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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