I received a group email from a special aunt who wanted to share a poem written by her oldest brother. If my father were still with us today, he would immediately give this prose top honors and initiate his brother into his "world famous" P.O.E.T.S society which met regularly on Fridays at Mulligans bar. My dad's brother reached out to comfort a precious sister in her time of loss. This year she became a widow for the second time in her life. It's not easy for men to share their emotions. I recall my own father apologizing to me for his abundant tears he shed as we reunited after years of separation. This was the only time I ever saw my father cry.
Later that day he said, "Son, I'm really sorry I broke down in front of you. I didn't mean to fall apart like that. I was just so happy to see you and I couldn't control myself."
If Jesus, the Son of God can weep, I think it's okay for us men to let our emotions out once in a while. It happened to me yesterday as I read my aunt's email sharing about the sadness she feels from her loss. Bing Crosby was singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," reminding me of my father's voice and the last time I would ever hear it. Tears spilled out as old memories returned and I was forced to pull over to clear my eyes. It's not a sign of weakness to cry, it's a window opening up, revealing a tender heart.
In the last twenty four hours of my father's life, he stopped talking. His body was shutting down. His sister called to speak to him one last time and we told her he could no longer talk.
"Put the phone up to his ear and let me say a few words to him," my aunt said.
"Pat, this is your sister. You have always been a loving brother to me and I just want you to know how much I love you."
My aunt continued speaking while my father remained still. His eyes were closed and he appeared as if he were in a deep sleep. His breathing was slow, almost non-existent. Then he took in one deep breath and opened his mouth to speak.
"I love you, too, Peggy," my father said using his frail voice.
He never spoke again and passed away within twenty four hours of his last phone conversation. His sister was comforted one last time by a brother who was headed to his final destination. This was his final act, a gesture of love which he performed using his last ounce of energy.
Yesterday, my aunt received another gift, a poem written by a loving brother, the patriarch of this Mulligan clan. Should I ever get permission from it's author, I will post this poem for all to see. My dad's siblings, brothers and sisters alike, are all icons, role models for the generations that follow, a great multitude that will walk in their footsteps. I have known them all my life and as I mature, I discover more and more about how special they are. My prayer is that my memoir helps them to keep memories alive of their brother and that they discover just how fulfilling his life was in his final thirty five days.
As I contemplate the lives of my dad's siblings, I marvel at what they have done with their lives. That same brother that composed the loving poem for his sister could be enjoying quiet retirement, however, he chooses to write books that educate the next generation of orthodontic professionals using his "common sense mechanics." He is the oldest practicing orthodontist in the United States and he continues to travel worldwide to speak. His books have been translated in many languages. When I think of him, I focus on what he did for me and my family when we were growing up. I think about how he overcame all the stereotypes about how real men are supposed to act. He chose to take time out of his busy schedule to write something from his heart to his precious sister.
I once asked my uncle, 'how can I repay you for all that you have done for me, the free braces, the lessons about financial planning, the life lessons you taught me, and all the kind things you did for my family while we were growing up?'
"The best thing you can do is pass it on to others," he replied.
That is the kind of family I come from. That is the reason my cousins are so special. They know how to come together when another family member needs help,
If you have a brother or sister that you haven't reached out to in a while, pick up the phone and give them a call. If you want to be a true maverick, send them a poem. You can change the world with your kindness and a great place to start is with a sibling.