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Eulogizing My Father

gravesite2.jpg May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand. ~ Old Irish Blessing

My brother John, the black sheep of the family, sober since our brothers, Jim and Dan, died 4 years ago, flew in from Minnesota to bury our father, feeling heartbroken and thinking that he wouldn't have a role to play in the funeral services. As it turned out, he, the eldest existing and unmarried son, had a very important role. He was my mother’s escort throughout the two days of services.

My sister, Sherry, a nurse, had taken a prominent role in overseeing my dad’s hospital care, and her husband, Nelson, read a moving tribute to my dad at the wake, as did Jamie and Rachael, two of my father’s grandchildren. Jamie remarked how his grandfather was like everybody’s Santa Claus, and he reminded us of one of my father’s trademark saying: “I love you more than you’ll know,” the last words he spoke to Jamie. We all laughed when Rachael remembered my father looking around at a family cook-out and saying, “Look at this population I created!”

At St. Ann's church, the next morning, granddaughters, Beth and Molly, shared readings from the Bible, my youngest sister, Tricia, read the funeral mass intercession prayers she had written, while my older sister, Kathy, opened the eulogy part of the services. Taking her place at the church pulpit, alongside my brother Joey and me, Kathy spoke of the circumstances of my father’s death before turning the microphone over to me. I read my essay, “Let Me Clue You in about My Father,” that was originally inspired by a “father’s day essay contest” I was a judge for. I read it on WVTF public radio this past Memorial Day and felt grateful to have honored my father with it before he passed away. While reading to the church full of people who loved my dad, I was remembering this past summer when I visited him and my mother, and he read the essay for the first time. Judging from the tears in his eyes and the number of times I saw him re-read it, I think he approved. I was happy that my description of my father evoked some laughter from the crowd because one of the last things I remember him saying to me was, “I like to make people laugh.”

My sister’s and my words were well received, but it was my brother Joey who stole the show. Joey has a severe case of dyslexia. During his school years, the school system was on the cusp of ignorance and awareness of learning disabilities. At one point, they wanted to put him in with the kids who had mental retardation, but my parents, knowing how bright he was, took him into Boston and got him tested, which led to special services and inclusion in regular classes. Although Joey couldn’t read, or even talk in elementary school with anything other than his made-up language that our brother John (Joey’s sidekick) had to decipher for us, we all knew he was smart as whip.

Through sobbing tears, hunched over the podium and with Kathy, me, and his niece, Heather (who was his designated support person), at his side, Joey spoke of how much it meant to him that my father praised the D’s he got in school, and how it was our father who encouraged him to build his first house…and the next and the next. Joey, who got his driver’s license by taking the drivers test orally and is now the president of his own company, had to work hard for days to write his eulogy and then read it out loud in public. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

Later, at the restaurant where the reception was held, it was my youngest brother Bobby who got the crowd’s attention with a piercing whistle so that his wife, Jeanne, could read the above Irish blessing. Jeanne also read a poem she had written and reminded us all that my dad was not only our Most Valuable Player (MVP), but that he chose to leave us while he was still at the top of his game (after beating pneumonia and getting off a breathing tube).

The population my dad created came out in droves to honor his good run. The stories were told, and laughter mixed with tears as we remembered how much we all loved him.

More than he’ll ever know.


It sounds like you all gave your Dad a beautiful send-off. I have really enjoyed reading about his life and his wonderful family... thank you for sharing something so personal on your blog. I hope your memories of him continue to bring you comfort in the days ahead.

iT sounds like a really lovely gathering in honor of your father.I am so sorry for your loss. But you are the type of person who brings comfort to those around you. The memories he created for you and the memories you guys created in honor of him will always be there.

Colleen, You are blowing me away with your exceptionally well written posts of the last few days (and before). There's nothing to add except a "thanks" and...I love you. Kathy

I recall when my grandfather passed away - after his wake, funeral and reception, I overheard my mother saying to one of her 8 siblings, "The funeral was good." I asked her later how she could have possibly meant that? This was, after all, a sending off of her father! She told me "good" meant that everyone who loved him came to say goodbye and said it in their own special way - everyone took the time they needed to celebrate and to grieve together - and that she felt so much love around her between sisters and brothers, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, uncles, cousins, etc ... that she couldn't possibly think of it as anything but "good" because that was exactly as her father would have wanted it.
In this sense, I'm glad your dad's send-off was "good" too. Hugs.

Crying here. It is such a honor for us to read your words. Thank you for sharing.

I only wish that my expereince w. my Grandfather's passing was like this. It makes me incredibly sad, that we now have a broken family.

You have an amazing family.

No dry eyes here, either. A lovely retelling. Thank you for sharing it.

One of things I remember about that day, was when we showed up at the church.
I was with Dad, as I was a pal bearer.
Mom looked into the church and said "there is not that many people here"
My Bother John said "Ma look behind you"
Me and Ma looked, and there must have been 100 people behind us. They all came in the procession.
It must have been the longest one, the town has seen in a long time. With a police escort that my Dad would have loved.

Robert Leo Redman Jr.
PS I love this name

Beautiful tribute Colleen...First time I've been here in days and days....Thank You for sharing so much about your Dad and about all your wonderful family...even at this sad time, it is lovely to read about all of you...what a wonderful legacy your dear father has left behind...

Bob, I just jumped out of my seat when I saw your signature! John and I were in the limo (being from out of town, we stayed at Ma's house) and when we saw the police escort, we laughed, thinking how much dad usually ran the other way from cops! Did you notice that the flag at the Veteran's Memorial in Hull was flown half-mast. Ma noticed it and Mr. Mitchell (Hull Village friend and limo driver) told us it was for dad because he was a veteran.

A wonderful eulogy, Colleen, I didn't know him, of course, but I am crying as I read it. I am glad you got to share your essay with him before he died, as I am sure it meant a lot to him.

In college, I wrote about my grandmother and my mom gave her a copy. She read it many, many times and then read it to everyone who came to her house for months. Isn't it wonderful that we have the opportunity to let people know how much we love them before they pass?

Thank you so much for sharing this with us; your Dad certainly left a lasting impression on all that he met, it seems.

You've said many times before how writing helps you cope with loss. You need to know how your writing helps others out there cope as well. Where would they, where would we be without your words. You are a blessing to others and therefore blessed. Many prayers are going up for you and your warm loving family in this time.

He knows more than you can imagine! (Typing through tears)

Your family and the love you share is a most wonderful tribute to your dad. Bless you all.

Such a wonderful re-telling of the day. Thanks for sharing it. Your dad sounds so much like my granddad who died a couple of years ago. We ended his service with the Irish Blessing too, as he was an old Irishman. Peace be with you, Colleen. Your blog will help me a lot as we begin this journey with my father-in-law's illness.

Colleen. A wonderful tribute. It's nice that you are so proud of your Dad. I'm in the middle of writing about my Dad too. It is carthartic.
I'm sorry for your loss.

You're still in my prayers lady. Hope things are getting a little easier for you.

Hi Colleen, Thank you so much for sharing. We wish we could have been there. We cried as we read about how wonderful your family is, and we love you with all our heart

THanks for sharing this. Through your words, I get a sense of the kind of great man your father was--and oh, that wonderful population he created!

Thanks for sharing.

I am new here and am in tears reading this post. Thank you for such a well written gift this morning.

Just lovely, Colleen. It has been my great luck to have married an Irish girl, a Quinn, and to have seen the unabashed love that the Irish have for each other, even in the midst of sorrow. My own mother-in-law had a gathering much like your father's over three years ago...and in a word, it was beautiful. May you continue to share your father (and Mother's) legacy with us all.

What an incredibly beautiful tribute.

Extraordinary heart -- the inclusion, the healing, the strength of the "population" (wonderful line!) coming together. A beautiful remembrance.

he knows now. he knows.

Lovely. I'm sure he was very proud of how you all handled it. I'm sure he's still proud of you.


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