Generations Growing in Faith

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All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

- 2 Timothy 3:16


   

I grew up with Bob Sahnd at St. William. He was a few grades behind me.  He was a special person! Kindness was his special quality even in his youth. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. One of the blessings for me is that he and Frankie were members of this parish. I treasure celebrating the Eucharist with him every day here at St. Dominic. At his funeral Bob’s daughter wrote these words of remembrance. My prayer is that they will inspire you as they did me.

-Fr. Jim

Good Morning Everyone,

Before we begin the Mass today, I’d like to spend just a few moments sharing some thoughts about my Dad.  Although it is hard to attempt to sum up the life of a man that you’ve known for almost 48 years, and one that many of you have known for even longer than me, I’m going to do my best.

First, I’ll start with thank you.  My dad was the ultimate gentleman, and he’d be the first to thank you all. Thank you for being here with us today, and more importantly thank you for being a part of my dad’s life.  The outpouring of love and support that we have had in the past few days, and your presence here, is proof of the kind of man my dad was.  Thank you to everyone who has supported my parents, especially over the last few years, as Dad battled the medical issues that began to take over parts of his body and mind.  From Dr. Leisgang and Vicky, to the Bayley Day and Home Care Services (especially Ashley and Kim), to June and Pete, and Bush and Amy, and to the countless friends who have visited, prayed for, and helped in so many ways.  You have all been a lifeline for my dad, and for my mom too.  And to Mom, thank you for so many things, but mostly for tirelessly fighting to give Dad the best quality of life he could have. 

Mom has commented to me over the last day or two – “Kris, everyone just says… he was just the nicest man.”  And that he was.  He was such a lifelong and loyal friend.   And the perfect Westsider and Elder alum.  As many of you know, I moved away from Cincinnati more than 18 years ago.  When you grow up a Westsider and stay forever, like 99% of you do, I don’t know if you realize how special the place is, and how unique the relationships and lifelong connections are – because it’s just how it’s always been.  But for me, because I happened to be in that 1% who ventured out, I can assure you that the friendships, extended families, connections, relationships and love that you are able to create here doesn’t often exist in the same way outside of this area.  My husband, Paul, would joke that Dad and Mom would update me on all the “goings on” from back home, and he would ask “how do they know all of those things?  Who are all those people?  How do they keep up with it all?”  And my answer is always – it’s just a Westside thing.  They see these people all the time, and everyone keeps up with grade school and high school friends and families.  And my dad knew everyone, checked in on everyone.  Asked how their families were.  Knew everyone’s name.  And always asked with a big heart and a warm smile.

And most of you know how much Dad loved Elder High School.  Another special place.  And a uniquely special class that he was a part of – the Class of 1961.  I’m certain the mold was broken with that class.  What a great group of men – ones who have supported and continue to support each other in good times and in bad.  They were the class that would plan their 5-year reunion, and enjoyed it so much, they’d meet the week following the reunion to start planning the next.  And Dad was always right there helping to plan the party.

If you know anything about my parents at all, you know that “eating in” was seldom an option.  Going out to restaurants, whether it be with friends or June and Pete or just the two of them, was a huge part of their lives.  They pretty much had every restaurant covered, at least on this side of town.  And of course, they had their favorite stops - Price Hill Chili, Nick & Toms, Maurys for a very long time, Kennings and Prima Vista for a special treat.  And even in the recent years, when it would have been easier to stay home than go out - there they were at all the favorites.  In fact, you wouldn’t believe how many people told me they saw him at Price Hill Chili on Friday night, the night before he passed.  Mom said he was always better out and being around people.  Because that’s who he was.

And when Mom started paying the bills when Dad’s eyesight was failing him, although they didn’t disagree much, he was always concerned that she didn’t give enough of a tip.  He is known to be quite the good “tipper” in these parts – but it was because he didn’t look at the waiters or waitresses as just that.  He treated them with respect, considered them friends, knew their names, knew their families, talked about their lives.  And he wanted to always be sure he took care of them.

Dad made friends with everyone.  He never met a stranger.  Even our neighbors and friends in Pittsburgh loved my Dad, and always enjoyed when he and Mom would come for a visit.  And Dad would ask questions about them when we talked, checking in on them and asking about their kids.  But Dad had some really special lifelong friends.  When I think of Dad, I will always think of Bush, who is the most dedicated and loyal friend a man could ever have - more like a brother than a friend.  Bush – there is no way to adequately thank you for what you have meant to Dad and Mom and me these last few years.  Many of his closest friends are here today.  It’s because of grade school and high school that they met, but it’s the life they lived together long after that created the golfer group, tennis group, card club, breakfast bunch, Steeple Chasers, and more.  And there are some friends who left us before him who are the lucky ones because they get to greet him again and welcome him now - - and it probably goes without saying that one of them better have a darn good Manhattan ready for him, because he’s waited an awfully long time for that!

My Dad was a family man, just plain and simple.  A good, dedicated, honest, faithful family man.  He adored my mom.  Always a gentleman, he held every door for her. And even when she had to start dropping him at the door and going to park the car herself, he always waited by the door to ensure she got in safely.  Growing up, my parents seldom argued, never raised their voices.  They weren’t avoiding anything.  They honestly had nothing to argue about.  Mom said they never argued for the first 48 years of marriage.  The last 3 have been tough on both of them, but that is only because of the medical challenges that affected both his body and mind.  He worried about Mom constantly – “she’s doing too much, she’s working too much, she needs to slow down”.  But most of all, he just loved her.  They complemented each other so well.

I think it’s safe to say I was his favorite daughter… fortunately I didn’t have any competition!  His face lit up when I came into a room or came for a visit.  And a hug from Dad meant the world to me, especially as I got older.  He constantly would ask my mom “have you talked to Kris”?  Even though I lived away, he pretty much ensured a daily check in to make sure “I was ok”, even just to be sure I had texted Mom that day.  The thing is – I don’t have one bad memory of Dad thinking back.  He was just always there - loving me, supporting me, being proud of me, worrying about me, unconditionally loving me.  I guess the competition only came into play when we gave him his grandchildren.  I’ll never forget his face when he got to meet Sofia and Maria for the first time.  And when the girls would come running to the car when Mom and Dad visited, or when they ran into the house here when we came to Cincinnati, he was just so happy. 

We were very blessed to be able to have Mom and Dad in our new home in Richmond for Thanksgiving this past year.  As you know, Dad’s health was fragile, and we had to pray hard that everything was going to work to get them on a plane and to our house.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to go.  But Paul said to me – “I want your parents to be able to come to our new house, see where we live now, see how well the kids are adjusting, enjoy some peaceful time where you can help your Mom with his care.  Your dad needs to see that “we are OK, the girls are OK”.  And the girls need to have family in our new house and be able to share that with their grandparents.”  Though the week was not without its challenges, it was such a peaceful time, and I’m so happy and thankful that they were there.  I was hoping that it wasn’t the last time that he’d be able to come, but I always knew it was a possibility.  And I am lucky enough to be able to have a lasting memory of my dad, sitting in his favorite chair (that he claimed immediately), looking out into the backyard, and humming along to the music of Frank Sinatra and Patsy Cline.

And importantly, my dad was a man of strong faith.  Church was never optional, but for him it was more than that.  When he retired, he went to daily mass, and enjoyed it so much.  He carried a rosary in his pocket for many years.  He still participated in Steeple Chasers once a month with his 61ers, where they went to a different church for Mass once a month, then enjoyed a meal together.  He held onto his faith until the very end. Even when it would be easier not to go, they just adjusted and started to go to Bayley for Mass, which was a bit more accommodating for him.  My dad had a couple of habits that became very important for me to watch for, as the difficulties for him and Mom continued to climb.  And the two I was most keen on were the ones at Mass.  First, he held hands with Mom and me during the Lord’s Prayer.  And when we finished the prayer, he always gave my hand a couple of extra squeezes.  And I always knew that it was “ok” because he continued to do that.  I now do that with my own girls when we pray at Mass, and they know that’s because of Grandpa.  And the second thing he did was after Communion, during the meditation when they’d sit down, he always held Mom’s hand.  And even though the days were long and hard, I’d still see him grab her hand after Communion, and I thought “it’s still OK”.

When your partner in life or your parent is going through a longer term, chronic and incurable illness, I think you attempt to prepare yourself for when things may get harder, or when that loved one may pass away.  But, the way Dad left, it was actually so sudden and unexpected.  But in that moment, my dad was 100% Bob.  When his mind and body started to fail him, he was still there in the end, and he knew.  He knew that we were going to have to make some very difficult decisions in the not too distant future about his care.  And he knew that it was almost unbearable for us to do.  And in the end, as he did in life, he put us first, before himself.  And in that, he gave us his ultimate gift and sacrifice.  He took care of us and took that weight from our shoulders.

And so, in closing, I ask of you today during our Mass in celebration of Dad, during the Our Father, hold your loved one or friend’s hand, and give them an extra squeeze. And during the meditation, maybe hold your partner’s hand.  And know that it’s Dad/ Bob/ Bobby/ Gravel saying he’s OK.  And we’re all going to be OK. 

Rest easy DAD.  You deserve it. I’ve never been more sure of where you are and that you are OK.

Krista Sammartino, Daughter