God’s Hall of Fame

best friend
My Dad with his best friend Caesar

My mother passed away in August 2010; she died in the middle of the night in an assisted living facility not far from our home.  My father passed away 24 hours ago; he died peacefully in his own bed in this house just like he wanted to.  He was two months shy of his 93rd birthday.

Care giving has been the most challenging task I have ever engaged in, physically, emotionally and spiritually, yet I emerged stronger in each of those three pillars when it was over.

I remember the first time I hiked to the summit of Mt. Wasson with my friend Bill from Colorado in 2011 or so.  We talked a lot about care giving.  By that time, I had already been doing it for two years, and I was uncomfortable with it.  I remember Bill telling me, “Just take it easy.  When this is all over, you will be glad you did it.”  In my shameful weariness I responded, “No I won’t Bill ….”

That became my unfortunate mantra during the ensuing years.  “No I won’t Bill …”  I fell deeper into that funk as the years passed.  I second-guessed every decision I made, always concerned but never convinced I was doing the right thing for my father.  It was affecting my family and everyone around me.  I reached the bottom when my granddaughter asked me one day not too many months ago, “Dziadek, do you ever smile?”

Perfect creatures

Mrs. tVM and I walked into his room at 4AM yesterday morning to administer his medication.  I stared at his lifeless body as she put her hand to her mouth to contain the sob.  I placed my hand on his forehead.  He was cold.  We stood by his bedside for several minutes coming to terms with the fact that his spirit had departed.  Mrs. tVM had left the window open just a crack this past week for that very purpose.

My father’s biggest fear was that he would die in a hospital.  The peaceful look on his face assured me that when God sent his angel to carry my father through the crack in the window, he left with a smile on his face and looked back on us with tenderness and said, “Thank you.”

Twenty-four hours later, I still remember that conversation with Bill.  “You’ll be glad you did …”  “No I won’t Bill …”  As I recall that conversation, I realize that Bill was right and I was wrong.  I sit here today at peace with myself.  Bill was right.  I’m glad I did what I did.  No one and no thing can ever change my mind.

Care giving is not an easy thing.  While it brought out the worst in me, I am certain it also brought out the best in me.  I know I am stronger physically, spiritually and emotionally than I have ever been in my life.  I have my father to thank for that.

When Bill responded to my email yesterday informing him that my father had passed, he sent a link to an interview with Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson’s masterpiece The Passion.  “I’m sending you a video that might be helpful at this time,” he wrote, “I found it to be extraordinary.”  Mrs. tVM and our youngest son sat quietly for 30+ minutes and watched it.  Once again, Bill was right:  the video was helpful and quite extraordinary.

I invite you to watch it.  If you are on a time crunch, please pick up the discussion at the 37th minute and watch it until the end.  Mr. Caviezel concludes with a poem by Walt Huntley, a poem that legendary Coach John Wooden quoted at his hall of fame induction.  It’s called God’s Hall of Fame.  I think that is where my father is right now.

Mitakuye Oyasin

God’s Hall of Fame 
by Walt Huntley

Your name may not appear down here
In this world’s Hall of Fame,
In fact you may be so unknown
That no one knows your name;
The Oscars and the praise of men
May never come your way,
But don’t forget God has rewards
That he’ll hand out someday.

This Hall of Fame is only good
As long as time shall be;
But keep in mind, God’s Hall of Fame
Is for eternity;
To have your name inscribed up there
Is greater more by far
Than all the fame and all the praise
Of ev’ry man-made star.

This crowd on earth they soon forget
When you’re not up at the top,
They’ll cheer like mad until you fall
And then their praise will stop;
Not God, He never does forget,
And in His Hall of Fame,
By just believing on His Son,
Forever – there’s your name.

I tell you, friend, I wouldn’t trade
My name, however small,
That’s written there beyond the stars
In that celestial Hall,
For all the famous names on earth,
Or glory that they share;
I’d rather be an unknown here,
And have my name up there.

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  1. Ah ! At last I had the time, no, took the time, to re read your well expressed email, Gene and I took the time to watch the John Caviezel interview — the most important 39 minutes that I have spent for quite some time, I would have responded here sooner, but I felt so compelled to forward this to older family members and to dear Christian sisterinlaws. Many blessings for us in your sharing your experience and this extraordinary witness of the exchange of love between God and John Caviezel.

  2. Gene, this is the most, the best way to share God’sWord, EVER. Thank you for sharing! Iam forwarding this clip to all my e’contacts.
    The actor who SO put on Christ…I’m sure he don’t mind my forgetting his name! His name, and yours and your dad’s and and mine and ALL God’s beloved creatures are in His infinite HEART. Thakns again! My brother, Gene. By the way! The actor looks like the spitting image of my brother, when he was that age. God bless you! Alwayd, Michelle rjm

    1. Sister Michelle, his name is Jim Caviezel. I am glad you took time to watch the interview. It has helped me through this week. We are doing fine because as Caryll Houselander says, “God lives in each of us.”

  3. Dear Gene and family, I bring you my sincere sympathy, and admire your openness, sharing your grief and relief with all or us. We, my community and I will offer our Mass in our chapel, for “my friend Gene’s father”…I don’t know his name, but God knows… 🙂 God bless you and yours as you mourn your dad’s “upgrade”, and know that this year’s Fathers’ Day will be “different for you all. He, your dad, undoubtedly will be blessing you from his new level of existence…. I will watch and listen to the video tomorrow a.m. With loving prayers, Michelle rjm PS what’s happening with Ceasar??? your dad’s dog? Was he with your dad when you found him? is that picture right? Ceasar will miss his bff and I hope you and yours will lovingly care for him??? xo

    1. Thanks for you thoughts and prayers, Sister Michelle. My dad’s name is Howard. No, Caesar is our dog and he is our best friend. He came to us in 2007 in Missouri. He is an American Bulldog. Animals are more spiritual and sensitive than we are. Caesar was always very comforting to my father. He is the youngest of our three dogs.

  4. Steve and I are so sorry for the loss of your dad! We remember him well when he and your mom would attend the soccer games with you and your family!

    Take care and know you are all in our thoughts and prayers!

    Kathy

  5. Gene,
    You gave your father and mother your love and care. Sometimes in expanding love, sometimes in challenging difficulty. William Blake, the poet, said that we are placed on earth to learn to bear the beams of love. You and Marie have borne it well!
    Paul

    1. As Stephen King wrote in The Stand, “With God on our side, we will stand.” I have fallen many times. Perhaps that is why I am so drawn to the seventh station. I thank God every day that I have people like you to encourage me to get back on my feet. I have been strengthened in every aspect of my life by an experience that I will forever cherish.