Friday, June 14, 2013

My father was a successful man

In memory of Gabriel William Micchelli, devoted husband and world-class father, jovial brother and uncle, expert hairdresser, World War II veteran, Italian chef, amateur artist, wanna-be crooner, and Christ-follower 1925 - 2001

It was Monday, January 22, 2001 and I was just bringing in the bags from the Shoprite when the phone rang.  It was my mom and she was weeping.  "The nurse says dad is going to die today."  Thus brought on an hour of denial, as I tried to connect with the nurse and the doctor to find out what was wrong and what they could do for him as I packed my bag.  After my bag was packed and I was getting ready to leave, mom called one last time.  "Dad is gone," she said, "please hurry."

I drove down the parkway alone as I had done many times during the last eight years to visit them.  They had moved to the retirement community of my mom's dreams, but dad had already started drifting away to Alzheimer's disease.  They call it "the slow goodbye" and it was.  It was also a thief.  It stole my dad's vigor and good humor, his cheerfulness and wit, his mind, his language and eventually his life.  In the end, he would only have one or two phrases he would repeat.  One of them was "Louise, let's go home, Louise," he would say.  And as I was driving, yelling at the doctors in my mind, God reminded me gently of this phrase, and told me it was a prayer that He answered for him.  Dad was tired and wanted to go home.  So God took him home.

Later at his funeral, many of his family would say, "Gabe, he was so good!  This should not have happened to him."  And my father was good, no doubt.  But as he was just beginning to struggle with this disease, he would say to me, "Barbara, some people say: why me?  But why not me?"  Yes, he was afraid, frustrated, angry and confused, but he was also surrendered to God's will and confident is God's ultimate care for him.  I picture him now in heaven, at the table with Jesus and his mom, and his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, having dinner, laughing, singing, joyfully, peacefully waiting for us to join them.

My father was a successful man.  He may not have had a big home, nor a fancy car, but he had a loving family and enjoyed his job.  He loved God and had the comfort of His love, and the confidence of salvation.  Dad believed what Paul wrote to Timothy: Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. [1 Tim 6:6-8]  Dad had us, his little brick house and he was content.  He wanted for nothing else.

My father was a powerful man.  He was not a corporate VP, he held no public office, he never wrote a book, or even a blog post.  Dad's power came from his servant's heart.  Dad believed and lived the words of Jesus when He said: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [Matt 20:25-28]  Dad was always there for us and you always knew where he was and how to reach him, even before the days of cell phones.  During the day, he was at his hairdressing shop.  After that, he was home.  You could call him any time for any reason and he would come, no lectures, no strings, and he would help.  On Sundays he cooked dinner for the family and after dinner, Al would have to go straight to work, and I would drive home with two toddlers and the dog.  He would follow me home in his own car and carry the girls inside the house for me.  Dad served until he was physically unable to, and then he mourned because he still wanted to do more.

My father was a passionate man.  He was not one to give diamonds and furs, but he gave of himself.  He loved us passionately.  He enjoyed himself passionately.  He did everything passionately: cooking, sharing meals, taking us out to dinner, to the beach, taking mom out dancing and going on trips with her.  He loved to tell jokes and to sing, often making up nonsense songs, making us all laugh.  Dad never gave me any expense gifts, but he gave me the best gift ever, the gift that keeps on giving: his total, full-out, unconditional love.  And his love gives me confidence every day and I am still grateful for that.

My father was a good man.  But not because of the good he did, because my father was quite aware of his imperfections.  He knew he was not good enough and so he trusted Jesus to save him and complete him, to come into his heart.  During his long illness, dad's soul and spirit was hidden in the cleft of the Lord's rock.  Dad lived what David said: I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust. [Psalm 18:1-2]

Dad used to spend time with catholic nuns because he used to cut their hair.  He told me that they explained the sacrament of Confirmation to him in this way: In Confirmation God gives you a gift of salvation, and it is yours to have, to keep, and to enjoy.  But it is a wrapped gift and you must open it up or doesn't do you any good.  So many people keep this gift under their bed or in the back of a closet and never use it.  My dad opened his gift and wore it for all the world to see.  Dad's goodness came not only his own heart, but also from his Savior.

So dad would say to you today: OPEN YOUR GIFT! Do not wait or hesitate because life is short and uncertain.  Tell Jesus you know you are not good enough but you believe and trust that HE is.  And Jesus will save for you the white and shining robe that my dad wears today.
Dad with two of his favorite girls, sister Tillie and mom

To my family: please know that Dad would be very sad, passionately sad; if you did not because he is waiting for you to join him at the table in heaven.  But as sad as he would be, it could not come as close to how sad Jesus would be. 

Thank You Jesus for the gift of my dad.  Thank you for his love, encouragement, prayers and his example.  Help me to be more like him, more passionate, more trusting in You, more humble, more willing to serve others without expecting anything in return, because I can trust that in You, I have everything.

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