First off, I want to thank everyone who commented on Friday.

And I’m even more grateful that none of you called me on breaking my “no more sad posts” promise from the week prior =)

Secondly I wanted to explain to you, as an anal retentive type, I’ve set up a folder for every member of my family on our computer desktop. They each contain the person’s name followed by “stuff.” Well, all but mine. My name is followed by the word “junk.” Pretty telling, don’t you think?

Anywho, I was sorting through my “junk” after Friday’s post, and I came across something I had previously forgotten about. A long way back, I used to teach Children’s Liturgy at our church (I know, right?), and at one point they decided that we should provide the actual homily (sermon) in our own fashion to the general congregation. Of all the teachers, I was chosen (I know, right?) to do so. Now, as the church is a body politic more than anything else, the tides eventually changed, and about a week before I supposed to give the homily, they canned the whole idea. The thing I came across while sorting through my junk, was the homily I had planned on giving, but never did. Until now, that is…

OK kids – we have been getting soooooooo many complaints from the parents, jealous that they don’t get to come to the Lil Church in the back with us every week, that we thought  – just this once – that we would instead bring our Lil Church up front to them! And don’t you worry; I’ll make sure that they behave as well as you do. Well, almost.

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So, are we ready to listen to the readings?

     (response)

And do we listen with our mouths?

    (response)

Do we listen with our ears?

    (response)

OK, then, let’s go!

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    (followed by the readings. After Gospel, wait a few minutes. Let the kids sit back down on the floor before doing so yourself. Deep breath, and…)

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“You are the salt of the earth.”

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Did you notice that?

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“You ARE the salt of the earth.”

“You ARE the Light of the world.”

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See, Jesus didn’t say, “you MAY BE the salt of the earth”,

Or, “being the salt of the earth happens from time to time”,

And He didn’t say, “There’s an outside chance that at some point you might possibly be a light of the world – hey – it happens.”

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No, Jesus plainly states that we ARE the salt.

We ARE the light.

Already.

Without our even knowing it.

COOL!

So… all the hard work has already been done – God already knows we have the ability to shine like His son – God has already placed His trust in us.

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Now,

all I have to do is just sit here n’ “Shine” – right?

Just hang out n’ be all Salty – right?

Is there something more to it you think?

Well,

I’ve already got salty down (rubbing beard), but how exactly do I shine?

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I’m pretty sure you guys are too young to have heard of this, but there used to be an uber-popular thing called a “WWJD” bracelet, and these little gems basically reminded us to always think about how Jesus would handle a situation, prior to attacking it ourselves.

I kinda wish it hadn’t been so uber-popular, because once something reaches that level of coolness, then it HAS TO – by some strange cosmic law – become uber-NOT cool at some point, and then it just disappears altogether.

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I wish this hadn’t happened because these bracelets were so much easier than lugging around a copy of today’s first reading all the time.

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You see the W-W-J-D stood for “What Would Jesus Do”, and in the first reading, Isaiah reminds us that “What Would Jesus Do” is exactly What Would Jesus Did:

  • He gave bread
  • He clothed
  • He sheltered
  • He embraced
  • He Shone with the brightness of God’s Light!

And if I want to shine as He did – if I want to shine with the brightness of God’s Light – then all I have to do is follow His lead – all I have to do is

  • Give bread – either literal or intellectual (got a good book you’re done with? Pass it along to someone else to enjoy! Not playing with that toy? Give it to someone who maybe can’t afford it!)
  • Give clothing – be respectful of the clothes you have, so that when you grow out of them, someone else can wear them as well. Ask your parents to make semi-annual Amvets or Salvation Army runs.
  • Give shelter – friend having a hard time with their brothers or sisters? Invite them over for a sleepover!  See a classmate being bullied? Stand by them instead with the bullies – SHELTER them.
  • Give embraces – real ones are cool, but sharing your toys is another way to make someone feel pretty well-hugged – holding doors for people does wonders as well, and I guarantee, if you VOLUNTARILY do dishes one night – your folks are gonna give you the hug of a lifetime – after they come back to, of course.

In other words – before you do anything – just remember that God has ALREADY placed His trust in you.

And His Son has already shown us the Way – go do it like He did it – and don’t worry about what results. Trust him like he trusts you. Then, not only will you be the Salt of the earth,

you will also be salty  =)

not only will you be a Light to the world,

but you will also SHINE!

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Will it be easy?

No!

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Can you do it?

Yes!

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Jesus believes in you, your loved ones believe in you, I believe in you – and I pray that you believe in you too =)

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Now get outta here – be good through the rest of mass, and have a great week kids – thanks!

•••

I guess I’m sharing this with you today, because when I re-read it, I found myself thinking two things. First off, my punctuation skills suck. And secondly, I really should learn to take my own advice more often.

Adventures In Paradise

You know, you’ve been pretty jaded this week.

I know, I know. I’m just feeling selfish I guess, put upon.

Yeah, well you had better shake it off pally. It’s not exactly like you’ve got it bad or anything.

From the outside, I get what you’re saying. But sometimes, from deep within, it does feel that bad. Sometimes, it feels like dying. I feel lost, and ashamed of myself for being so.

So, basically what you’re telling me then, is that you’re having for yourself a pity party?

I suppose.

But didn’t your dad always tell you to just “walk it off?”

Well, yeah. But that response seems too car-blanche. Far too easy.

Because it is.

So what’s the answer then?

You know the answer. You’ve had it in your noodle the whole while. You’ve even offered it as advise to others who have been in pain. “When you can walk it off, do. But when you can’t, rest up first. Have yourself a good cry. Get well. And then walk.”

So you didn’t have that meeting that you were so cock-sure would change your life. So what? So you don’t understand why the meeting was scheduled in the first place, had J.C. truly had your back. Again, so what? Remember when you used to read to your children? They didn’t know what the words were, but you did. And even though they couldn’t read along, they still cuddled up close to you, they trusted you. And the story was still told. So now you once again find yourself illiterate to Life’s ways. Big whoop. Just sit in J.C.’s lap, let him read to you.

It’s that easy?

Of course it’s that easy. And that’s precisely why it’s so damned hard.

It is hard. Impossible at times.

Can I do this?

You have been all along. Just because you’re not listening doesn’t mean he’s not reading – the story is told, with or without your active participation. Dude, it’s just life. You’re not the first, and you’re not the last (and if I might add, you’re for damned sure not the prettiest!) to go through it. So, buck up lil’ pony, and walk it off. Or rest until you can. You know, your mom has had some pretty cool catch phrases as well…

You’re talking about her infamous “this too shall pass,” I would assume?

Yep. And yes, it will. In the end, it all will. In the end your career will have been just that. Just something you did to fill the hours and pay the bills, a mere footnote on your resume for Life Eternal. In the end, C’s health will be no better or worse for all your fretting. And your life together will not benefit from your inability to be patient and/or simply roll with the punches. In the end every last person you’ve lost along the way will be found again. In the end, J. C. will close the book – only to open a new one – and hopefully you’ll have learned to read at least a couple of the words by then, you know?

Yeah, I know.

Good. Now, do something for me. Do something different this week. I know you usually like to write in silence. I know you feel as if it makes you a stronger writer (trust me kid, it don’t). But just this once, write while you’re burning some of your old crappy vinyl over to MP3 instead. For this post, plug in your earphones, and write while the docile tones of your “South Sea Island Music” box set laps up against your brain. Do it, and see if you can’t end this week on a high note, OK?

OK. I will.

And hey, thanks.

My pleasure. You and I are the bestest of friends, you know. And it does my heart good to see you smiling. I love you man.

I love you too.

Good. Remember that.

Eulogy

When I was a child, I remember occasionally have night frights that would awaken me, rigid with fear. I would then creep into my parents room, edging my way up to the corner of their bed, while looking intently at my dad’s chest. I would do so until I could confirm that it was rising and lowering with breath, and only then, would I be able to shake the fright and return to my bed.

A little over a week ago, I was reminded of this as I found myself doing very much the same. I stared intently at dad’s chest. This time not so much to confirm that he was breathing, but rather, because I knew it would only be a matter of time until he was not.

My dad was almost there. Almost home. And now he’s gone. His was a very small and private service, but he is a man who needs to be known of. A man I want to share with you. I was blessed to be chosen to provide the eulogy for his service, and after the worst bout of writer’s block I have ever faced, here is what I finally decided to say:

My dad was not a great man. My dad was a Good Man. Great men quite often happen by mistake. Good men, always happen on purpose.

A while back, when dad went to Roswell for the initial biopsy of his cancer, I found myself having an afternoon tour of the facility with my mom. A tour that ended – not surprisingly – at the gift shop.

Now as you all know, dad is very much a “walk it off” type of fella – never one to show you when he’s in pain. But I still could tell on that day that he was scared. As a result, mom and I decided to buy him the only thing worth buying in the entire place – a novelty stuffed “Happy Pill.”

Just one little stuffed toy that, each and every time you squeezed it, would laugh manically for what seemed like minutes on end.

As many of you have told me, dad was a strong-willed man. A fighter. Some might even add “a bit of a grump”. As such, this Happy Pill was the sort of present that I thought would actually bug him after an initial guffaw, but instead, he took to it immediately. For whatever reason, in this one silly toy, he found a joy that visibly lifted him above the fray of whatever was going on at the time.

With its frantic giggle, he was able to envision the world as it could be. The world that he often told his grandchildren should be. A world that would result if, as he said while taping a video for Roswell Park “you did your best, and you’re leaving back hopefully some good memories.”

Over the course of his cancer experience, I was able to hear that maniacal squeal from time to time, and it always made my heart glad when I did. Not because of the thing itself, but simply because of the peace I knew it allowed for my dad.

Sadly, as his condition worsened, the toy was left more and more alone, and though still ever present, wholly silent. As in the end, dad was still surrounded by love, but Joy and Peace had to momentarily step out of the room, to allow for his passing.

Dad is now free from his earthly bonds. Joy and Peace are once again his friends, worry and doubt, vanquished from his new life. I believe that he is with our brother Jesus – who is most likely even right now asking him to stop gassing up the joint.

And dad’s Happy Pill? Well thanks to mom, it now resides with me. Now, I know that we will all remember my dad in our own way. But for me, I plan on making that silly little toy laugh in remembrance of him, a strong willed man, a Good man who – for at least a brief spell – saw the world as it could be. And as the memories he left behind are many, and good, I plan on doing so often.

And I will start today.

•••

…daD

Walk it off.

Dad, I’m walking it off for you.

Suck it up.

Dad, I’m sucking it up for you.

Be a man.

Dad, I’ll be a man for you.

Help your mother, she’ll need you.

Dad, I’m trying. I really am. But I am frost instead of ice. And I crumble at the merest touch, the lightest breath. I know that mom will need to lean on me. But right now, my shoulder feels much more like a morning dew than the Gibraltar that it lays upon.

Forgive me son, because I don’t believe Jesus can. I don’t believe he will.

Dad, I told you, the only man Jesus can’t forgive, is the man who won’t let him. You taught me that dad. You.

I’m scared son. I’m scared to die. I’m scared shitless.

I know you are dad. And I am too. You were always so huge. So much bigger than life. So – well – immortal. I think you almost believed it too. And now you’re dying, and now you’re gone. And now I’m alone. But not. I have mine. Mine, that grew out of you. You’re gone, but we carry on. You’re gone, but “You” will always be with us. You live on, in us.

I’m scared son. Your mother and I argue all the time. I’m scared. I’m afraid.

It’s OK dad. I’m afraid too. I’m afraid that J.C. will offer you a brotherly hug, and you’ll instead turn in disgrace. I’m afraid that, through your thrashing fear, you’ll first destroy the memory of 47 years with mom before you go. I’m afraid that you’ll pass, and I’ll be left here sitting mute – like so many in our family have done before – too fucking scared to ever really tell you how much I love you. Too frightened to expose myself like that. Too scared to hold you, knowing that I will then have to let you go.

I love you, dad. Not because you’re perfect. Not because you’re saved. And most definitely not because you’re right. No, I love you simply because you are you. And because years before I knew how to, you loved me first.

I never did enough.

No, you did. You gave what you could, when you could. And in the final analysis, you did so freely. Even if you might have felt otherwise at the time. And that’s why I love you.

I don’t think I’ll make it to see June.

I love you dad, and I don’t think you will either. But I will. And I will see June for you. And when we meet again someday, I will tell you all about it. OK?

Just rest till then. Please, find peace. And when we meet again someday, I will catch you up on all the Junes that followed after you. On all the June’s to follow…