Friday, March 31, 2017

Rest In The Peace Of Christ

To my son Tommy,

This morning your grandfather, Leo Thomas Downey III, passed into eternal life. We woke you to come say your goodbyes but you had already made your peace with his passing. You gave his body a quick kiss and went back downstairs to bed. For this action, I know your grandpa would consider you the smart one of the bunch.

Here is something I wrote out  to submit to the newspaper, preparing for your Grandpa Leo's death.

21 May 1948 – 31 March 2017
Leo Thomas Downey III (U.S. Army Major Retired) passed the morning of Friday the 31st of March in his home surrounded by loved ones after an extended two and a half year battle with stage four glioblastoma brain cancer.
He is survived by his wife of forty five years Rosemarie “Ro” Ann Downey (nee Klein), his only son Leo Thomas Downey IV, his daughter in law Kathleen “Cassie” Downey (nee Frazier),  his grandson Thomas Leo Downey, his mother Jeanne Downey (nee Kidwell), his three brothers Kevin Downey, Sean Downey, and Padraig “Paddy” Downey and their families that were so dear to him, his aunt Sheila Melzac (nee Downey), his uncle John Downey, and many cousins and in-laws and nephews and nieces and grand nephews and grand nieces and friends too numerous to mention but each very dear to him. He lived a very adventurous and blessed life filled with joy and happiness as he delighted in the most simple pleasures and curious oddities and the love of his very extended family.
My father has donated his body to science and there will be no official funeral services at this immediate time. A memorial mass will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers or other such common gestures accompanied with death, I believe my father would appreciate it if you were to give a little more in your local church collection basket or poor box and say a prayer for his soul as you do so. If you have time and feel so inclined, he would have also encouraged you to go to confession and remind you it is never to late to return to your faith. Otherwise, celebrate his life with a smile on your face, a gluten free drink in your hand, and a colander on your head.
Thank you.
Sincerely Leo Thomas Downey IV.

So that is what I came up with. Trust me there is so much more to this man than any announcement in any publication can handle. Listing all those that he touched, all those that he loved, all those that will grieve his loss, would fill an entire section of the paper. With his selfless final donation, there are no viewings and no time or place for others to send their condolences, at least not now. So for now we will have to just keep on keeping on. Perhaps that is the way he meant it to be.

Sincerely with love and sadness,
from your dad,

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Look With Your Heart

To my son Tommy,

I realize yesterday's letter was filled with a large amount of despair. In troubling times, we often find ourselves with these feelings. This letter today is inspired by today's Holy Mass and  influenced by all the outpouring of loving gestures, big and small, near and far, that have come in, and encouraged by some responsive moments with your Grandpa Leo this very morning.

Many will look at your Grandfather Leo and say, "How sad. He is just a shell of what he used to be." They will compare their memories of then to what they see now. These people are looking with their eyes, yet they can't see.

"I once was blind, but now I see". Through God's mercy and grace, I have been taught to see with my heart and I see something very different. When I look at my father, I still see Christ's strength, a strength that your grandfather personified each and every day of his life. I now also see Christ's struggle. I see Christ's suffering. And most importantly, I see, or perhaps foresee, Christ's triumph over death and His promise for us to do the same.

As I look with my heart at those who share their love and prayers and care for your grandfather, I see them differently. I see them as caretakers, even if they aren't here changing his linens, or administering his medications. It could be a kind word. It could be a call or post. It could be a prayer or hug from afar. In all these actions, I see God's mercy. I see God's compassion. I see God's love. My father has become an instrument in which we can all receive God's saving grace and bear witness to such, as long as we look from our hearts.

I still don't understand death, and won't fully understand it until the day after I pass. This world will definitely be a little less when your Grandpa Leo finally passes. But this world is already immensely better off for him having lived. So when you look with your eyes, and fill with despair, and lose faith, stop and look with your heart and there you will find hope. There you will find Jesus. Perhaps there you will find the only true peace and comfort that can soothe you during times like this.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Time To Prepare

To my son Tommy,

I have had time prepare. I mean your Grandpa Leo has been on hospice for nearly three weeks. That is three weeks to come to terms and get used to the idea that I will soon lose my father from this earth. I mean he has had this terminal diagnosis for twenty nine months. That is twenty nine months to come to terms with his impending demise. Hell, technically, I have had nearly forty three years to try to figure out death and come to terms with the fact that we all die and that life in and of itself is a terminal disease.

Then why, if I have had all this time to ready myself for the inevitable, does it become so much more difficult as that time draws nearer and nearer? In all these years, I feel like I am more bewildered and more lost when it comes to death than I ever have been. I have nothing to give you, no words of wisdom, no comfort, that will make this any easier and I realize that no one in this world will be able to give me what I crave to give you. The will try to give words of comfort but right now to me they are meaningless. You will look to me for comfort and how to handle and what pearls of wisdom can I give you?The only thing I can say is this really sucks. Not exactly Socrates or Dylan Thomas.

It probably won't be long now. Your Grandpa Leo is having difficulty swallowing which means he can't take his meds and he hasn't been eating much. A hospice nurse is on her way to most likely instruct us on the imminent death protocol. He is resting comfortably in this picture and hopefully will remain at peace.

Sincerely with love from your dad,