A Journey With Dad
A Man of the Spirit to the End — And Beyond
My father was a man who spent his life learning how to tune in to the world of the spirit. He was drawn to the Christian Brothers in his teens, and went off to begin his studies with the order at age 19 in 1938. He missed an opportunity to attend the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg that summer with his beloved maternal grandfather, Martin Hager, one of the few surviving Civil War veterans, because he had committed to begin his studies with the Brothers at the same time. His cousin Austin McGrath wound up escorting Martin in his place, one of Dad’s few lasting regrets in life. Joining the order was that important to him, that he’d passed on the opportunity of a lifetime.
He relished the life of the brotherhood, one of deep study and searching of the soul for the deeper meanings in life. He loved the comradery and the intellectual curiosity that was kindled during his years with the brothers. The only reason he didn’t stay past the first 6 years, the novitiate stage, was he didn’t want to wind up being an old man hanging out with a bunch of other old men, without having experienced more of life, without real family to comfort him in his old age. He thought that was a sad way to be, at the end of one’s life. He observed how his own father relished in the love lavished on him by Dad’s sisters (he had 8 of them), and decided he wanted a family of his own. So, he left the order after 6 years, but never left his seeking of the spiritual life.
He sang in church choirs his entire life, and I believe that was a holy endeavor for my Dad. He believed in music, and felt strongly that music was good for the soul. It didn’t take long after he left the brothers for my Mom to meet and marry him. Then, in short order he got drafted and shipped off for the end of World War II. He spent the end of the war in Hawaii, having been trained as a Japanese interpreter. He’d already gotten Rosemary pregnant with their first of seven children, which he wouldn’t be there for the birth of. But he claimed to be able to feel it right when Rosemary went into labor with their oldest child, Jim, a psychic ability he seemed to have finely honed.
Dad was a solid Roman Catholic for most of his life, but in his 60’s he began to question the Faith. He’d become a champion of LGBTQ issues (didn’t have all those letters in the acronym, then, but he championed it all), a result of his involvement in Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which he’d gotten involved in when his third son, Ken, had come out as gay. He’d become aware of the plight of many of Ken’s friends, who were effectively orphans, because there was such little understanding or acceptance of homosexuality in the 80’s. He decided to do something about that. He found the Church’s stand on these issues to be wanting, and eventually left the Church over this issue, along with other concerns he began to have about its validity as a representative of God and the life of spirit here on earth.
But Dad never stopped growing, spiritually. He took a Course in Miracles, and got involved with the Church of Religious Science, along with my mother. This was when I made the unexpected but delightful discovery that Dad and I were on the same page, spiritually.
I had been drawn to a similar spiritual belief, largely through my own involvement in a 12 Step program, so Dad and I met each other on a common ground we’d never previously had with each other. Our differences had been profound, and our enmity towards each other deep, for most of my life, but we quickly became fast friends, during his final days. Our differences vanished into thin air as our commonality ruled the day.
I was able to be with him quite a bit towards the end, as his own life slowly slipped away, and felt the glory of his amazing spirit preparing for its journey into the beyond. In Dad’s mind, the beyond wasn’t really so far away. He began to envision his loved ones who’d gone before him waiting to greet his soul on the other side. After he got there, he even sent a messenger back to let me know he’d arrived and was in good hands and spirits, over there. This messenger came in the form of Sam Brown, a fellow member of the congregation Dad and I both belonged to, along with Mom and my wife, Kathy. Sam approached me on the Sunday after Dad had passed, after the Sunday service, and handed me a couple of cassette tapes, apologetically saying, “I don’t often do this, but your Dad insisted, and he’s not an easy man to say no to.”
Sam was a medium of sorts — once a week, he sat and consulted with his mother, who had passed twenty years before. When Dad’s little sister, Jeanne, had passed the year before, Sam had given Dad a message from her, received through his mother, that was unmistakably a message from Jeanne. She had said things in her message that only Jeanne would have known, so Dad was certain of Sam’s authenticity as a medium. So, he used Sam to convey a message back to me. The message was so extensive, it took two cassette tapes to fully convey. I still have those tapes. They are one of my most cherished possessions.
When Dad was dying, he’d told us that he would always be there — all we had to do was call. He has proven to be true to his word. Many times, I have reached out to him, and have soon thereafter felt his presence in my life. Kathy has felt it, too. The most pronounced “visit” from Dad came the same day I discovered that my brain tumor had simply disappeared. That’s a long story in itself, which I have already told several times, but in a nutshell — I had a rare brain tumor, I was being treated by one of the world’s experts on that type of tumor, then it simply vanished, something that expert had never seen happen, but had “heard about these kinds of things”.
The night that I got the good news that my tumor was gone, Dad appeared in a dream. He was in my back yard, talking to me, when he asked, “So, Peter, is there anything else I can do for you?” In the dream, I didn’t get the drift of what he was asking, and said, “Well, I could use a little help straightening up the basement.” When I awoke, I got it. His sister Jeanne, my beloved aunt, had also made her presence known the day before, so I got the message that the two of them had played a part in my tumor going away. Don’t ask me how — they were two of the most powerful spiritual souls I have ever known. All I knew was, I was damn lucky and grateful to have been graced with the benefit of their work. Today, I believe.