If there is any account in Scripture or in the lives of the saints with which my Dad’s life could be identified, it would be the account of St. Francis of Assisi and his brother friars on a preaching mission during which they spoke no words but preached all day by spending the day doing good for others.
Unlike myself, my Dad was not “big” on verbally communicating his faith, theology, issues or feelings, and this could be frustrating at times, especially when he was sick and Mom and I would try to help him. He was sociable and spoke with neighbors, and he often spoke about what was going on in the lives of others—never in the form of gossip but always in a spirit of human interest and compassionate concern. Dad was more interested in the needs of others and put their well-being ahead of his own. Dad focused more on PRACTICAL needs of family, friends, parish and community and things that are sometimes taken for granted and usually of little concern to me or some other people: he faithfully brought in not only our family’s garbage cans but those of his neighbors, he stood outside searching for parking spaces for me and for whoever was visiting, he called 311 to check on alternate side of the street parking regulations, to report potholes, and to report dead trees, and he faithfully fed cats and birds that entered our family’s backyard.
Dad was an alum of St. Francis Prep, and only after my becoming a Secular Franciscan did he reveal some sort of connection with entrance into the Secular Franciscan Order as part of his high school experience. I realize now how much his life, whether he realized it or not, was based on the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words. I can’t ever remember Dad talking about his prayer life, but I definitely saw him praying! Once he retired he made it a practice to attend daily Mass whenever possible, and when it became more difficult he and Mom watched Masses every day on our diocesan prayer channel and EWTN. He also prayed the rosary, both privately in silence and along with our bishop on NET. His verbal teaching was about a lot of practical things, but his life taught me about service, about obedience to God and the Church, about humility, about compassion, and about generosity. When he was financially able he was generous to our parish, and the day before his last trip to the hospital he wrote out checks for the church envelopes for the entire month of August. Dad didn’t like money spent on himself—he always said he had enough clothes-but he was quick to write a check to me or any other family member in need. Dad never stood on ceremony and never considered himself above menial tasks. He was definitely “no frills” and “down to earth”, even a little “rough around the edges”. He never talked about or made a show of his good deeds but was quick to do whatever he could whenever help was needed. His “transportation ministry” consisted not only of driving a daughter prone to colds to school on cold, windy, snowy or rainy mornings and driving my Mom and my Grandma to doctor’s visits but also transporting family members and friends to and from our home and family and friends to doctor’s appointments. Whenever Dad heard of anyone needing a ride, his immediate response—even before being asked—was “Geez, I’ll take you!” even when it meant rising early in the morning after only a few hours of sleep after working the 4PM to midnight shift.
Although he spoke very little about it, I frequently heard Dad worrying about family members and saw a little bit of moisture and redness in his eyes that revealed his deep concern.
Dad did not speak about philosophical, theological, or Church issues and did not like to question anything in these areas. He simply obeyed faithfully and loyally, and one of his deepest concerns was for the spiritual well-being and faithfulness to Mass attendance and Church teaching by family members.
Although I wish Dad and I could have shared more in words, there are a few memories of father-daughter dates that I will always cherish. Dad’s “I love you”s were mainly spoken in making sure I had enough gasoline in my car and enough air in my tires and checking my oil. There are many of his jokes and expressions that have become part of my verbal repertoire. And in my mind and heart Dad will always be with me to remind me to take out the garbage and recycling, close the gate, take my foot off the gas pedal and “let it roll” to save gas when I’m several feet away from a light that is red or about to turn red, and a myriad of other practical things.
In his own simple, unassuming “no frills” way, my Dad made a positive impact on the lives of others and lived the Gospel life, loving God and neighbor, throughout 91 years of life and 64 years of a loving, faithful marriage to my Mom. That is his legacy, and I hope and pray that the LORD has already welcomed Dad into his heavenly home.
© Copyright 2014 by Arlene B. Muller