Post date: Sep 09, 2018 4:28:21 PM
On a cold January day in 1974 a baby boy was born and along with him joy was ushered into the lives of his young parents who had prayed and anticipated his arrival for years. Today that child, now a man, leaves sorrow and a hollow longing with each of us here today. Sorrow does not mean we have lost hope or lost faith—but it does mean we have lost a kindhearted coworker, an old friend, a new friend, a beloved nephew, a favorite cousin, a fun-loving uncle, a cherished Godson, a big brother, and that precious baby boy who arrived just 44 years ago.
Each of you has gotten to know my brother Patrick in so many different capacities, but no matter how you knew him or for how long, chances are one word stands out in your mind that describes him: FUNNY. This quote posted by Patrick will give you a glimpse into the flavor of his humor, it reads, “I aspire to mediocrity. Why shoot for the stars, when the ceiling is right there?”
He was never afraid to laugh at himself—especially if it made the people around him have a good chuckle, too. He was the eternal host and went to great lengths to entertain a crowd and keep people happy. While Patrick was not a large fellow, he lived large, he loved large and he laughed—boy did he laugh. He made me laugh. He made you laugh. That was his gift to each of us to keep and to pay forward.
But a life cannot live on laughter alone. He had a deeper side and it showed up in his amazing art. I’ll never forget the gigantic wooden three-dimensional star that he took home from a discarded display when he worked at the Disney store. In perfect, creative Patrick style he turned trash into treasure. The star got a coat of solid purple paint on every surface. On one side he painted Aladdin and Jasmine riding a magic carpet. On the other side he painted the words of a poem he wrote for the girl he was dating at the time. That was Patrick. He went out of his way for grand, romantic gestures, to create something special and to put his heart and soul into gifts for family and friends. He was a jolly old generous soul.
Patrick struggled in more recent years as his health continued to decline. He truly did suffer for so long and yet his sense of humor was never far from the surface. His love for art and music and a good movie continued to be mainstays in his life. When we moved from Melrose to Wakefield—my brothers showed up in their new jackets: Ryan rocking Michael Jackson’s Thriller threads while Patrick got his mean on in Michael Jackson’s Beat It style. My brothers learned fast that just a town away can be a world away when youth “fashion” is concerned.
Then there was the time when we visited an aunt who was elderly and whose sight was failing. Patrick was going through his long-hair stage and refused to cut it thinking it paired well with the long, black trench coat he wore. When our aunt looked at each of us with her limited vision and then turned to Patrick and asked, “Now, who is this nice girl over here?” Patrick couldn’t help but laugh along with the rest of us who, of course, were in hysterics.
Having a sense of humor is mandatory in our family and Patrick polished humor to high art. He could talk to a hole in the wall and be quite charming about it. His stories were like live performances that you hoped you’d get a seat for. Stories and conversations were only interrupted occasionally to dole out carefully crafted compliments and undercurrent insults in equal measure to friends and family alike—but the insults were always so hilarious and innocently accurate that you had to laugh, especially since he was sport enough to often include himself as a target. His compliments left the person on the receiving end, smiling and seeing themselves in a brighter light. Pat lived to please.
He hosted “Football Sundays” at our parent's house and then his house despite knowing next to nothing about football but seeing it as a good excuse to get together with his friend Carl and brother-in-law George among other friends and family who happened to be available on a Sunday afternoon to eat, drink and yell at the television. Patrick was never a big sports player or fan, but in addition to leveraging football as an excuse to socialize, he wanted something to share with his hockey-loving friends. So, he decided to route for the Tampa Bay Lightning. His sole reason for getting behind that team was because he liked their team colors the most. Isn’t that how everybody picks a team to cheer for?
When you think of color and Patrick many of us think: purple. When we think purple, maybe some of us think Prince. Patrick loved music. He loved Prince. He had every album. Patrick and his long-time friend Carrie always found the time, the money and the tickets to go to concerts for everything from Tori Amos to Lindsey Buckingham and, of course, Prince. Pat loved music so much he was known to grab the occasional microphone and belt a few tunes out at karaoke. Maybe some of you remember his Michael McDonald phase. And, I can see why he liked him. It’s good stuff. Pat liked good stuff.
Patrick had an answer for everything even if it was not the answer you were hoping for. My mother loves to tell of the time when he was a young boy and his swim instructor picked him up out of the water while turning to the parents in the bleachers to ask, “Who does this one belong to?” My mother hesitantly raised her hand, to which the instructor replied, “He’s trying to bargain with me!” My brother had been trying to offer up alternative options in lieu of having to swim the entire length of the pool as he was being instructed to do. Yes—that was Patrick. There was nothing to do but laugh about it and maybe even be a little impressed—the kid had guts.
Speaking of guts—Patrick has always had a love of all things horror and Halloween. He even had a subscription to Fangoria magazine. That was a bit of a bummer for a sister who was scared of her own shadow—but that was a bonus for both of my brothers as they teamed up to scare me with every jump, scream, and bug-eyed expression always satisfyingly authentic. Pat loved theatrics and so Halloween was the perfect holiday for him with his artistic touches and unique ideas for every costume. Good times! Good sister-scaring times.
But--he’s gone now. What can we do?
I don’t have the answers for you. There is no app for this. There is no quick fix or button to press. But, there is always faith and honesty to fall back on. There is the ability to be present, to feel uncomfortable, to act awkwardly. There is being human in all its wonderful, horrible intricacies. And so, I and my family thank you all for being present even if you feel uncomfortable and fear you’ll act awkwardly. We all do, but the love shines through. Death is the thing we all try to avoid at all costs and yet it is the one thing that can really shake us out of our stupor and remind us to live honestly and with faith. Faith is what is going to bring my family through this. Faith is the one thing we can rely on when we humans disappoint each other—as we always will—being human and all.
So, we ask for your prayers and to share in our faith that our Holy Father and Mother have been just as eagerly anticipating the arrival of the same baby boy, now a man, who arrived here among us 44 years ago. We have to have faith that They love him as every father and mother love their own flesh and blood, accepting him into their forgiving and loving arms with gratitude that he has arrived to live out an eternity with them and with a welcoming crowd’s-worth of friends and relatives—my dad among them—in paradise.
So, please pray. Pray for Patrick. No matter if you’ve never prayed before—pray for him. Pray for his soul and for each of us here today that we will grow to understand we are unconditionally loved no matter how we leave. Pat’s leaving fills us with sadness, but his arriving can fill us with solace if we let go and allow it.
I was telling my friend how I found several blank canvases in Patrick’s apartment. I took them home to hang as a poetic way to pay homage to the canvas that was my brother’s life that seems unfinished. The art he will no longer make. The joke he will no longer deliver. The generous spirt we will no longer be on the receiving end of. There was so much left, still, for him to create and accomplish.
Yet, while I was seeing things through the lens of loss and emptiness, Emily pointed out the potential of a blank canvas and how it can also be seen as a symbol of hope. Potential. Endless possibilities. We don’t have to dwell on the unfinished. We can choose to focus, instead, on the hope and potential that each of us—with canvases yet to fill—have sitting right in front of us today and every day. We can choose to be inspired by my brother and to get out a brush and paint the canvas each of us has been given. Fill it up with color and meaning, passion and laughter, and most of all: love.