Friday, October 28, 2016

366 Project - Day 302 - "Eulogy"

October 28, 2016 - "Eulogy"

Today we held the Funeral Mass and Burial Services for my Dad. What follows is the Eulogy I gave at the end of the Mass:

"I seem to have become the resident eulogy writer in our family. It is an honor I wish was not a necessary one, yet the Lord asks us to take up the Crosses we are presented in life and, with faith, follow Him even when the road we are called to travel is not a pleasant one. I made a promise to serve Him and to accept His will in all things, so once again I stand before all of you to say words I cannot help but wish did not need saying.

I also promised the wonderful office staff here at Sacred Heart that I would keep this as brief as possible. Unfortunately for them a promise to the Lord trumps a promise to the office staff of one of His parishes. The music might start playing, signaling that it's time for me to wrap things up, but my love for my Dad runs far deeper than the lowest note of that organ. The microphone might get turned off on me, but I'm Italian, I can project... so I think we'll be fine. We're here to honor my father... a man whose voice was often forced to be silenced, and that truly is a shame, because there were few voices to be heard that could be as kind and loving as his.

My father was a very simple man and, especially later in life, a very quiet one. He had so much to say, yet he never quite knew how to say it. He showed his love in ways that others might have missed, if they didn't know his way. Even I must admit that there were times I allowed myself to be blind... only to realize later just how loving what he had done or, sometimes, what he had NOT done, truly had been. After all, sometimes the fact that someone is there with you is a way for them to say "I love you"... especially when you look back and realize just how hard it must have been for them to be there.

My Dad was the type of father who would take you to Playland over in Rye, NY and actually watch you enjoy the rides. He was the type who would actually wave. That might sound like a very silly thing to some of you... but the next time you find yourself at Playland or some other amusement park or carnival, take a quick glance at the parents standing by the ride gates as their children go around in circles. Most of them will be looking somewhere else... carrying on conversations with others... or, in this day and age, checking their phones. They're oblivious to the child who so desperately looks out for them each time the ride spins past them. I would look out for my Dad every time my little glittery motorcycle would circle around... and every time I'd look out, he'd be there... not looking away, but rather looking for me... smiling... sometimes waving... but ALWAYS there. That was incredibly comforting. THAT was love.

For the last year and-a-half of his life, my Dad would wake up every morning and, after getting dressed, he'd take a little bundle of items to place in his shirt pocket... and he'd pray. At the front of that little bundle of items were these two prayer cards, from my brother Peter's funeral last year. Every morning Dad would hold these very cards... look at them... and pray - not just for my brother Peter - but for all of us. Days, weeks and sometimes even months might pass between visits with us... yet first thing every single morning, he would pray for us. He'd do it again at daily Mass. If exhaustion didn't get the better of him, he'd do it again after removing the cards from his pocket to put on the little table next to his bed each night. He prayed for us several times a day, every day. THAT was love.

Dad recently said to me two very simple words that so many of us find impossible to say to another human being. Those words? "I'm sorry."

I asked him what he was apologizing for, and he said that he was sorry that he hadn't done better for us boys... and he started to talk about how he should have been there more and should have tried to prevent certain things from happening to us. I looked him in the eye and said to him: "Dad... YOU have absolutely nothing to apologize for."

That night I could not sleep. I kept thinking about what he had said... and the more and more I thought about it, the more and more I found myself feeling that it is "I" who should be asking for forgiveness.

We all used to joke around about how, back when Dad was still working and living on his own, he would always say to us: "I need to get all four of you boys together so the five of us can go to Colony or something." We'd laugh about that because the thought of getting our family together for anything seemed to be an impossible task. Dad saying that sort of became a running joke... because it was something that would get said - but we all "knew" it was something that was never actually going to happen. Well... it wasn't a joke to him. To him it was a heartfelt wish. To him, it was something he truly wanted to make happen... he just didn't know "how". Doesn't that seem strange? You would think it would have been something so simple for us to do... and yet, it never happened. Now it really HAS become "impossible", as "the five of us" has been reduced to "the three of us".

No I pray for my father's forgiveness... and I pray for forgiveness from my brothers as well. Life is too short and too precious of a thing and we shouldn't let the busy-ness of life rob us of our chances to show love.

When I was little and I would be sitting in the front passenger seat of my Dad's car, every time we'd approach a stop - especially if it was a quick or sudden stop, he would automatically extend his right arm out in front of me to protect me. One day when I was well into my 20s and already had two kids of my own, he and I were riding in the car together. We had to make a quick and sudden stop. My Dad's right arm automatically extended out in front of me. We laughed about it at the time... and joked about it with each other many times over the years that passed - but looking back at that moment I realize that it was just one of the countless little things my Father did to say "I love you."


THAT is the essence here.

St. Paul tells us: "Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."

THAT is love.

THAT was my Dad.

Dad... I love and miss you more than any words can describe. Be at peace. Give hugs and kisses to Grandma and Grandpa... to Peter... to Michelle... and to all of your Grandchildren in Heaven. I pray that you will find peace in the Lord's loving and merciful arms.

Dad... I love you. Please pray for us... we need it!

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