Sunday, June 20, 2010

Poppa, I miss you more than anyone knows.

Two years ago today, my sweet Dad passed over from this life to his heavenly home. Today, I drove by our childhood home and saw the house we lived in, the flower beds he so lovingly tended and the sawed off pole from which an American flag once flew daily. When I came home, my eyes filled with tears, seeing that my husband had our flag flying in Dad's memory outside our home.

When he died, I, along with my siblings, spoke at the celebration of his life. I wrote the obituary and then the handout for the services. Since then, I've not been able to write anything further about him. When I try, I am overcome with emotion and sorrow, but not regret. He knew how much I loved him. I told him often. And so, today, I share what I wrote then. Someday I will be strong enough to share more about who he was and the reasons he means so much to me. But for now, this will have to suffice.

Raymond William Matthis

December 6, 1925-June 20, 2008

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15

A Tribute to My Hero

We gather today to honor Ray, a man who need not be esteemed in death more highly than he was in life. His life was an example to all who knew him. Galatians 5:22 says, "The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These traits, or as the bible calls them, "fruit of the spirit" could easily be used to describe the man we honor here today; beloved husband, father, "Poppa", brother, uncle, neighbor and friend. His unconditional love for those of us who were fortunate enough to know and love him, and know with certainty how much he loved us, was unwavering. His generosity was unparalleled. We are quite certain that we will never know all the good deeds he did, all the checks he wrote for someone less fortunate, the pies he baked, the errands he ran, the help he offered, the quiet acts of service, the many kindnesses he extended. He was not perfect. On rare occasions he was grumpy and short tempered, but, his character was steadfast. He was quick to say "I love you" and just as quick to say, "I'm sorry" when he was wrong. His heart was soft as butter...tears sprang to his eyes easily and pride in those he loved was enormous. He was easily touched by simple acts of kindness and his wobbly chin was well known to his family and those closest to him. He was a strong, manly man with a work ethic rarely seen in our world today, but, he was also gentle and not afraid to be silly and to laugh with glee. He loved babies and roses and wood working and his tomatoes. But--most of all, he loved his family and all of us who are gathered here today to love him right back. He was faithful to his commitments, to his family, his church and his friends. If he made a promise, he kept it. He touched others deeply, whether the people he sat with at church or his favorite waitress, Angela, at the Early Bird Cafe. He had faith and he knew where his next stop would be. If he could speak to us today, he'd tell you "it's all true!" and he'd tell us to meet him on the other side. Because, just as you loved him, he loved you, too. "The gift of God is eternal life." Say yes to the gift. Be there. He'll be there to welcome you just inside the gate.

With These Hands

In late June of 2008, my beloved Father-In-Law died unexpectedly. He, at nearly 92, while trying to aid someone in need, fell and broke his hip. He later had surgery and died several days later. I believe that he died as he lived, serving others and giving his all with no thought of whether it was prudent or not. He was entirely focused on serving others along the way.

We got the call in the middle of the night that he was in respiratory failure. By the time we reached the hospital, he was gone from this world and in the presence of Jesus. We, my husband Mike, his sister Christine and I went to break the news to my Mother-In-Law, Edith at her home. When we told the caregivers there that Mike was gone, many of them burst into tears of shock and sorrow. He had been a vibrant, active man, and that he was gone was beyond comprehension to those who had so lovingly cared for him. The outopouring of love and compassion was a testimony to the impact he had on so many.

The family had lost their patriarch, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a friend. There were services to plan, legalities to be attended to, a house to sell , financial considerations to be made and Edith to be cared for and comforted. All of that threatened to overwhelm us even months later. The sorrow was still new, the wounds still fresh. We are still learning to live on earth without his presence. He is sorely missed and still in our thoughts daily.

Mike was a strong man with an infectious smile, a twinkle in his eye and enormous hands. With those hands, he spent his life serving others. He provided for his family by working whatever jobs necessary to be certain that their needs were met. He worked in a glass factory, enlisted not once, but twice, in the military during war time and traveled the world as a result. He delivered milk at the crack of dawn on the icy roads of Pennsylvania and, later, dry cleaning, on the freeways of Southern California. He once had a failed business venture with his brother, but, bounced back by creating opportunities where there weren't any to be found. He ended his full time work life selling furniture at Sears until he retired and took on a new, self-made career, that of a handyman. His focus was never on personal satisfactin but instead on doing whatever it took to provide for his family.

He worked for years into his retirement, hanging doors, painting walls, installing windows and putting up wall paper--you name it, he did it, Some jobs he got compensated for and others he just did to help someone who needed a hand. For many years, he went to the home of a sick friend to cut his hair. He also served in his church, ushering on Sunday mornings and taking care of the social hall, cleaning and even providing music for special events. He regularly gave of himself with acts of service and kindness. He was known as one who could be relied upon.

He loved music and passed that love on to his four children; Mike, Dan, Gene and Christine. In his latter years, he raved about his Bose CD player and spent hours enjoying music and sharing it with anyone else he could convince to listen. He made me tapes of music he thought I'd enjoy as a way of thanking me for small favors. Music and dancing were life long pleasures for he and Edith. They met at a dance and through the years, many a family gathering ended with the two of them dancing in the living room to favorite tunes as we all looked on with delight.

He, along with his precious Edith, raised four children who in turn produced nine grandchildren and, to date, five great grandchildren. The two of them worked together through good times and bad, to build a legacy. Our family endures today largely because of the sacrifices they made, the generosity of heart they lived out and the wisdom they shared. Together they modeled faith and faithfulness, kindness and compassion and finally, perseverance. That is Mike's lasting inheritance to all who knew and loved him. He was somewhat obsessed with leaving an inheritance to his wife and children when he was gone, and he accomplished that, but the inheritance was not merely financial. What he taught us and modeled for us is the inheritance that will endure for eternity.

With his hands, Mike served us, blessed us and built a home, a family and a life well lived. Now, his hand seems small, placed in the bigger hand of his loving, heavenly father, in his eternal home. We've received our inheritance and he has his.

Two Fathers: Two Blessings: Both Gone from us

The current Patriarch and his Mrs. 
Father's Day.  Both the husband and I mourn today the loss of the faithful men who brought us into the world, shaped us, loved us and proved to be the most enduring example of Godliness we know. Both worked hard and without complaint to provide for their families, honored their commitments and sacrificed for the good of others, most notably, us.
We are most blessed to have had fathers we dearly miss and whom we look forward to seeing again, on the other side, at the Eastern Gate. Michael Mandish, gone now 6 years and Raymond William Matthis, gone 5. We miss you both more than we can express. 

This day is a now a day of tender remembrances of you, our dear fathers. We are thankful for the impact you've had on us and on all your descendants. What a legacy you left.   We are blessed.