Looking back, it makes sense to me that my dad was called from this Earth to be with God on Good Friday. That was seven years ago now—though it so many ways, it seems like yesterday.
A lifelong practicing Catholic and a man of deep faith, my father did not just “talk the talk”— he lived his faith every single day and worked throughout his life to be a better Christian, even in the final months of his life.
Between the raindrops—during his full-time work as a sales and marketing professional, while raising his six children and enjoying his growing brood of grandchildren, and during his retirement and wide travels around the world with his devoted wife—my father attended Mass, read the Bible, prayed the rosary, and talked a lot to all of us about trying to deepen his relationship with Jesus Christ.
In today’s culture, it’s too easy to make fun of someone’s deep faith, to demean, criticize, ostracize it—or, as we’ve seen too often lately, to “cancel” people outright for what they believe.
But my dad was rock-solid about his faith. For him, it was real, it was living and breathing, and he would have been deeply upset about the “cancel culture” we see all around us today in 2021.
He left us seven years ago now at this time of year. We were all with him, at his home, where he was immobile but in no pain, thankfully, after a fierce battle with several illnesses. It was Good Friday, around 3:30 p.m.
True to his humility, though, never, ever would Dad have “predicted” that he would leave this Earth on such a holy and solemn day in Christianity.
He was too modest to associate himself with such a significant day in the Catholic faith, a day when Jesus endured His great passion and died for a far greater purpose than Himself, died to forgive our sins and to bring us all new life.
My dad went to Mass not just every Sunday, no matter where he lived, but often on many other days of the week. During his retirement with my mom in a suburb of Philadelphia, he would sometimes take a drive and stop into their local church to spend a few moments alone in quiet prayer. He kept a Bible on his nightstand, at his table in the family room, and on the kitchen table. And, the good Christian that he was, He often went above and beyond his “duties” as a dad and helped out other family members and friends as well—people who might need someone to talk to even for a few moments, or to hear a friendly voice on the phone as they worked through a problem or an issue or an outright crisis.
People often called my dad for a bit of advice, a chat, a laugh, an idea, a shoulder. He called them, too, to ask how they were doing. In an increasingly virtual world, my dad made voice contact. He was that kind of person (you know them when you meet them).
How he made time for all of this, for all of these people, I have no idea, but if you were talking to him, you had 100 percent of his attention. It wasn’t just a salesman’s gift of forging connections with people, but a genuine consideration for those he decided to make room for in his life.
Injustice, pain, evil, horror in the world—all of that bothered him greatly. If one of his kids, grandkids, brothers, nieces, nephews or close friends was hurting, Dad felt it. We saw it on his face or heard it in his voice.
Shortly after my dad passed away, many people reached out to us to tell us what an impact he had on them. “I will always remember your father. He was a great man,” said a guy my dad had coached years and years ago (in addition to everything else, my dad was a winning basketball coach at our northern New Jersey Catholic grammar school). It’s easy to think that words like “great” and “what a guy” roll off people’s tongues in the face of sadness or tragedy—but this, somehow, felt different.
“Think about it. Your dad died on Good Friday, and my dad died on Christmas day,” said one of my cousins when we talked on the phone after Dad’s passing. We shared our losses together, the weight of our fathers’ passings and the gift of their love. Our dads were brothers—hardworking people, family men, religious, salt of the earth, strong leaders, dedicated community men. They left their mark.
On Good Friday, a most solemn day—a day when the church is stripped down, the organ is quiet, when the faithful read the passion of Christ and try their best to grasp the great cost to Jesus of winning the redemption of so many—all of us reflect deeply on our faith.
On this day, Jesus said, “It is finished.” He bowed his head and handed over His spirit to God.
Pray, get closer to God, work hard, do the right thing …
It is not a day of celebration. We need to read and pray about the passion of Christ before we get to the joy, the light, of Easter, that His actions brought us.
In his quiet, modest, humble but deeply faithful way, on this solemn day—somehow my dad left us a lasting message: Pray, get closer to God, work hard, do the right thing. Work through the difficulties to be able to come out on the other side—to the festivities, the happiness, the closeness with Your Creator, the joy, and the eternal light of God.
He didn’t say those words, but that is the lasting meaning that this grateful daughter takes from her father’s life.
That, and a ton of love—unconditional and straight from the heart.
It’s a gift of a lifetime.
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Maureen Mackey is a writer, editor, web content executive, and regular contributor to Christian News Journal. A version of this piece appeared earlier in LifeZette.