I have been absent for quite a while, obviously. This wasn’t due to lack of interest or a pause in research – well, actually, there was a pause, but not a voluntary one. My parents passed away.
Mom died two days after Christmas; Dad died the day before Easter. Both had been ill for a while. Mom had Alzheimer’s and Dad was just sick – believe it or not, they still don’t know what was wrong.
Both lived with my sister in Virginia, so the issue of services for them became problematic. Mom told us she didn’t want anything, but when we told family members in Rhode Island that we planned to honor her wishes, there was quite an uproar. We decided we’d wait until Spring and have a memorial Mass at that time. Mom’s Mass was March 21, 2009 at St. Rita’s in Warwick, RI. Dad’s was 6 weeks later.
There was a slight mix-up at my Dad’s Mass. The priest who had said my Mom’s Mass, Fr O’Hara, got called away at the last minute. He arranged to have someone else say Mass for us. Fr. O’Hara is an old family friend. He and my folks were extremely active in St Rita’s “back in the day,” as they say. Well, the priest who filled in for him forgot that I wanted to say a few words about my Dad after the Mass. He just dismissed us and we left. No eulogy.
I had spoken at my Mom’s Mass and wanted to do so again for my Dad. Many of the people who were there for Mom were back again and they were, no doubt, expecting it as well.
Not having had the chance to say it then disrupted my grieving more than I realized. After speaking about Mom, I had a sense of closure. Not so with Dad. So, for a purely selfish reason, I’m posting his eulogy here.
When I started thinking about what I was going to say today, a few words popped into my head right away: Happy, Supportive, Intelligent, Funny.
But there is one word that – for me – sums Dad up à Teacher.
Dad wanted to be a school teacher, but he never had the opportunity to become one, so he became Life Teacher.
Dad Taught me many things at every stage of my life. Some I’ve outgrown, others I will remember forever and hope to pass on to my kids.
When I was little, he taught me how to throw a football, the rules of baseball, why I shouldnt hit my sister. As I got older, it was things like how to start a camp fire, how to fish, how to spit watermelon seeds in a race across our back yard after a cookout.
And, it wasn’t just me. Dad had many students. He was a Scout Master for years at St Rita’s. Troop 1, Oakland Beach.
He taught the scouts a lot besides orienteering and camping: Perseverance, Charity, Volunteerism.
I remember one December. He volunteered the Scouts to set up the Nativity Scene on the lawn out front. This was back in the days when Christmas season began after Thanksgiving, not the Monday after 4th of July weekend. Anyway, Dad forgot to get the key to the storage room downstairs and, of course, the priest (Fr. Gillooly) was not home. So…. Dad taught us to Improvise!
With great care and precision and skill I didn’t know he had, Dad taught 8 Boy Scouts how to use a credit card to jimmy a lock open!
Dad also taught his grandchildren many positive lessons. Some were the very same ones he taught to me – others were different.
When Amy and Sean were young, we took them down to visit my folks. Amy had just started to play soccer. Dad told her it was great that she was excelling in school and sports and that a woman can do anything a man can do. If you know my daughter, you know she took that lesson to heart immediately!
Not every lesson was so deep.
One time when my folks came up to visit – again when the kids were young – Dad took the time to sit down with Sean and teach him the “PROPER” way to put ketchup on a hot dog. Sean does it that way to this very day!
One of the most powerful lessons Dad taught me is that it’s OK to admit when you’ve made a mistake. So long as we learn from it, correct it, and move on.
And there is one last lesson Dad has to teach.
I am now in the process of learning that nothing in this life is permanent. The ones we love cannot stay with us forever. Each moment is so fragile and so precious. I have to learn to live without him being just a phone call away.
Dad taught a lot of people a lot of things. I am proud to have been his student, and his son.
This was taken at my sister’s wedding. This is how I will remember them.