On Thursday, August 30th, one week after dad’s passing, we held dad’s memorial service at St. Matthews Church in Lake Worth, Florida.
We endured a long week of preparations and coordination: visits to the funeral home to order prayer cards and flowers; scheduling two priests, two interpreters, the singer, and the organist (a special thanks to Sister Dorothy with whom we couldn’t have made this happen); and writing our eulogies — all while slowly absorbing the fact that dad was truly no longer with us, that this wasn’t a dream, that he had really died. It was surreal.
Mom, Joy, and I each had a restless nights’ sleep and were feeling anxious the morning of the service. Joy and I were nervous about delivering our eulogies but we told ourselves that everything would be perfect and we would be surrounded with support, just like we’d been in the previous weeks.
The mass, it turned out, was indeed perfect. It was beautiful, touching, moving, and joyous – everything one could hope for.
Father Gabriel presided over the service along with Deacon Andy. Father Gabriel was the person who spent time with us during our week at hospice and therefore knew a bit about all of us and about dad. His homily was moving – he came down into the aisle and walked among us, he spoke about his spiritual connection he felt with dad, he talked from his heart. He held my collage that I’d made as a tribute to dad and told the story of his encounters with dad in hospice.
He said there were three “I’s” that encapsulated dad — Impact: dad had left an impact on his family and friends as Father Gabriel witnessed ; Initiative: dad exhibited a lot of initiative in his life which manifested in his creativity and his ability to take an idea and transform it into art; Influence: dad had left a legacy that would be remembered by all. His homily brought tears to many eyes.
Joy and I delivered our eulogies while Sandy interpreted for us. I don’t know if most folks know this, but dad was deaf and most of the people who attended the service were deaf also. Joy and my American Sign Language (ASL) skills are not that good, therefore, it was imperative that we had someone to interpret our eulogies, Father Gabriel’s homily, the music, and the entire mass to the attendees.
Sandy did an amazing job expressing the sentiments in our eulogies.
Caroline, another interpreter, moved many of us to tears with her ASL of Amazing Grace and Ave Maria.
A friend of the family, Betty, signed a rendition of Psalm 23, The Lord Is My Shepherd. All eyes were on her and even Father Gabriel was visibly moved. He even had her come back up to the podium so he could thank her personally.
As the service went on, I could feel my heart open, my heart sing, and the weight lift from my shoulders – it was indeed a joyous remembrance of a wonderful man – Hugo!
Afterwards, mom gave a luncheon at a local Italian eatery, Fiorella’s, that was befitting for honoring and celebrating dad. We ate some of our favorite Italian foods (eggplant parmigiana, baked ziti, chicken piccata, gnocchi, garlic bread, and Italian cookies) and talked and reminisced with friends.
The day was perfect and I’m sure dad was smiling down at us.