Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youth's rite of Passage? His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a MAN. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own. The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man! Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm. We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

Let's be more aware of all the choices, situations, twists and turns that brought us to this place right here and now. They May Be Miracles.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fond Memories

My sister, Danelle, asked me to post to my blog the eulogy we wrote and presented at our father's funeral. I told her I would do it when I thought I could handle looking at it again and having it there every time I went into my blog. I guess I'm at that point now. I have some other things to say about all the events leading up to his death and things that have happened since, but I'll do that another time. For now, here's the eulogy. It's missing the opening poem that I wrote to him when I was in Jr. High (he had it laminated and carried it in his brief case wherever he went and we found it still there along with his medications, pictures, and anything he deemed important to carry in his briefcase). I don't have the poem, but if I get it I'll post it another time.


Opening: Poem (Dustine)

Let us share a little bit with you about our dad, “papa” or “pop” as we affectionately called him. Many of you who knew him before we were even born would agree that he was always ornery and enjoyed making people smile and laugh. He loved to introduce himself as “Dennis The Menus,” and anyone who knew him would quickly agree. He had a corny joke up his sleeve for any occasion. His favorite jokes with us when we were little included “I can tell a train just came through here…want to know how? It left its tracks!” and if we asked how to spell a word he’d get us to say, “Pop how do you spell it?” and then he’d say, “ I – T!”

He loved to strike up conversation with people. His witty personality was the foot in the door. No waitress was safe when he went to a restaurant. He was a charmer – he would brighten their day with the twinkle in his deep blue eyes and his great big smile.

During Mom and Pop’s second visit to their new church parish down in North Carolina there was a baptism of a small child and after the baptism Pop went up to them and gave the child a rosary. Her father was gratefully taken aback and told Pop that he didn’t know him yet and wanted to know his name. Pop responded with, “Oh, I’m Dennis the Menus!” At that moment the priest was walking by and commented, “I don’t know about the Dennis part, but I sure do know about the Menus!” – this after meeting him only once before.

Speaking of rosaries, Pop was known everywhere as “The Rosary Man.” He always had a rosary with him to pray and he always had a rosary to give away. He never knew who he would be giving them to, but somehow, many times over, years later, a stranger would approach him and say, “You gave me/my son/my daughter a rosary years ago and I/he/she still has it and it really affected/or changed our lives. I just had to thank you.” Pop would respond that it wasn’t him, but our Blessed Mother guided him as to who to give it to.

We never knew who would be at our holiday dinners because Pop would invite less fortunate, or shut-ins, or people who had no family to be with to come to our house for dinner. After the dinner was over he would take the left-overs to shut-ins.

A man of many names, in the Nursing Homes where he and Mom did nursing home ministry for over 25 years he was known as “The Candy Man.” He began nursing home ministry with the St. Vincent DePaul Society and they would deliver diabetic candy to the nursing homes. So when he walked through the door they would yell out, “here comes our Candy Man!” and the name just stuck with him throughout the years.

He was a peaceful man with a calming presence. Children would flock to him. Anyone could put a screaming baby in his arms and the baby would calm right down and go to sleep. He could also find a song for almost any thought or word that someone uttered. He loved to just break out in song, usually very softly.

We never doubted how much he loved us or how proud he was of us. He told us regularly. His shirt pocket did not hold pens. It was overflowing with love. His love for his family. He held in his shirt pocket photos of his children and grandchildren…some of them even in small frames. His family was the most important thing to him and he never failed to remind us how much he loved us. He often left us phone messages just to say that he loved us. One time when Danelle was on the phone with him talking about coming home for the week visiting from college, he said to her, “I’m sad because in a week from now you’re already going to be leaving me.” He shared similar experiences with all of us.

His relationship with his grandchildren was precious. Grace, the first grandchild, would order him to come sit on the ground and play with her when she was just 2 and 3 years old. If he would start to sing a song, as he loved to do, she would point at him and say, “No Grandpa, no singing!” and he would continue a little to tease her or to finish his chorus, but he would obey her commands. He found much joy in pleasing his grandchildren.

In 2002 after his bout with Guillian Barre he went from perfect 20/20 vision to almost blind. So Mom would read to him in the evenings. It was the best part of his life – he didn’t care about television or anything else – he just loved the sound of Mom’s voice and wanted her to keep reading to him – even when she would get hoarse, he just wanted her to keep on reading. Mom and Pop were never separated from one another – you never saw one without the other. Mom was the love of his life, and he was hers.
One time Dea went to the movies with Mom and Pop and they sent her ahead to buy the tickets. While she was buying the tickets the people behind the ticket booth started commenting, “Oh look at that cute old couple walking in holding hands! Aren’t they just the cutest thing you ever saw! They’re still in love…I hope I find love like that someday…come look at this!”

These are only a few things we can tell you about our Pop. This world doesn’t have enough words to summarize the depth of our love for him.
Right now we can only imagine all the ornery things he’s doing up in heaven…heaven will never be the same now that he’s there.

Ending: Oh My Papa Song (Dea)

(Dea sang "Oh My Papa" to him every year on his birthday)

One other note that I don't think is included in the eulogy: He often called each of us (almost daily) hoping not to actually reach us but to get our voicemail so he could sing, "I just called, to say, I love you. I just called, to say how much I care..." We all have it saved either on our cell phones or answering machines. I have not had the courage to listen to my recordings yet, but at least I have them. I also have him wishing me a happy birthday last year on my birthday. My birthday is next week so I may just have to listen to his message...might be a good gift.