Saturday, July 7, 2007

Remembering Dad on the 7th of July

A portrait I drew of my mum and dad when they were engaged.

Today seven years ago as I write, (5am) my father passed away. He died on the 7.7.2000, the Jubilee Year of the Church. I am very blessed to have been given such a father – he molded my life for such good, and it continues to resonate on, to this day. It never amazes me how often I still recall his wise counsel on something and I find myself pondering on them more than ever. I would have liked to have added this posting to the Loveliness of Fathers Carnival but I wanted to write today – on his 7th anniversary.

It was also on this day, seven years ago, that we started our second novena to Our Lady of Mt Carmel. (My father was a Third Order Carmelite.) Nine days prior on the 28th of June, family and friends had started this double novena of intercession to Our Lady of Mt Carmel, so that the final novena would finish on this beautiful feast. The first novena was for the intentions of a cure for Dad if it was conducive to his spiritual well being, the second novena was to be in thanksgiving for whatever God’s will unfolded.

Dad died 5 hours after the completion of the first novena and on the day the thanksgiving novena was to commence. How lovingly Mary, the Mother of God, would have revealed her Son’s answer to Dad that morning. How joyful we were left to start the thanksgiving novena, for the significance of that day on which he died, only signed and sealed what we had felt in witnessing his peaceful, holy passing.

I want to share the eulogy written for dad. It was an honor given to me (eldest) and the writing of it was such healing in itself, so much grief was worked through, while writing it and I wish to share it with those who read this posting:

"My time here in front of you today is so precious, and with the many things I would like to say about dad, I do not want to detail the varied events of his life, he himself has done perfect justice to that in his autobiography “An Ordinary Life”, which he wrote last year primarily for his family, present and future, so that they could come to know him better and the life he had lived, and I know that many of you here today have read this book.

At the time of his book nearing completion a couple of good friends’ were invited to write an epilogue and one such good friend of dad’s wrote to mum expressing that he believed that there was another book yet to be written, the story of John’s growth in the love of God. He believed someone should write this, and suggest that maybe I could do it. So I feel today is an appropriate time to tell you the things about my dad that he was too humble to acknowledge or maybe even attribute to himself. But as his eldest daughter who loved him deeply, knew him well and observed much, I wish to talk about his personality, the very breath and depth of it and his growth in the love of God, the two of which are beautifully entwined.

The last time I was in this church standing on the altar in front of a private gathering of family and friends, was when my dad walked me down the isle to marry, in Oct 93, a few months later in Jan 94 he was diagnosed with bowel cancer which had already spread to his glands, and this made it a very tough fight even from the very onset, but he fought that battle for six and a half years with great dignity and with a wonderful positive outlook.

Even though he did not want to leave us yet – he was never fearful of death and always said he was at peace at the thought of it. As the cancer slowly engulfed his body, the whole experience only continued to purify his soul, enlarge his generous heart and confirm his luminous faith. And now that we are left in the wake of his passing our consolation and strength is to be found in the rich heritage he left behind which I feel will continue to take on a life of its own to those who loved him deeply and relied on his seemingly inexhaustible wisdom and his larger-than-life presence.

Dad was the eldest son of seven, and it was within this close-knit, loving family, the first seeds of love of his faith and of people was sown diligently, lovingly, through word and example by his parents Alan and Eunice who passed onto him the source of his amazing ability to truly love all people, no matter who they were. The source was his deep, abiding love of God which found its complete expression through his Catholic Faith – and so from that – it is very easy to understand why on the very first day he met mum he told his parents he had met the woman he was going to marry, and I will quote from dad’s book. “If there were a defining moment in my life, this was it. I have rarely found in this life a person who has a full grasp on what the purpose of this life is and lives life accordingly. This person is my wife. She has had an influence upon my life helping me to keep my focus on the eternal truths.” And it is through Dad, that Carmen and I have learnt the true dignity of womanhood through his fidelity, respect and love he demonstrated to mum in their 32 years of marriage.

He was truly a wonderful father to Carmen and I and if good fathers on earth give a foretaste to the relationship we will someday share with Our Heavenly Father, then it is not hard to understand why Carmen and I have embraced that faith to which they have given us. Dad was always so extremely proud of our different, unique gifts and abilities and yet never blinded to our faults and weaknesses, as not to counsel and guide us with prudence, as to ultimately develop and strengthen our characters. He was a sentimental man who cried over beautiful things, a quality he said he inherited from his own father, and so from time to time when he would want to express in words his deep love for us, his eyes reddened and would pool with tears, his facial expression would touch to the inner core of our heart. Dad, I know you would have cried upon seeing God’s face.

His fatherly love did not stop with his natural daughters, it extended to many other people of all ages, who benefited from his generous gift of time and wisdom. He was a natural peacemaker and counselor and no situation in his eyes, was too hard to overcome and it continued to the end, even on his deathbed. I cannot begin to tell, how beautiful that was to witness.

The greatest of these fatherly relationships was with my mother’s youngest sister Sandy, who lived with us after the death of her own mother when she was nine. He loved here deeply like his very own daughter, and she loved him as her father, a truly special relationship. When dad’s father passed away in 1977, dad was given by his father the role of head of his family. How dad loved and guided his brothers, Peter, David and Anthony and his sisters, Julie, Clare and Mary. All of whom held a special, unique place in his heart. And it fills my heart with deep pride to see the depth of their love for him. I know they are all feeling fatherless once again today – as I now am – and yet I say to you, let us together, take strength in the thought that whether dad be in heaven or purgatory now, he is a far more powerful intercessor for our spiritual and temporal needs. Those wonderful gifts he had in this life and his brotherly love for you all, has been brought to perfection where he is now.

Dad was a man who lived life to the fullest and saw life through eyes of joy. He was not a pessimist, but always looked for the possible good in all things. He made friends easily, at work, church, in his neighbourhood, at bowls, in fact everywhere. He had a smile and a laugh that was genuine, and no person could be excluded from his list of possible friends because he had the lovely ability to relate to all people at their own level. He could always find some common thread to which they could enjoy each others’ company. Everyone had a unique value in his eyes.

He was, in my opinion, deeply humble. He knew the ultimate source of his strengths and gifts and never hid behind the fa├žade of false humility. As he would often share his stories of spiritual growth and talk about the weaknesses that he was working on in his own life, in order to help you in your own, similar experiences. He would have been able to relate to the words of St Paul, “For when I am weak, then I am powerful.”

Dad was a man of integrity and principle which he lived by, even if his convictions differed with others. He had this amazing ability to express his belief to them if he felt it necessary for their edification and yet was able to deepen the relationship with that person for the very way he was able to express it. To those he knew who were in spiritual need, he was a willing instrument in God’s image of the hound of heaven.

Dad, like all people, had his crosses in life to carry. Some of them I know were very heavy. Some which I felt called for God’s strength to carry with acceptance and Christian joy and in some cases with forgiveness. But dad dealt with these trials with wonderful Christian virtue. Surely he struggled with these crosses interiorly? I do not know, but I never observed that. And what a wonderful example it was, that his faith and love did not seem to waver through life’s ups and downs. Dad, of course, suffered with his cancer, but that was something that you knew only through what was discussed in regard to his medical condition, for he never in his six and a half years, complained or allowed his positive emotions to be affected by it.

In fact I had a particular health problem recently myself, to which I complained enough for the both of us, and dad shared just a glimpse of his daily suffering with me in order to bolster, and edify me. How his words moved me, and I do not know how he could keep it all so well hidden and to himself, and as he further and further deteriorated he still lost none of his ability to carry the light of Christ in his heart.

He was being admitted quite frequently between Christmas and Easter of this year, to the palliative care unit, not the happiest of places under the circumstances. The same thing happened over and over again each time he was admitted. The people in his room seemed so sad and untalkative, but dad, by the time he had left, would have those men chatting away to each other and laughing. How the nursed loved him and would often tell us that they saw a quality in him that was extremely rare. Well that just came natural to dad. He used to say, “I can’t take credit for it, I was just born that way – positive.”

Of course dad always loved and welcomed the newest members that arrived into his family unit, my husband, his son-in-law, they were the deepest of friends, who loved each other. His three precious grandchildren, he loved each one of them for the beautiful individuals they are, they were his pride and joy! How comforting it was too for dad to meet the man Carmen is engaged to. I know that he died feeling at peace over Carmen’s future happiness.

Dad had a constant but simple prayer life. He was never a complicated man and that was reflected in all areas of his life. He loved the rosary, probably his favourite prayer that was said steadfastly throughout his life. He wore in life and in death, his scapular. He died at home in the loving arms of his family with a priest by his side. He had continually offered up his suffering for many intentions – the holy souls, for priests everywhere, the church being built in Thurgoona, but particularly for all the wonderful, caring people who have prayed and made sacrifices for his intentions over the last six and a half years. We wish to thank all those here today and others, whose prayers and offering have added the final touches to the man who grew continually in God’s love and who left us last Friday to be made complete in God’s love. Truest of friends you all are.

I was telling a close friend recently things about dad and particularly about how he handled his suffering and he said to me he thought dad was a saint, which I could not help, with great daughterly pride to repeat to dad, and dad looked at me with horror saying he didn’t want people thinking that. “Who would pray for me after I died if people believed that?” he said. Dad knew himself and his faith well. Not many escape the cleansing effects of purgatory and if there were anything that dad would love you all to do today, is remember him daily before the altar of God, just as St Monica made the same request of her son St Augustine, remember him in your prayers and Masses, so that the words of scripture continue to be fulfilled, “The merciful will receive mercy.”
For this rememberance day for me I have written a Holy Souls prayer from The Precious Blood & Mother manual, pg 52:

Efficacious Prayers for the Faithful Departed

Have mercy, O gentle Jesus, on the souls detained in Purgatory. Thou who for their ransom didst take upon Thyself our human nature and suffered the most cruel death, pity their sighs and the tears they shed when they raise their longing eyes toward Thee, and by virtue of Thy Passion, cancel the penalty due to their sins. May Thy Blood, O tender Jesus, Thy Precious Blood, descend into Purgatory to solace and refresh those who there languish in captivity! Reach forth Thy hand to them, and lead them into the realms of refreshment, light and peace. Amen.

My God, Thou hast taken from me those very dear to me in this world. Vouchasafe Thyself to supply the place of all in my regard and to replace them in my heart. They deserved my attachment. I was devoted to them, and I hoped to enjoy their love and assistance much longer. Thou has disposed otherwise. May Thy Holy Will be accomplished! The great consolation which I have in their loss, is the hope that Thou hast received them into the bosom of Thy mercy, and that Thou wilt vouchsafe one day to unite me to them. If a deficiency of satisfaction for their sins detains them in suffering, I offer Thee for their intention, all my prayers and good works, and above all my resignation in the loss which I have experienced. Render this resignation complete and worthy of Thee. Amen.


jackie said...

I have created a google account purely to reply to this post! When I read this, I had goosebumps! It could have been written about my own father - even the part about where he decided he was going to marry your mum as soon as he met her - my dad did the same! He died four years ago, and I have missed him desperately every day since. We are so blessed to have known fathers like this. Sadly, my own five children do not have this type of relationship with their father, but I hope and pray that one day he will realise and change!
I would love you to e-mail me if you have time - I am often in need of a friend!
God bless.

Marisa said...

Oh Anne, how beautiful. I hope I can speak with such love about my own dear father when he goes to his heavenly home. It sounds like your father is just the type of man my father would consider a good friend. I will remember your dad now every year, as July 7 is my son's birthday. I think I shall ask your dear father to intercede for my own son, so he may grow into the type of man your father was. Thank you for sharing.

Alice Gunther said...

Anne, I can't tell you how much this post has touched my heart. God bless your dear father. I will always associate him with Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Anne (aussieannie) said...

I so deeply touched by your comments, thank you so much for sharing them.

Jackie, it is a great blessing to have such a good father, which you understand well and sometimes when they go it can leave a hole...but I have to admit that I have adjusted to the 'new' relationship with my father and I pray to him often when I need help or advice and feel that graces come when I need them...he watching over me and my family.

If you come back a leave your email I would be more than happy to chat!!

jackie said...

Anne, you can reach me at Hoping to hear from you!

Cay Gibson said...

What a beautiful, loving tribute to a great man. God bless your family.

Kristen Laurence said...

Anne, this is incredibly beautiful.