Ashes to Ashes (A Progressive Wake)

Today is my 59th birthday. Happy Birthday to me. Last Saturday, I attended a funeral. It’s getting a little close to home.

The only way for me to deal with death is to laugh. I hate death. I hate sadness. I don’t like crying. I don’t like being in a room with lots of sad people. So, I want to prevent that at my funeral.

Now, some may say it’s unlikely there will be much sadness at my funeral, but I’m trying to be optimistic.

I don’t want a preacher with a couple of readings and a generic homily with my name stuck in a few places.

I don’t want a “Celebration of Life” since that just means “boring-ass funeral.”

So, I want my services to be fun (or at least different.)

One of the interesting (or bizarre) aspects of cremation is that the ashes don’t have to end up in only one container. More than one of the bereaved can receive a portion of the deceased as a memento (“souvenir” seemed crass.) For an extra fee, you can have ashes sealed in a locket, so you can match your relatives to your outfit.

This has been discussed twice now, coincidentally at two different Italian funerals. This is why so many Churches in Italy have so many pieces of so many Saints. Divide and conquer.

I am planning to be cremated when my time comes, and hopefully not before. Since I am not a small person, there may be an excess of ashes. So, this is my last request, which my wife predictably refuses to honor.

Wait for my wife to be acquitted of my murder on grounds of temporary (or permanent) insanity.

Cremate me. First, put some microwave popcorn in my pockets so I have a snack while crossing the River Styx, then cremate me.

Divide my ashes into ten urns. There aren’t ten people who care enough to want a piece of me – again, see the Italians: “You wanna piece of me?” – but they’re not for people, they’re for pubs. They’re the stops on my progressive wake. A progressive wake is a pub crawl to the Hereafter.

Mark the urns:

  1. Trinity Hall
  2. Dubliner
  3. The Ginger Man
  4. The Old Monk
  5. Adair’s Saloon
  6. Lakewood Landing
  7. Meddlesome Moth
  8. Hillside Tavern
  9. The Londoner
  10. Flying Saucer

Deliver each urn to the appropriate pub. (I didn’t choose any outside the Metroplex or on a cruise ship, so this should be doable on an afternoon.) The delivery person might want to wrap the urn in a box and address to me, with a good tip to the bartender and a promise that it will be picked up quickly. This would probably be more acceptable than to ask, “Can we leave a small jar of dead guy here for a few hours?”

Now, you (my mourners) are ready to hold the progressive wake.

At my memorial service, hand each of the five or six people that show up a map with all the pubs marked. You could also show them the map at the bottom of this discussion, or give them a link to this page.

Call an Uber or two for the participants (don’t drink and drive!)

  • Visit a listed pub.
  • Bonus points for calling “Bring out your dead!” as you enter.
  • Drink the suggested drink (see the map) – or whatever, it’s not like I’m there to judge. (Well, part of me is there, but I won’t judge.)
  • Tell an amusing story about me. After a few drinks, just make something up.
  • Collect the urn.
  • Tip the bartender.
  • Repeat.

Once all the pubs are visited and all the urns collected, return to the memorial service. Apologize to the hosts from the funeral home for the slight delay.

Record any eulogies that are given. If the participants followed the spirit(s) of the Progressive Wake, they may be good blackmail material or at least they will be funny.

Dump all the little urns into one big-ass urn. Have someone with allergies do this, so there will be some tears at the service, after all.

Bury me none on the lone prairie.

Progressive Wake

Murphy James Gilhooly, 2006-2019

Murphy James Gilhooly was my puppy for almost thirteen years. As much as Ripley was supposed to be my dog, Murphy was my dog. It is very difficult to say “goodbye.” However, today we had to do so.

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We met Murphy after an East Lake Pet Orphanage Advisory Board meeting in early 2006. He was at least a year old at that point, but we’ll never really know, since he was adopted. The rest of the board said there was a gorgeous Cocker we just had to meet.

This should have set off warning bells.

The rest of the board assumed we would love a Cocker since we already had one, and they knew we had adopted an additional dog already. Most of them were pet fanatics, so what’s the difference between two and three dogs?

So, we went down to the adoption area to meet Java. As the staff opened his crate, a brown blur rushed out, straight into a glass window, and bounced off.

Then, he did it again.

This should have set off warning bells.

What really happened is that I thought, “This dog is so stupid, he deserves to live with us.”

I didn’t like “Java” as a name, since Java was a computer programming language I fought with every day t work, but I liked having a name that reflected his coloring. (The staff picked “Java” to mean “coffee”.) My first thought was “Guinness”, but he wouldn’t pass as an Irish Setter, so I had to find another Irish Stout. Murphy’s Stout, founded by James Murphy. So, reverse the name, and Murphy James was ready to come home.

Virginia still blames me for the adoption since I had him named before we left for home. However, this is not true because I had to get home first to look up Murphy’s Stout.

Murphy and Katie doing laps
Doing laps with Katie

Murphy actually accumulated names over the years. I’m not sure how it started, but by the end, he was Murphy James Elliott Macintosh McIlhenny Molanaphy Gilhooly, Esq. Elliott is my sister-in-law’s cat (with a slightly different spelling.) Macintosh is what I am typing this on. McIlHenny is the maker of Tabasco, which Virginia requires for her eggs. Molanaphy was a classmate of mine in grade school. I think. However, Murphy was pretty sure his first name was “Dammit.”

Before the adoption could go through, we took Bubba over to meet his potential new brother and they got along fine, so we signed the paperwork and Java became Murphy. I’m still not sure Murphy ever knew Bubba was a different dog. I have a feeling he always thought Bubba was his reflection, just a different color and doing different things. Murphy was not a Rhodes scholar.

The Graduate

Maybe he was a Rhodes Scholar

However, as much as Murphy’s intellegence has been questioned over the years, he is the only one of all of our dogs to graduate from puppy training. I’m still not sure how he did it, but he actually graduated. (They didn’t let him keep the hat.) He has a diploma (somewhere) to prove it.

Murphy drove my sister-in-law Mary crazy one visit while she was Mom and pet-sitting because he always wanted to be touching her. Most dogs want to be in proximity, but Murphy perferred direct contact. (He would sit pressed up to me on the couch.)

We had phone calls in France about “the brown one won’t stop touching me!”

That said, Murphy was the only one of our dogs Mary said she would take if something happened to us. So. maybe “annoying” eventually became “a certain charm.”

We’re not sure where Murphy actually came from – we know he began his rescue life abandoned and tied to a tree with his sister at the SPCA. He had chronic eye issues, so he was thought to be unadoptable. Luckily, East Lake Pet Orphanage took him and nursed him into shape, and then he met us – a couple who already had a dog with chronic eye issues. We knew how to do eye drops. Well, Virginia did.

Murphy had eye issues. He had allergies. He had bad skin. He blew out one of his ACLs before I blew out mine, then he blew out another one. He was basically the poster child for why breeders are often considered evil and why pure-breds are not always better. He had every issue Cockers were known to have. He had more specialists than I do, but he enjoyed car rides, and he loved his vets, no matter what they did to him.

His biggest problem was his food allergies, since it meant we couldn’t put his pills in bread or hot dogs or Pill Pockets, like normal dogs. His hunting instinct was pretty much useless on anything other than medications hidden in his food, and finding cookies in his eye doctor’s lab coat pockets. By the end, Virginia was making grilled chicken, grinding it up, and putting his pills in chicken. Maybe he wasn’t that dumb.

Peanut Butter

Somebody get this peanut butter off my tongue!

He also could not easily be distracted. One of the vets said that when we had to give him a allergy shot, we should just distract him with a spoonful of peanut butter. A normal dog would start licking the peanut butter off the spoon, and never notice the shot. Murphy would ignore the peanut butter until he had been given the shot, and then lick it off.

The one time I had to take him to visit one of his specialists alone, we were lead to an exam room and he immediately pooped on the floor. A lot. So, I asked, “Uh, did you guys need a stool sample today?” The vet tech said, “No”, so I said, “Then we need some paper towels. And a mop. And a gas mask.”

Murphy wrote our family Christmas newsletter before Rocky took over. It was vastly more popular than the ones I wrote. Murphy got a thank-you note from my Aunt. Hand-written. In the mail. The next year, Murphy wrote about how my sister-in-law was “cheap with the treats” and started a firestorm with my in-laws. Virginia had to remind them Murphy didn’t actually write the newsletter.

Murphy was a good dog, but they’re all good dogs. I’ve had some hesitations about adding dogs to our household with almost all of our dogs. My only hesitation with Murphy was I wasn’t going to call him “Java.”

Cocker Guards
Murphy and Bubba, guarding the yard

He was the happiest dog I have ever known.

Godspeed, Murph. We’ll see you on the other side. I hope Heaven doesn’t have a glass door.

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Funeral Rites (for a Rat)

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today,
to remember our brother rat.

He died as he lived his life,
On the patio, and in the yard.

Place rat gently in the pooper scooper.

Please forgive his brother Chihuahua,
Who really just wanted a new fuzzy toy.

As we process to his resting place,
We commit him to his Creator.

Oh, Lord, bless this rat.
Unto You, we commit his soul.

Dump gently over the fence.

Amen.

Notes: Yes, the Chihuahua did it again. I admit “brother” rat is an assumption because I really didn’t want to be examining a dead rat’s genitalia on a darkened patio. You have to say “resting place” and not “final resting place” because while the Chihuahua is inside the fence, there are other critters on the outside. Rest In Peace.

Death Shake

It occurred to me this evening that “Death Shake” would be a good adult ice cream drink or perhaps a dance for heavy metal fans. However, it’s also how a Chihuahua helps dispatch its victims after catching them.

Why would I think such a strange thing? It’s been a long evening.

I have managed to miss almost all of the killings my various pets have committed over the years. I’ve paid for a number of the victims to be removed from various pets’ various internal organs but that’s about it.

Until tonight.

Our Chihuahua, Rocky, takes forever to potty. He will walk the yard, walk the fence line, freeze when there is any noise within a 15-mile radius, and then have to remember why he was in the yard in the first place.

I’ve often wondered what would happen if people were like dogs, and had to wander in and out of every bathroom in the house before finding the “right one” which happens to be the same one every time.

Tonight, Rocky was wandering around on patrol and then by some miracle, he actually peed. So, we were probably half-way done.

Then, the yard patrol commenced again.

Then, he pooped. Victory is ours!

However, I was standing by the bedroom door, and he knows that means he’s going in his crate. He does not like his crate until he is in it, so he avoids the door. He wandered off towards the gate.

As Rocky passed the pile of dead branches and leaves that I have been mentioning to someone who shall remain nameless (but will enter this story in a few paragraphs) to have cleared for about ten years (really, just ask the yard guy to do it), I heard a squeak. I only hear that noise from him when he’s frightened or desperately trying to get outside to chase something. That was my first warning. It was also my last.

Then, I watched Rocky dive into the dead branches pile. It wasn’t a dive, it was like watching a spear flying through the air. He speared something.

He came out of the pile. There was something in his mouth. It was too large to be a baby bird. What else could he have caught?

Oh, Lord.

Rocky ran out, did a quarter-lap around the yard, and stopped, shaking furiously. Whatever he had was getting the life shaken out of it. Literally.

I had always heard Chihuahuas catch rats and then shake them to death, but I figured that was just a legend, like Santa Claus or IBM permanent employment.

It was a mouse. My wife says it was a rat, but I don’t want to have a rat problem around the house, so it was a mouse.

Rocky ran off again, still carrying the victim in his mouth, then finally came up on the patio, and dropped it. This is the first time he has ever dropped anything I’ve told him to drop, so he was probably just tired.

The mouse lay on the patio. “He’s dead, Jim.” There was a small puncture wound on his side. It doesn’t take much to kill a mouse, especially when you get shaken (not stirred) right after a small puncture wound is applied.

So, I picked Rocky up, mainly so he wouldn’t attack a corpse, and noticed there was mouse hair sticking out of his mouth. Now, I have a pretty strong stomach, but that kinda grossed me out.

I pulled the hair out of his mouth. Now, I had blood on my hands. Literally.

At this point, I called for backup. Unfortunately, the only backup was my wife, who tends to freak out about freshly dead things just a wee bit more than I do.

So, I’m holding a Chihuahua whose still cooling down from the kill, a woman who hates rats is trying to figure out if she can save the dead one on our patio (the pet rescue force is strong with this one) and I just want someone to take the damn dog from me so I can wash the blood off my hands – especially since I’m not really sure if it is dog blood or rat blood.

Well, this was a fun evening. What shall we do next?

So, I’m worried about rabid rats – mainly because this Chihuahua is crazy enough while he’s not rabid. My wife is worried about the death of a poor, innocent animal (“Honey? It’s a rat.”)

I’m secretly proud of Rocky because this rat is smaller than he is, but he whacked it good.  I’m pretty sure I can’t admit that out loud. I pet him, slyly.

We put the rat-mouse in a box. Well, I put him in a box. I was told that was cruel to leave him to die, but he was already gone, and I didn’t have a rat euthanasia kit handy. I suppose I should have checked to see if “he” is the proper pronoun, but I didn’t have the time. If I had, my wife would have just asked if he had been neutered.

I would bury the rat, but that would just give Rocky a chance to dig him up and kill him again. Zombie Rat Apocalypse, anyone?

So, corpse removed – sort of, it’s in the garage – crime scene secured, now we tend to the perp.

I carried Rocky into the house, so my wife could wash his wound with soap and hydrogen peroxide. She had to stop and get the dog shampoo. In the middle of this ministration, I finally said, “CAN I WASH THIS BLOOD OFF MY HANDS?”

So, witness cleaned up, perp cleaned up, victim removed, crime scene secured.

Time for dinner.

Medium-rare steak. Hmm. Not the best choice after just washing blood off a witness and a perp.

Maybe I’ll have a salad later.

So, Rocky will go to the vet in the morning, to check the small cut on his lip and make sure he didn’t catch anything while murdering an innocent. He will be walked on a leash for a while, to avoid killing off the rest of the mouse family that is probably now in mourning. (“Has anyone seen Steve?”) I’m not sure what will happen to the victim. I personally could probably use some therapy for this, but I got 1000 words out of it, so I should be fine. Eventually.

Rocky is disappointed there isn’t a cool chalk outline on the patio that he could show the other dogs.

A Eulogy, Of Sorts

My brother-in-law Jack passed away just over a week ago. His services were this week, so it has been a little bit insane around here.

We’ve had enough deaths in the family and extended family over the past few years where the rituals all seem very familiar, but not any less painful. Call the funeral home, schedule the Mass, pick the readings, set up the website, etc. It’s the business of death, and you’re on a timer. It’s ugly, and you don’t get a lot of time to reflect.

Jack was the one person in my collection of in-laws that I should have been closer to – and I don’t really know why I wasn’t. He lived only twenty or so miles away, he was an IT manager (like me – but his role was much more important), he was middle-aged (like me), he was married to a Pesce (like me.) The list goes on and on. I guess I didn’t make enough of an effort. Plus, he was always busy, helping someone somewhere – either at work or Church.

Something that occurred to me after he was buried this week – When my Mom-in-law passed away, I thought, “No more pain.” When my Dad passed away, I thought “No more arguments.” When Jack passed away, I thought “That should have been me.”

Not “could“, but “should.”

I’m not sure why I thought I should be dead instead of Jack. Possibly because I had a Doppler test that showed my carotid arteries were blocked 20 – 30% the day before he collapsed at work. I was told that nothing was done until you hit 70% or so. My doctor changed my blood pressure medication, and that was it.

So, I may have bad arteries, but not bad enough to fix.

Jack had a bad heart. The physical one. It was functioning at 45% at his last test, but his doctor didn’t think he needed a pacemaker. So, he had a bad heart, but not bad enough to fix.

I am a bit concerned about doctors and their advice now.

While Jack had a bad physical heart, his spiritual heart was larger than almost anyone I know.  He had at least three families – his biological one with his wife, daughters and relatives; his spiritual one, as he was a Deacon at his Church; and his business one, since he was a manager at Verizon.

All of his families came to pay their respects. In force.

It was selfish, I suppose, that one of my thoughts the day after he passed away was, “Please, Lord, don’t make me do another eulogy.” Luckily for me, there were plenty of people who had spent more time with him that stepped up to the challenge, from all of his families.

Not that I wouldn’t have done one. I would have talked about arena football and baseball and statistics and cruises and Mojitos, which were not covered at length by those who knew him from Church or work.

There are times you realize you are close to someone from a familial sense, but not close at all in another. Jack managed a test lab at Verizon – his team validated equipment before it was placed into service in the Verizon network. I finally found out what he did after he passed away. I started my career in telecom almost thirty years ago, helping run a small long distance company’s computer center. We had that in common, and we never talked about it, because I never found out about it.

If you don’t know what your relatives do, go find out. You may be surprised.

Jack and I had baseball in common, but you just don’t talk much during baseball games – and I’m not sure I ever heard him curse, and if a game was playing somewhere, it was probably also on the TV at Jack’s house.

My wife and I had season tickets to the Grand Prairie AirHogs for years, and we never got him to a game. I feel guilty and disappointed at the same time about that.

I will always be grateful to Jack that my wife knows as much about sports as she does, and it’s because he taught her by taking her to games while she was growing up. I have to explain very little to her, which has saved me a lot of time and stress.

I could have asked him how to survive an Italian-American wife, because if he could have explained that, it would have been one of the miracles he needs for Sainthood.

When I got promoted to manager at IBM last year, Jack was the one person around me that had a similar title and experiences – and he had been doing it for years.

Jack had a team that loved him (which was demonstrated at the vigil and funeral.) Jack was my best possible source of information and advice on how to survive Corporate America as a newly-minted manager – especially since all of the managers who worked with me were busy rearranging deck chairs during our latest reorganization.

I let that opportunity just pass me by. It just never occurred to me to ask Jack to go have a cup of coffee (or three) and have him explain how the world of management works.

I am really disappointed in myself for that.

So, now I can just hope Jack will watch me and guide me from above. I think a manager’s greatest accomplishment is to be genuinely missed by his team. Death is the most sudden way to leave the corporation, but I think every manager should aspire to having his team think, “What are we going to do now?” and not just “Who do we get stuck with next?” whenever he moves on to the next challenge, either here or in the next world.

Jack’s team is wondering what they are going to do now.

I’m wondering what I’m going to do now.

I miss you, Jack. Thanks for all the times you were there. The times you weren’t are on me.

A year ago

One year ago today, my Dad passed away. His was one in a series of deaths that happened in rapid succession, so when I went back to look at my blog post about it, I realized I never wrote one. I think I set up his memorial website (http://www.johnvgilhooly.com) and linked it on Facebook, and that was about it for social media. It’s interesting living in an age where I have dead friends on Facebook.

We had just lost my wife’s Aunt in December, and I had created a website, helped write her remembrance, help choose readings for the service, and was just back from the service when Dad died. So, in a way, the death checklist cycle just started over, and I never really thought much about it – I just went through the motions again. A death can be surreal, especially when they happen close together. (From December 2013 to February 2014, we lost my wife’s Aunt, my wife’s cousin (a beneficiary in her Aunt’s will), one of our friends from baseball, and my Dad. So much for deaths in threes.) 

I lost a Dad and gained a Mom, since I’ve now spent more time with my Mom in the past year that I had since I left for college. My parents were a true partnership, and duties were divided, which meant when one partner left, the other may or may not have any idea about how some parts of life’s enterprise operated. Luckily, my Dad was an attorney and everything was pretty well documented. He even wrote his own obituary. This was someone who pays attention to the details.

So, a year later, I’m re-reading my eulogy, and I’m trying to remember the day.

I do know that I had been in St Thomas Aquinas Church hundreds of times – I had even served Mass there for years, but that day was the first time I was ever in the pulpit. I remember my brother and I were both frantically trying to find the lectern – he’d never been in the pulpit, either. So, I spoke from the pulpit. How we were spared fire from the heavens raining down is still a mystery to me. 

I tend to find something to obsess about during times of extreme stress, since if I have something to concentrate on, I won’t freak out about whatever is really happening. It’s the mental version of biting your lip to keep from laughing or crying. Distraction. I was actually obsessing about trying to remember which of my friends from work I had seen before the service, so I could thank them later, and I was obsessing about having addressed Abbot Peter Verhalen from Cistercian as “Fr Peter” when he is actually “Fr Abbot”, but I think he forgave me. It helps that I knew him before he was even “Father”, since he graduated right after I started there.

I’m not sure why I remember all that.

Here’s what I said that day – although I’ve been told that reading it was not as funny as seeing me deliver it. I don’t really like saying “deliver it” because it makes a eulogy sound like a sketch, which it should not be, unless I’m delivering it. Then, all bets are off. However, the best (and easiest) laughs are produced at times of crisis or sorrow, because nothing is funnier than when it is inappropriate to laugh. I really hoped people would laugh. I hate crying. I also thought echos of laughter in an acoustically sound Church would sound really cool. They did.

I said:

Reverend Fathers and Deacons, family and friends,

For those who don’t recognize me, I’m Kevin John Gilhooly. My Dad didn’t want a “Junior”, so I have his name as my middle name. I realized this morning, that had I been a Junior, people would now be saying, “Look, it’s Littlejohn”, so, my Dad was a wise man. For those who thought I was Stephen, he’s my younger brother. He’s next.

My memories of my Dad are very distinct moments in time, rather than a wash of almost 53 years, which is how long we knew each other.

My Dad was a first-generation American. My Grandpa Gilhooly emigrated from County Leitrim, Ireland early in the 1900s, and settled in Providence, RI. So, since this is about someone of Irish descent (and technically an Irish citizen), it starts with a drinking story and it ends with a drinking story.

This is the story of my first official drink. I was already 18 and I was working in a liquor store, so it was not my actual first drink, but this was the first one Dad bought me.

Dad had invited me to lunch, which was a bit unusual. We went downtown, which was a bit unusual. Since we were downtown, and the restaurant he chose was next door to St Jude Chapel, he suggested I go to Confession since we were “in the area”. I’ve always wondered if tricking someone into going to Confession was a sin. Probably not.

We went into the restaraunt and he ordered a bourbon and Coke. Dad asked me if I would like a drink. I said, “I’ll have a Jamesons and water.” He hadn’t realized that people that work at liquor stores get discounts, and that causes rather expensive taste. I think he was secretly impressed. It was a very good drink.

Now, some random moments.

My Dad and I did one “traditional” father-son activity together. The YMCA had a program called “Indian Guides”, a father-son activity. I was most excited since we got to choose Indian names for ourselves. After much consideration, I chose “Running Deer”. When the leader asked my Dad for his Indian name at the meeting that night, he just looked tired, and said “Walking Deer”. At least we sounded related. It was either about a six-week summer program, or that was how long Dad needed to discover he was not Native American. (Surprisingly, my brother Stephen was never an Indian Guide.)

There are many occasions where at the time, it seemed we didn’t understand each other at all, which is probably common with parents and children. These are the moments life lessons are passed down. Sometimes.

Two life lessons about food.

When Stephen and I were growing up, we usually attended 9:15am Mass on Sunday. As a special treat, some weeks, we would go to Kip’s Big Boy after Mass. On one of those visits, I was told I couldn’t have my original order because it was too expensive. So, I changed my order. (This was all before the waitress arrived, since orders were generally pre-approved.) Then, Dad ordered himself ten Silver Dollar pancakes. I was incensed. Ten dollars worth of pancakes after denying my reasonable request for extra bacon? (Or whatever it was.) Then, our breakfasts arrived. My Dad was paying a dollar each for some of the smallest pancakes I had ever seen! I finally had to ask why they were a dollar each. Dad had to explain they were the size of silver dollars. I had never seen a silver dollar. So, life lesson: never assume your parents are insane until you do the research.

Another morning, Dad made English muffins and asked how many I would like. I said four. Moments later, he arrived with a really large pile of hot breakfast treats. More than I had ever seen. I wasn’t sure I could finish that much. So, I asked, “Why are there so many English muffins?” He said, “You asked for four.” He counted muffins pre-slicing. I never realized I had been eating half muffins. Important lessons a parent can teach.

Life lessons about music.

In 1974, Joe Cocker had a hit song called “You Are So Beautiful”. There are not many more lyrics in the song than those in the title. Basically, “You are so beautiful to me. Can’t you see? You are so beautiful to me.” For a 14-year old who had been writing poetry in English class for homework, it was a moment of clarity – pure emotion in a minimum of words. For a 44-year old corporate attorney in the middle of a seven-hour drive to visit his in-laws, it was not. He said, “You think they would have bought a few extra lyrics.” To each his own, I suppose.

My first concert was the second Texxas Jam in 1978 at the Cotton Bowl. It was an all-day show, with multiple bands. My Dad was my date. Actually, he invited himself so I wouldn’t be maimed or murdered. I had never smoked pot, but I did recognize it when the guy next to my Dad tried to pass him a joint. (He declined). In fact, later on, Dad mentioned in a rather loud voice that he really didn’t like the smell of marijuana. We had more room around us after that, since I’m pretty sure everyone thought he was a narc.

The only band Dad liked was The Little River Band, and that’s because they closed with “Return To Sender”, a song older than I.

Fleetwood Mac closed the show. As Stevie Nicks sang, “Rihannon”, Dad leaned over and said, “What is she saying?” I was in the middle of a “You Are So Beautiful”-poetry moment, but I managed to answer, “Rihannon. She’s a Welsh witch.” That was the last time I got the “You kids these days” look. I suppose the lesson is that some music does not cross generations.

Some life lessons about business.

My Dad was part of the Bob O’Links Homeowners Association. In fact, he was the President for a time. That was the group that successfully fought to keep Bob O’Links Golf Course zoned for single-family homes while the owners were trying to get the City Council to change it to allow apartments. So, if traffic is a bit heavy on Abrams at times, think what it would be like if the area from Abrams to Wendover and Bob O’Links to Sondra were all filled with apartments. Thanks, Dad. Fight the good fight, because sometimes, you win.

I worked at TI for a couple of years after I moved back to Dallas after college. My Dad actually helped get me in the door. I was on a small team that produced ad hoc reports for people – in the days before PCs, only the IT staff could access information easily.

I had a report requested for someone in the legal department, and had done a number of iterations, but I couldn’t get what they wanted. I finally asked who the report was for. In a hushed voice, I was told “John Gilhooly.” So, I went over to my Dad’s office and asked what he was trying to prove. A couple of hours later, he had his numbers. So, find out who is in charge, and ask them. That was actually a real life lesson. Also, you may never know how important your Dad is until you see the level of fear in his people’s eyes as a deadline approaches.

I will close, as promised, with a drinking story. This one happened last Monday night, the day before Dad passed away. My wife Virginia and I went to visit him while my Mom was teaching her grief counseling class. Technically, we were Dad-sitting. He was asleep when we arrived. Since he was on pain killers, I thought he might sleep the entire time we were there.

Mom showed us where everything was (which was in the same place since 1972 when they bought the house.) She said he could have orange juice to drink if he wanted something. She wasn’t sure he would want food.

A few minutes after she left, I heard Dad calling me. He was awake and wanted to get out of bed. I helped him into his wheelchair, and brought him into the living room, so he could be with us.

I asked if he wanted something to drink and he said, “Yes. A Bourbon and Sprite, but only half a jigger of Bourbon.”

I thought for a moment. On one hand, here was a cancer patient on hydrocodone asking for alcohol. On the other hand, it was only half a jigger, and he’s Irish. Plus, he had a twinkle in his eye that meant “I know I’m being bad”. So, I made him a drink.

He said he was hungry. My (Italian-American) wife Virginia made him some dinner. She also gave him a piece of cake she had brought over.

So, the last thing I did for my Dad was fix him a drink, and the last thing Virginia did was feed him. Somehow, that seems appropriate. I am very thankful for that evening.

Goodbye, Dad. See you on the other side. I’ll have a Jamesons and water.

Thank you all for being here with us.

Short and sweet.

It’s interesting to read that piece again today, because the first time I re-read it, I realized that almost everything in the eulogy happened before I was eighteen or the day before Dad died. There was a long period of time where we were at odds with each other, over any number of issues. However, as the elder son, it was my job to fight all the battles, so my younger brother would know which battles to fight and which to pass.

I remember that almost being”Littlejohn” actually occurred to me as I was walking up to the pulpit, so I wasn’t exactly focused before I got started. The question about tricking someone to go to Confession is much, much funnier if there is a line of priests and deacons on the other side of the Sacristy that you can pause and look at, inquiringly. That’s when everybody laughed.

I don’t think I really cried until the piper started playing at the cemetery. I never knew my Dad wanted a piper at his funeral. In fact, obsessing about why an Irishman wanted a Scottish player at his funeral almost kept me from crying, but some songs make me cry.

It all seems like a long time ago, now. In a way, it was.

When you’ve been estranged from someone for a number of years, losing him is actually very awkward. Everyone expects that you had the same relationship with him that they did, but nobody else was his eldest son. It’s different.

My wife still thinks “I should call Mom” constantly and her Mom’s been gone for over five years – but they were very close. She thought about calling her Aunt for advice on doing her Aunt’s estate. My family does not have this type of closeness, for good or bad.

I haven’t thought “I should call Dad” very much in the past year, since I wasn’t thinking that when he was still there to call. We had managed to get from “estranged” to “distant” or “formally cordial” by the time he passed, so we were making progress. We just weren’t there yet. I guess we’ll finish on the other side.

He was still my Dad, estrangement, arguments and all. He’s still gone. That still sucks.

Pets

I’ve never been able to understand people who think any deceased person can immediately be replaced with a dog. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent twelve years in and around animal rescue, but the worst possible gift for anyone is a living being that requires constant care and feeding. It is the gift that keeps on costing. (I have five dogs. I love my dogs. The costs never end.)

A pet as a gift makes no sense any time, much less as a distraction from grieving. A pet is a living being with a unique set of needs and a unique personality. It is not a fashion accessory. A pet owner makes a commitment to a pet to care for him for his lifetime. This should not be a commitment by proxy. It should not be an arranged marriage,

Pet owners require the ability to find their pets. Hopefully, this will happen at their local rescue. The human-pet bond is a magical thing, but it cannot be forced or assumed. If you’ve decided to adopt, go to your local Adopt-a-Pet and meet the pets. If your dog is there, you will recognize him. If he’s not, try again the next week. Your dog is waiting for you. However, your friend’s surprise pet is not.

You can divorce a hastily-chosen spouse. You can’t divorce a pet. Divorcing a pet means leaving him at the shelter – which depending on his age, size and breed could be a death sentence.

The next time one of your friends is widowed or divorced or dumped, just drop off another person of the proper sex and age and say “Here’s your new partner. You have to clean him and feed him, but I’m sure you’ll get along fine. Forever.” If you think that seems insane, why would you do it with a dog?