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Sunday, April 23, 2017
Love Your Face: Eulogy for My Dad
by going back about 24 years, specifically to the first Sunday of April, 1993.
This particular Sunday, Bob was feeling under the
weather, with what he thought was the flu. On the advice of the doctor, my
mother drove him to the ER. As it turned out, Bob wasn’t suffering from the
flu. He was in the midst of a massive heart attack.
That evening was a blur. We were told to
prepare for the worst. Somehow, Bob survived that first night.
For days, Bob’s vital signs rode more steep ups and downs
than a city of Worcester school bus.Exhausted,
we spent our days camped out in the ICU waiting room of the old Saint Vincent’s
Hospital on Vernon Hill, impatiently waiting our turn, one family member at a
time, to visit with him.
Again and again we asked ourselves: How could this happen
to such a fit man who always ate right – except for his once a week dose of chocolate cake or blueberry pie from Sam’s Bakery – and exercisedregularly?
He was barely retired a year at that time. Eighteen holes of golf followed by
three mile walks were a regular part of his daily routine.
Then it was the following Sunday, one tumultuousweek later, a beautiful spring day with the
promise of new life in the air: Sun shining brightly; Green grass poking up through
what remained of the winter snow. Bob’s room
in ICU was still crowded with all kinds of scary, beeping machinery. We arrived
for our usual visits, but he cut them short. He didn’t want to wear himself
out. It was the final day of the Master’s Tournament and he was determined to save
up enough energy to watch it.
We took this as a good sign. And indeed it was. That
evening, his vitals began to stabilize. Within days, he was moved from ICU to a
regular hospital room. Granted, there were some pretty talented medical
professionals involved in Bob’s recovery, but deep down we knew the truth. Golf
Given the substantial damage to his heart, doctors
estimated Bob had about four years of living left. My father, a man of
integrity and honesty, made sure we were all aware that he’d been given an end
date. He wanted us prepared.
“What are you gonna do?” He’d say to us, shrugging, not
one tear in his eye. “Hey! I’m lucky to be alive.”
Bob’s brush with death back then turned out to be a gift.
Because we were all aware that the
future wasn’t guaranteed, we treated every day as though it was his last until
this mindset became ingrained in each of us. We always took the opportunity to express
to him, Patsy, each loved one, how much they mattered. Nearly every interaction
ended with a phrase my grandmother, his mother, had started to regularly say to
all of us: “Love your face.”
Over the phone: “Love your face, dad.”
“Love your face kid.”
After an evening out or an afternoon excursion, a big hug
and a wet kiss on the cheek: “Love your face. Love your face, kid.”
“Yeah. Yeah. We know.Love your face, dad.”
were lots of ways my dad could have chosen to act in the years after his heart
attack. He could have sat back, given up, and waited for death, for example.
But as history shows us, Bob wasn’t that type of person. He always pushed for
more. He was the first in his family to graduate college. Got his doctorate in
education, when a bachelor’s would have been just fine. He so finely honed his golf game that, in his
prime, he won golf tournaments left and right and got not one hole in one, but
Married above his station – he liked to joke -- the
smart, funny, and beautiful Catherine Patricia.
He not only visited his mother every Sunday, he also
stopped in on Mondays for lunch. She’d always have a half sandwich, a glass of
milk, and a piece of fruit waiting for him. He went above and beyond as a dad too
by giving us his most precious commodity, his time: piano sing-alongs – "I’m a
Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch" was my personal favorite – beach and
ski vacations, piano lessons, golf lessons, trips to Canada, Florida, and Ireland.
Rather than sit back and wait for his heart to give out, Bob
lived every day as if it was his last. In the process, he defied all his
doctors’ predictions. Within months of his hospitalization, he returned to
golf, determined to regain his strength. And he did. Over the next two decades,
he and Patsy traveled everywhere: Florida several times a year, all over the U.S.
to visit Tara, and then all over Europe as well. He loved spending time with
his grandchildren. Was proud to be there in person to see Katie and Bridget accept
all sorts of academic awards and graduate middle school, high school,
college. He loved spending time with Conor and Annie Cate: buying them books,
tracking Conor’s swim team achievements. He couldn’t get enough of Annie Cate’s
piano playing. He and Patsy shared in their joy as they visited some of
the most beautiful and historic sites of Europe.
The fact that Bob continued to live – truly live in every
sense of the word – is a gift that still inspires awe, even here and now. But
the fact that we all knew – my dad especially, that every single one of those
days was a gift?And that we got to see
that gratitude every day, in a life so well-lived?And get to feel that gratitude still, here
That’s a gift that will keep on giving.
On behalf of my mother and father, Tara, myself, Katie,
Bridget, Conor, and Annie Cate, thank you all for being here today. As my dad
said many times, especially in the last few months, always with joy in his
heart and gratitude in his soul, “You’re all good kids.”
Dad, you’re a pretty good kid too. For always and
forever, to infinity and beyond, we love love love love love your face.
Back in the '70s, near Killarney: My dad practicing his golf swing.