August 16th is the day I think about my Dad more than ever - because it's the day he died. I didn't even really know how to address it because it still seems so unreal. But yesterday, we marked the one year anniversary of his death, and it was tough. But every day of the past year has been tough. I remember thinking (the day after he died) - how will we ever survive this? I hoped and prayed that it would get easier in time. In small ways, perhaps it has, but in most ways, the void left by his tragic & premature passing is just as immense. I wanted to share the eulogy I gave at my dad's rosary, because although it was literally the hardest thing I've ever had to do, it's the easiest way for me to share with you how I felt then, and how I feel now, about my Dad. I remember walking up to the altar to speak and feeling so afraid, but also so proud. I knew how much it meant to my Dad (from up in heaven, where I am certain he was looking down on all of us gathered there to pray for him & remember him). I can recall conversations with him about death, and funerals, and eternal life, and as I stepped up to the podium to speak, I knew I would at least be able to speak these words:
This is such a hard thing to do – but I would be crying whether I got up here to speak to you all or if I did not, and there are so many things that I want to say about my father, so bear with me as I struggle through this. My dad’s death was untimely and unexpected, but surprisingly, he actually prepared us for this day. He lived his life in a way that demonstrated that his goal was to reach heaven; he often reminded us that there was no way of knowing the day or the hour that your life would end. At times I thought this was morbid, and I often said, “Dad, stop talking like that!” But his objective in talking about death was enormously important – he wanted his children to understand the importance of living a virtuous life, so that they would be in a state of grace and make it to heaven – thereby experiencing the joy of life after death. He was the spiritual leader of our household and made it clear (often when he was disciplining us) that he was not supposed to be our best friend…he was supposed to help us get to heaven. In this time of sorrow, as we miss him unbearably, I am so thankful that he was not only a loving husband, father, and grandfather, but as much as he was these things, he was a holy man of God. I have so many memories of my dad, but I will share with you the ones that made me admire him the most. When I think of him as a husband, I recall that every morning, my dad woke up before my mom, and made her coffee (just the way she liked it) and brought it to her in bed. I do not exaggerate when I say he did this for 29 years. As a child, I saw my father demonstrate sacrifice, tenderness, and affection each morning when he did this for my mom, and I saw how much she loved spending time with him before we went off to school, drinking coffee and chatting about the day to come. When I think of my dad as a father, I remember countless games of basketball at our backyard court. He always included everyone…and if someone didn’t want to play, he always said, “Come on! It’ll be fun! I’ll give you a free shot!” I took advantage of this and when I played, not only did no one guard me, but my dad would throw any rebound my way so that I could shoot (and miss) again and again. He was such a joyful man, and playing basketball with family and friends in our backyard was really living the dream for him. When I think of my dad as a grandfather, I see him holding Grace, Joseph, and Jackson in his arms with all the love that any man could give. When I think of him as a grandfather I also remember a few weeks ago when I was at my parents’ house for dinner. I was holding Jackson and my dad turned to me and said “You are such a good mom.” He was so genuine and always had a way of speaking that melted my heart. When he said something, it was so clear that it was authentic and something that he believed to be absolutely true. As a friend told me a few days ago, he was quiet and gentle, yet the power of his personality was incredible. We will miss him so much – the void left by this loss is immense, as he filled our lives with everything we needed and more.
In the year since I wrote those words, so much has come to pass. One of the wonderful things that we did as a family recently (in honor of my Dad) was go to the beach (Pajaro Dunes). I loved going back there because one of my earliest memories with my Dad (Mom confirmed that I was 4 years old :)) was at that shore. We were playing in the waves and I was running all over, and my Dad said, "Kelly, be careful. Never turn your back to the waves!" Three minutes later I was being tossed and turned in the saltwater until I felt his strong arms lift me out. I remember having sand all over. I remember the taste of the salt in my mouth (I swallowed a lot of water!). And I remember crying as he carried me back to the beach house to see my mom, but within just a few minutes, all was well again and we went back to playing in the sand. It was great to be back on that sand this past weekend, enjoying time with my mom & brothers. We had a delicious dinner at Shadowbrook (one of my Dad's favorite restaurants) where we enjoyed a bottle of his favorite wine (Rombauer Chardonnary). I almost fell out of my chair when David (almost 15 years old) said, "I'm trying to decide between the duck and the bison....". He is so grown up! I felt the same way about James as I watched him & John working hard to dig a deep hole in the sand (just like my Dad always did for us; he always had a shovel in the back of his truck!). We also played a great game of two-hand-touch football (Dad always led the charge with these games...I never wanted to play but I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this game!). It was peaceful and relaxing and everything that a family vacation should be, even though we all wished that he had been there with us.
|James (who will be 10 in October!) with one of the sand crabs he & John dug up|
|My beautiful & graceful mama and David (he ended up ordering the duck & risotto, yum!)|
|Enjoying a little walk around the Dunes. I love this picture because now I see that I love my own boy (Jack) the same way she's always loved all five of us.|
|That baby bump! 23 weeks (Aug. 9). Growing, kicking & punching like a good little babe.|
|Jack and I spent a few early mornings reading with a beautiful view of the dunes & the sea. He LOVED the beach and I'm so appreciative of the time we had there.|