In Remembrance of My Father

The Feast of the Guardian Angels is observed in the Catholic Church on October 2. Celebrations of this feast go way back to the 11th century.

18th cent. Painting of a Guardian Angel Unknown Artist

18th cent. Painting of a Guardian Angel
Unknown Artist

Devotion to the angels is an aspect of piety. Their role is to represent us before God, to watch over us, to aid us in prayer, and to finally present our souls to God at death. One of the first prayers I learned as a child was the prayer to my guardian angel: “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.”  This prayer was a comfort to me when I was young, and I still often pray it to this day.

 

Coincidentally, October 2, is a special day of remembrance in the life of my family. It is the twelfth anniversary of our Dad’s death. The night before, on his doctor’s advice, I had taken Dad to the local hospital’s emergency room to take care of a health issue that was NOT deemed life threatening. Dad was admitted for overnight care. I can still vividly remember the doctor’s phone call, waking me from a deep sleep in the early hours of that morning: “I’m so sorry to tell you that your father just passed away.”

My Dad Frank as a young man

My Dad Frank as a young man

Frank was a true gentleman, a devoted family man. When we were growing up, like many fathers of that era, Dad sacrificed, working three jobs at times to keep us fed, clothed, secure. Dad was a joker. He loved to laugh and tease his children and grandchildren. He imbued his family with a sense of justice, fairness, good humor, and good will towards all.

Mom was the “light of his life.” He was her relentless guardian, no more so than in her later years as she dealt with the personal challenges of Alzheimer’s. Dad never complained of his duty as caregiver. He always seemed worried of what would become of her when he passed, and looked to his three daughters and two sons for reassurance that she would be well cared for after he was gone. Dad was a gift and a blessing to all who met him and came in contact with him. He lives on in the memories and hearts of his family and friends.

I like to think that on the Feast of the Guardian Angels, when he passed away from us so suddenly without warning, angels came to accompany him, and presented his soul before the God whom Dad served and loved all his life. Dad was ninety years old.

"Angel Weeping" Photo by my sister, Marcia Petravicius

“Angel Weeping”
Photo by my sister,
Marcia Petravicius

His funeral Mass was October 6. The priest celebrant ended the service with the words of the rite of Christian burial: “May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you, and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.”   

I read a statistic recently that indicated thirty percent of caregivers die before the people they’re caring for do. A study by the Office on Women’s Health found that “elderly people who felt stressed while taking care of their disabled spouses were sixty-three percent more likely to die within four years than caregivers who were not feeling stressed.”  The bottom line is that if you, as a caregiver, find and receive assistance to maintain your own health, you will be less likely to die prematurely or need long-term care for yourself.

My prayer today is that all of you who care for loved ones will be blessed with the strength, courage, humor, and patience that you need in your day-to-day lives. May you have the wisdom to reach out for support from others before your burden gets too heavy to bear!

 *  *  *

I composed a poem in honor of my father. It will be printed in my upcoming memoir. I’d like to share it with you. Hopefully it gives you a sense of the wonderful, gentle, loving man that he was.

A New Kind of Lovemaking

 What is true love?

Love, in my experience, is

Dad holding Mom’s hand tenderly

as they stroll down the long corridor,

he with cane in hand,

heading to the facility’s dining room,

giving her confidence she won’t get lost.

 

Love comes into play

when Dad orders her meals,

knowing just how she likes her meat cooked,

her vegetables prepared.

Then he entices her,

teases her to eat up all her food

so she could enjoy that luscious dessert.

 

Love appears when

Dad remains calm and patient

as he helps Mom search for her purse,

to uncover where it’s hidden,

perhaps buried beneath clothes in a dresser drawer,

or misplaced in the kitchen’s refrigerator.

 

An intense bond of love shines forth daily

when Dad counts out pills Mom needs to take,

giving them at just the right time,

making sure she’s swallowed them,

not tucked them in her cheek like a child

waiting to spit out when he turns away.

 

Love occurs when

Dad conscientiously pays their bills on time,

keeping records of all financial dealings,

planning so their funds hold out, not dry up,

worrying they will outlive their assets

and become a “burden” on their children.

 

A lesson in love is

Dad giving his all,

putting his needs, wants, and health second to hers,

as they deal with the many challenges

that life and aging placed in their paths.

If these aren’t examples of true love,

then I don’t know what love is.

*  *  *

“The Prayer,” sung by Josh Groban and Celine Dion is one of my favorites. One of the lines goes: “We ask that life be kind, and watch us from above. We hope each soul will find another soul to love.” Dad and Mom certainly found their soul mates. I invite you to listen to the song:  https://youtu.be/DbviXG_56ss

*  *  *

The Judds have a song called “Daddy’s Hands.” It reminds me of the inner strength and love of my father. You can listen to it here: https://youtu.be/pl4N1i7Femw

 

 

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