My dad fighting back the tears on my wedding day; now it's my turn.
Three weeks ago today, we buried my father, the patriarch of our family, my spiritual advisor, my daddy. Words cannot express the sorrow felt, the hole experienced, when laying to rest a godly, loving, always present parent. Death does have a sting; the comfort and peace comes from knowing it is only temporary.
Some of you who subscribe to my website, I know personally. Many of you, though, never met my dad. Some of you know me only through my writing. Regardless, I want all of you to know a little something about my father.
Therefore, I am sharing with you today the words I spoke before his Requiem Mass. There are so many more stories I could tell, so many more of his words of wisdom I could impart. I am sure in time, some of those stories and words of wisdom will come out in future writings. For my father is very much a part of me. Much of what I have inside me was given to me by him. Indeed, my father reflected very well the love and wisdom of my Heavenly Father. And so, I present to you a little bit of my dad.
On behalf of my mother, Cookie, my sister, Kathy, and my brother, Rick, thank you all for being here. Thank you for all your prayers and out-pouring of love over the last few but very long and difficult days. They have carried us through.
My father made it very clear that he did not want a eulogy. Well, I never really did obey my father very well. Wait, actually, that was Rick! I would argue with my parents until I was blue in the face, and then ended up doing what they wanted (most of the time). I guess that makes Kathy the perfect child. She should be up here. But then again, Dad didn’t want to be eulogized, so she it makes sense that she isn’t.
My father would often say, “Do not canonize me when I die. I am a sinner in need of prayers. Tell everyone to pray for me.” So, here I am asking you to pray for my dad.
I know what some of you are thinking – Goodness! if Richard is not in heaven, then what chance do I have? To which my father would probably say, get on your knees and pray, Ask Jesus what it is you need to work on! We all have something.
Let there be no doubt - Jesus Christ is my Dad’s Lord and Savior. My father had a personal, deeply intimate, and sacramental relationship with God. And he had a great love for Mother Mary.
But my dad was not perfect. He would not want me to be up here pretending he was. He would want you to know he had faults and failings.
Heaven is God’s perfect home, filled with perfect love, joy, and peace because it is full of God’s perfect presence. We cannot even begin to imagine how wonderful it is! If Dad were to enter heaven right away, it would no longer be perfect because he was not perfect. That’s what he would want me to say to you.
He would want you to know that he is being washed by the Blood of the Lamb. But it is not like the kind of nice, warm, bubble bath that I like to wash in. Both St. Peter in his first letter to the universal church and St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians described this process of purification as a fire. Not the fires of Hell, mind you, but what we Catholic call Purgatory.
In Purgatory, my father is being purged of his imperfections and being made clean and ready for the marriage banquet of the Lamb! I do not suppose it will be long. Nonetheless, he asked for your prayers.
So, sometime today and maybe tomorrow and even the day after that, say a prayer for the repose of my dad’s soul. Have a Mass said for him. Pray a Hail Mary, or simply say, “Jesus, have mercy.” This is what my father would want you to do for him; this is what he wanted me to ask of you. By the way, he promises that if he is already in heaven, he will ask God to send the graces from those prayers right back down upon you.
Now that I have done what my father wanted – kinda, I will now do as my mom asked. She wants me to tell you of Dad’s great love for God and his family… and to tell a funny story. Again, Kathy should be up here; she’s the funny one.
My father, as many of you know, was a faith-filled man. That faith spilled over onto us, his family, and to all those who he worked with, lived near, or who happened to engage him in a conversation for any length of time. I do not ever recall my father not sharing his faith any chance he would get.
On Sundays, when we were young, after going to church and Sunday school, my father would sit down with us, one-on-one, and go over the Baltimore Catechism. First Rick, then Kathy, and often after dinner was my turn. Boy, had I better know those answers, because if not, he would go over them, and over them, and over them. And I might miss my favorite TV show, Lassie.
In the convent, though, those catechism lessons paid off. Soon after entering, the Novice Mistress gave us a doctrine test to see how much of our Catholic Faith we knew. I did well. As a matter of fact, I may have been an over-achiever. “What are the 6 holy days of obligation?” Wait! What, there only 6? Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Ash Wednesday, St. Patrick’s Day aren’t holy days of obligation? Well, maybe not in God’s house, but in the Hauf house they were. (And in the Guest house, now, too – except St. Patrick’s Day.)
You know, though, for my father, the 10 Commandments and Church Laws were not rules to be followed. Following them were ways he could show God how much he loved Him. He was happy to go to Mass, not only on Sundays, but every day he could. He not only loved God, Dad knew he needed Him.
When he started on the police force, his sergeant told him, “The dumber you are in this department, the higher you go.” After 24 years, my dad retired as a major! He knew he was going to go far! After his retirement, he headed up security at CCBC for a few years. But the job he LOVED the most was working with the Dominican sisters at Mount DeSales Academy. Once, the sisters gave my father a new smart phone to replace the old flip phone he had been using for years. After a week or 2, he took it back and said, “Sister, don’t ever give a smart phone to a dumb man.”
My humble father was not a dumb man, despite his self-deprecating humor. As a young man, he wanted to be a professional bowler (ok, that might have been a little dumb). But then, a pretty girl caught his eye one evening at the bowling alley. He was wise enough to ask her out for a milkshake. My father’s life would never be the same. It was so much better than he could have imagine it would be. He loved my mother beyond words. And she him, taking care of him to the very end. Their love was fruitful. The 2 became 5, became 22, now 23. And the love will continue to grow. We are his legacy. We are the signs of his great love and faithfulness.
To the many of you who have sent words of condolences, prayers, and Mass cards, thank you. There are so many that it will take me a while to write to each of you. Please know, though, that the graces you send to my dad and my family are appreciated beyond words. I am truly overwhelmed by your generosity and thoughtfulness. God bless you.