross with resignation: resignation is not a generous word. Love the Cross. When you really love it, your Cross will be…a Cross, without a Cross.
And surely you, like Him, will find Mary on the way.
–Holy Rosary, “Jesus Carries His Cross”
Think of the Children
Parents are the primary educators of their children. How they carry their crosses will have a profound and lasting effect on how their kids respond to suffering. It’s one thing to tell your kids to “offer it up” or “kiss the cross”; it’s another to give them concrete examples of how to do it.
Here’s a good Catholic trivia question for you: what are the names of Simon of Cyrene’s children? Give up? Rufus and Alexander. It’s right there in the Bible (Mark 15:21) and I never paid any attention to it either.
According to tradition, both of these guys grew up to be Christians. Can you imagine their pride when they tell their friends that their dad was the Simon who carried the cross for Jesus? It would be their greatest boast. Wouldn’t it be something if it was your kids’ greatest boast, too?
My dad never taught me how to throw a spiral or restore an old car, and he doesn’t know one end of a hammer from another, but I thank God for him every day, because, man, can that man suffer.
About ten years ago, my dad had quintuple bypass surgery followed by a long and difficult recovery. He spent months in the hospital and the whole time he was praying for others. Through his prayers, he made his hospital room an oasis of peace. The nurses wept when he was discharged.
The other day when my mom was asked about my dad’s health, she said, “I was raised a Pentecostal and had no concept of redemptive suffering. For us, suffering was always something to be avoided. I guess God wanted me to teach me about it through my husband’s example.” Wow.
Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone who has come here to be with us tonight—all the friends and family who have shown their incredible support and whose condolences and prayers have truly been a source of comfort to us.
I want to especially thank Uncle-Deacon Roy for guiding us through everything, Tiffany here at the funeral home for her help and generosity, and my sister’s dear friend, Rachelle who worked on the amazing memory board (and may or may not have been the one who organized meals for my mom, but did get us at least one delicious dinner and outstanding desserts). And of course, I want to thank my wife, Amy who is the best of wives and best of women and who dresses me, etc. and Michelle’s fella, John, who is exactly the kind of man my dad wanted for my sister.
Rest in peace, Dad. Pray for us.