gratitude grief

celebrating dad

Friends and family have asked me to share the remarks I made at Dad’s funeral mass.

Welcome.

Thank you for coming to celebrate Dad, Grandpa, Uncle Bob, Bob, Robert, Bobby Jo, Bobo, Big Blind Bob. When the hospice nurse asked Dad if he had told us kids what he wanted for his funeral, his requests were simple:

Be cremated and buried with mom.

Have a short service (he made direct eye contact with me on that one)

Lots of food.

Dad even tried to ensure the short service part by dying on the day every priest in Johnson and Wyandotte counties were on their way to Atchison for a diocesan retreat.

But he forgot I had a direct line to the Jesuit Community House.

And Fr. Luke Byrne answered the call.  Fr. Luke is the Athletics Chaplain at Rockhurst University. I sometimes wonder if he was the chaplain to Dad’s beloved and heart-breaking Royals team then maybe we could stay above 500 for one season.

The Jesuits invite us all to be men and women for others. I think that perfectly describes Dad and his deep love, empathy and authenticity.  And the gift of that sense of humor.

Over the past few weeks as I sat next to Dad while he slept in his green recliner, which he nicknamed “the savior”, I would reflect on so many moments.  Just a few I wanted to share today.

My first memory is of being carried by Dad, cradled in his arms, late at night into Pa’s office in the Brotherhood Building. I was a toddler and was having my first asthma attack.  It was my first of many doses of prednisone and epinephrine. But as I look back I don’t have any memory of struggling to breathe. At all. I only remember being held by my dad as the pattern of fluorescent lights shined down on me as we walked down that long hallway to the that last office on the left.

My t-ball career was short-lived. Just one season as a kindergartner on the Lil’ Angels. We played out at the WYCO fields. I was only 6 when the umpire called me out for stepping outside of the batter’s box. I had no idea what a batter’s box was. Dad’s career as a t-ball father was short lived, too. He shared his opinion with the umpire about holding a six year old to a rule for much older players and he was promptly ejected from my game. So Max, Papi learned his lesson with me so that is why sometimes he would just walk away from your games when he disagreed with too many of the calls. He loved you too much to be able to stand there and not say anything to those umps. And he didn’t want to embarrass you.

Finally, I can’t imagine how hard it was to be my dad on September 11, 2001 when I called home at 9:15am. I worked a few miles from the World Trade Center site and without a cell phone could not get a hold of my Bob and an 18 month old Max. We knew both Towers had been hit but there was so much uncertainty. I just wanted to know where my baby was. I instinctively reached for the phone and called home to have my dad tell me everything would be okay. Just hearing his voice calmed me down so much. At that moment I was a little girl who just needed her dad.

As you can imagine, trying to choose a few moments to share was so hard because I have so many. I am such a lucky daughter.

As David, Ryan and I spent the past few days looking through so many photos we were struck by the fullness of Dad’s life. For someone who was in many ways so private, his energy and spirit shines through the photos and you can’t help but laugh and smile as you remember times with him.

It was hard for many of you to not know more about Dad’s cancer. But Dad was private about his illness. He gave so much of himself, I think, and a lot like mom, receiving was hard for him. When the hospice intake nurse came by she mentioned how wonderful it was that dad had a daughter. Everyone assumes the daughter is the better care taker. In our family it’s the opposite.

Ryan took care of Dad for three months and managed the details of Dad’s life. He provided humor, attentiveness and lots of spoiling.

David was a constant gentle reassuring presence at all times, strong and kind and so full of love. Being a pharmacist and “the beef” helped make so many moments for Ryan and me less stressful.

My brothers embody the very best of my dad and I am so grateful for both of you. When dad passed away it was just the three of us there to guide him home. What a blessing for all of us.

When Dad got the diagnosis, he looked at us kids and said, “I think your mom misses me.”  We all knew when Mom died Dad started to die that day too. He just loved her so much and they were together for so long. It was that deep love of his that made this walk on earth without Mom too much to bear. About 30 – 40 minutes before he passed away, a peaceful gentle smile spread across his face. And his body visibly relaxed. I feel with certainty that was his moment of reunion with mom and when he was welcomed home.

Falling in Love, by Fr. Pedro Arrupe

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Thank you for celebrating Dad with us today. A well lived life because he lived it with love.

We love you all.

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