Sunday, June 12, 2016

"What Should've Been..."

June 12, 2016

You should've been there today... but you weren't.

You should've been there... recording a video of your daughter opening her birthday presents and blowing out the candles... calling out her name... calling out "Liliana", to try to get her to look towards the camera.

More than once I thought I heard you...

More than once I turned around expecting to see you standing there...

... but I could only see you in my mind. You were wearing shorts and a red t-shirt with an American flag on the front. You had a bracelet on - something with a lot of beads on it. You were wearing this watch.

But you couldn't have been, could you? Because it was on my wrist today, instead of yours.

We were supposed to be standing next to one another - you, Kenny and me. We were supposed to be making fun of how fat we've each gotten - comparing each other's spare tires as we pushed them out to make them as large as possible.

We were supposed to mumble wise-ass remarks to each other about... well... I can't really say what/who they would've been about without getting myself into trouble.

We would've talked about how things were going for you at the shop.

You would've asked me how I was feeling... and I would've lied and said that everything was good and I was feeling great.

You would've asked me if I was going to church... and I would've lied and said that I was, because I would've been too ashamed of having lapsed - and wouldn't want to disappoint you.

At some point we would've ended up talking about figs as we stood staring at one of the trees. We'd talk a bit about how the figs used to be at Grandma and Grandpa's house... and then somehow the conversation would've switched to "shit" and "death" - just like it always does... I mean, just like it always "did"... I mean, just like it "should".

All of that should've happened today... but it didn't.

Instead we pretended that things were OK... when they're really not.

We made it look as if we were happy... when we're really still hurting.

We did our best to make Liliana's special day, well, "special"... and yet I couldn't help but look at her with an extreme pain in my heart, knowing that at some point the day will come when she no longer remembers your face... your voice... your laugh... your hugs... you...

... and I fear that day... because it is like losing you all over again.

Why weren't you there today, dammit!?!

Why did things have to be this way!?!

Why was it you!?!

(why wasn't it me?)

And now, because things have happened the way they have happened, today's conversations were different from what they would've been.

There were no fat jokes... and no mumbled remarks.

The shop has been closed for over a year... and still sits empty.

Most days I feel like I want to curl up in the corner and cry... and my Parkinson's symptoms are getting worse.

I am going to church VERY regularly... in fact, I'm there multiple times a week now and am about to become a lector.

Two of the fig trees are gone... and the third seems to be struggling without you.

"Shit" is still a topic of conversation around the table... but "death", well... not so much.

Your wife has discovered that she is 1,000 times stronger than she thought she was... she just doesn't really accept that fact yet.

Your two older daughters have become beautiful young women... and I think this past year has forced them to change in ways you probably wouldn't have ever thought possible.

And then there's Liliana... a beautiful and radiant blessing who has brought smiles where we thought there could never be smiles again.

Toward the end of the day she and I were in the front yard happily picking clover flowers and making little bouquets. She stopped for a moment and looked up toward the sky with the biggest smile on her face... and somehow I knew that she was looking at you.

You should've been there today...

... and you were.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima

International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima

Hosted by St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Roman Catholic Church - Brookfield, CT - April 18-19, 2016

This world-famous International Pilgrim Virgin Statue (IPVS) of Our Lady of Fatima was sculpted in 1947 by José Thedim, according to the description of Sister Lucia who desired that the pilgrim image represent Our Lady's position when she revealed herself as the Immaculate Heart to the three shepherd children at Fatima in 1917. It was blessed by the Bishop of Fatima on October 13, 1947 in the presence of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and comissioned to serve as the Pilgrim Virgin who would carry the blessings of Fatima throughout the world. It has traveled continuously around the world many times, and has visited more than 100 countries, including Russia and China, bringing the great message of salvation and hope, "the peace plan from Heaven," to countless millions of people.

Many miracles and single graces have been reported wherever the statue has traveled. In 1951 Pope Pius XII remarked, "In 1946, I crowned Our Lady of Fatima as Queen of the World and the next year, through Her Pilgrim Statue, she set forth as though to claim her dominion, and the favors she performs along the way are such that we can hardly believe what we are seeing with our eyes."

It's custody and mission are under the auspice of the World Apostolate of Fatima USA - Our Lady's Blue Army.

The Peace Plan from Heaven is a call for prayer and penance offered in reparation for sin. At Fatima, Our Lady asked for the Communions of Reparation on the First Saturday of each month, and that each and every day:

1. We offer up our sufferings in reparation for sins and the conversion of sinners.
2. We pray a 5-decade Rosary
3. We be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart and wear the brown scapular as a sign of this consecration.

For more information about the current tour of the IPVS - visit:

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

"The Eulogy and the Last Goodbye"

"The Eulogy and the Last Goodbye"

It was one year ago today. One year since I last looked upon the body of my brother. One year since I stood there watching his casket be sealed. One year since we carried him into St. Matthew's church for the final time. One year since I stood in front of the altar and gave the eulogy which I shall include after these notes.

One year.

Last night I was in the very same church, having a Confirmation rehearsal for my niece - Peter's middle daughter, Jessica. This Sunday I will be in the very same church with my hand on her shoulder, standing as her Sponsor while the Bishop anoints her and Confirms her in Christ - just like her father did for me at my own Confirmation.

One year. It is so incredibly hard to believe that it has been one year. In some ways it feels as if it happened only yesterday. In other ways it feels as if it has been years upon years of dealing with the pain of his loss.

One year ago today I posted this photo of the flower arrangement my brothers Kenneth, Xavier and I ordered for Peter's wake and funeral. That's Peter's actual Mets jersey... surrounded by a picture frame of flowers in the Mets colors.

And one year ago today I wrote the following to go with this photo... and will share it one last time...

April 07, 2015 - "Eulogy"

Today I gave the Eulogy at my brother's Funeral Mass. Here it is in it's entirety:

Twenty years ago I stood in this very spot to give a speech following an Emmaus retreat. I never thought in a million years I would be standing here again, for a reason like this.

As I sat down to write my brother’s Eulogy, all I could do was stare at the blank screen in front of me for a long, long time. How do I fit all that Peter was in such a short speech? How do I let the world know just how wonderful of a man he was? 

Peter truly was the best of us. He was first and foremost a loving husband and father, who thought the world of his family and was so incredibly proud of his daughters. He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, a friend… he was the Best Man at our weddings and the Godfather of our children - and he filled each and every one of those roles better than anyone else ever could. 

In the words of his amazing wife Angel: “He used to tell me all the time how he knew he would have nothing without me but really how it went was that he gave me everything I ever wanted and dreamed of my whole life. He gave me three beautiful girls to nurture and love and he was to them the father I had always wished for myself. He gave me the family life I never had but always wanted. He let me know every day how much he loved me with a touch, a squeeze, a note in my lunch, a phone call, a lovingly prepared cup of coffee delivered to me upstairs, and so many other ways that always made me feel special and so completely loved. He was my every dream come true and always will be.”

Peter was a very hard-working man who would always do whatever he needed to do to support and take care of his family. He was a very talented man… an amazing artist himself, he loved artwork of all kinds… he loved his job as a picture framer and, in my experience as a framer myself, I can say that Peter was the absolute best at his job. No one was more creative, no one was more talented than Peter was in his line of work. Last year he achieved his dream of owning his own Frame Shop, something he had talked to me about wanting to do for over 20 years. He was proud of his business… almost as much as we were proud of him for achieving that goal.

Peter was a religious man… but then again, he was also a Mets fan - and as a Mets fan you’re sort of forced to do a lot of praying. He had very strong beliefs and was constantly encouraging me to attend church. He loved the community here at St. Matthews… and always spoke so highly of the people of this parish and all that they had done for him and his family over the years.

Peter was an amazing cook. I just wanted to get that in there, because Peter truly was good at it… he made the best chicken wings and was the only person who could make liver and onions not taste like, well… liver and onions. 

Peter loved life and lived it to the fullest. He enjoyed every single minute that he spent with Angel and the girls. He cherished those moments and memories… the family trips and vacations… the birthdays and other special moments… and he would frequently share with me how much they meant to him, how wonderful they were and how much he hoped for the future. He and I talked about the future quite often. We had so many plans together and, well…

My brother was my hero. From the time I was very young I always wanted to be like Peter. I tried to dress like him. I listened to the same music as him. I became and artist like him. I became a picture framer like him. I became a cook like him. I even returned to the church because of him. I wanted to be like him in every possible way. Why? Because my brother was the very best person I knew. He was the rock that held the world together. No one will ever be able to fill his shoes… but I will continue to try to walk in his footsteps.

We will never know the answers. We will never know “why?” this has happened. Our family has endured too many losses… too many tragedies - and we’re always left wondering “Why?”. I’ve been pondering this constantly over the past week and, well, I do not have the answers. I don’t know “Why?” we have to experience such heartbreak. But here’s what I do know. I know that Peter had the biggest heart in the world. I know that he loved each and every one of us… and I know that we loved him just as much in return. I know that he will be missed… I know that there is a hole that can never be filled. But I also know for a fact that Peter will always be with us. He will always be watching over us… and someday we will meet again.

There is a Psalm verse that I love and I often shared with Peter when times were tough for him. It is from Psalm 30…

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may last for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.”

May we all trust in the Lord. May we find comfort in him. May we all continue to remember Peter and cherish and share the many wonderful memories we have of him. May we shed our tears… knowing that, maybe not as soon as we would like, but someday, joy will come with the morning.

On behalf of my brothers Xavier and Kenny… we love you Peter. We will miss you more than you could ever possibly know… until we meet again.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

"What if _____?"

March 31, 2016 - "What if _____?"

I needed to be here tonight. I cannot explain “why”, exactly, I just really “needed” to be here tonight… even though it’s over 35-miles from home and I have no other reason to be in Stamford right now. 

So here I am… standing at the door of what was once “Peter’s Art of Framing”… crying. Why am I here? I don’t know. I haven’t even been able to drive past this shopping center since the day we turned over the keys to the landlord. I force Holly to drive out of the way just to avoid having to pass by here… yet here I am now… tonight of all nights. Why am I here?

I guess my real question is: “Why am I here… and you’re not?”

I just don’t get it... and I don’t think I ever will. I think about this night one year ago. I think about that phone call. I think about all of the days since that moment… and I can’t help but want to scream “WHY!?!”.

For the last year every day has been harder and harder. I can’t stop thinking about all of the possible “What if ____?” questions.

What if I had taken you up on one of your several attempts to convince me to come work with you? Would I have been in this place with you on this day one year ago? Would you still be here if I had?

What if I had called or texted you that morning? Would there have been something you would’ve said about how you were feeling that would've had me telling you to close the damn shop and get to the doctor? Would I have even had the mindset to do that? Or would I have blown it off as being nothing more than stress?

What if _____?

What if _____?

What if _____?

Why can’t I get these "What if _____?” questions out of my head?

Damn, I wish you were here right now…

I wish I didn’t “need” to be here right now…

I wish…

I wish so many things…

But none of them are going to bring you back to us.

So I pray…

I pray that you are watching us…

I pray that you will help guide us, because none of us know what the hell we’re doing or where the hell we should be going anymore…

I pray and I pray and I pray…

I miss you more than you could ever possibly know!

I love you, Bro!

I love you!

- Vin

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

"Walking Alone"

"Walking Alone"

Early this morning I found myself walking along the tide-line... thinking of you...

I found myself looking out across the water... thinking of you...

I found myself gazing up at the sky... thinking of you...

... and then I thought I felt your presence.

I turned around to see nothing but a single set of footprints in the sand...

... and you were not there...

... not the way you promised you would be...

... not the way I needed you to be. 

I stared at the footprints, knowing that they were my own...

... and I knew that I was walking alone.

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