Be Not Afraid

My Father on Lake George , New York in 2008

My Father on Lake George , New York in 2008

It has been just over four weeks since my father passed away. Even though I have been almost frightfully composed, I still feel like I’m in a blur. I think I’m in the midst of processing so much.

I do want to broadcast, however, to not be afraid. My father almost died on the eve of the millennium, then in 2008 and then at the end of 2014. So I had plenty of time to ponder his eventual passing. Plus, he was 89 years old. Yet even with this mental preparation, I always imagined I’d be in pieces upon hearing the news and then, of course, at his funeral and then in the days and weeks that followed. But no, I’ve felt a calm and resiliency that has surprised me.

I mean it–be not afraid. Do not live in fear of something that will come, something that you have no control over. Those heartbreaking moments do happen in our lives and it’s unproductive to anticipate–with dread–how we will handle them. We all have an inner strength that knows no boundaries. For me, I feel that my father’s passing has helped me to get in touch with the stuff I’m made of–I am Frank Angelo Clemente’s daughter.

He was a devoted family man, an accomplished businessman and un passionnée of skiing, tennis, exercise, food, Broadway show tunes, the English language and even French. But most of all, he was extremely kind and steady, compassionate and thoughtful and always appreciative and grateful for what he had and for what other people did for him.

A Surprising Homage: A Clemente Latham Concrete Mixer Showed Up to Pay Respects at the Cemetery

A Surprising Homage: A Clemente Latham Concrete Mixer Showed Up to Pay Respects at the Cemetery

So when my brothers expressed that they thought I should be the one to give the eulogy at our father’s funeral, that became my focus. I wrote the tribute, which I knew would be one of the most heartfelt pieces of writing of my life, and then presented it without breaking, without even cracking my voice. I felt as though I owed my father that much. I also kicked it off with some laughter meditation and sprinkled it with funny anecdotes along the way. (Otherwise, I never would have gotten through it.)

I never thought I’d say this, but my father’s funeral was beautiful. The viewing began with an honor guard ceremoniously displaying, folding and then presenting the American flag to my mother as Taps played on. Dad was a World War II veteran and although very proud of his time in the service, he was not a member of the VA. It was per chance that the honor guard was arranged at the eleventh hour after my mother found a bracelet engraved with my father’s dog tag number, an ID bracelet gifted to him by his older sister, his beloved Angela, and inscribed to My Dear François. (She presumably sent it to him for Christmas when he was stationed in Japan.) My boyfriend looked up my father’s information online, found the record of his honorable discharge and the officials were notified.

Although some tears were shed, I mostly felt happiness during the visiting hours before the mass. Family members, friends and business contacts came to pay their respects, each one armed with a story or kind words about my father. He had been retired for over two decades and still so many from the business community–from competitors to former employees–came to share their admiration for someone well known for his fairness and smarts.

A colorful array of Easter blooms helped to carry over the feeling of a celebration of a life well lived within the church. The mass, officiated by one of the sweetest priests I’ve ever known as well as an old family friend, felt joyous and light. Even the hymns Ave Maria, Be Not Afraid and Amazing Grace seemed happy to me. No, it was not a mournful day.

What I never considered was how much any upset around losing my father would be overshadowed by concern about my mother. I guess it makes sense though. My Mom had been with my Dad for almost 63 years and she had been faithfully devoted to him through the end. Although my father passed rather suddenly, the last months were very challenging for her and she’s tired. At almost 83, I’m hoping she will bounce back and enjoy happier times. This is a big transition for us all but most especially for her.

I woke up the day after the funeral with Be Not Afraid playing in my head. It’s not a hymn I know well but it keeps coming around, almost daily at this point. At first I felt it was rather strange because I never believed my father was afraid of dying and since he passed, I’m convinced he took the express train to Heaven Above. Then it occurred to me that perhaps Be Not Afraid is a message for me.

Yes, I am worried about my mother. I am sad that she doesn’t feel more healthy and spry, however, we are both feeling much gratitude and trying to trust that everything will be OK.  I think we are both focused on be not afraid.

We’ve been practically inseparable since I came home to upstate New York from Colorado close to a month ago. I’m very fortunate to be able to spend this time with her. I’m working remotely while doing my best to be tuned into her needs. In short, I’m less concerned about deadlines and more preoccupied with what’s going on in her life.

Mom in Recovery Mode with Her Kitty

Mom in Recovery Mode with Her Kitty

We’ve been reminiscing day and night. We’ve talked about Dad’s last months, days and hours. We’ve talked about love and we’ve shared everything from deep thoughts to yet another kitchen tip. We’ve laughed ourselves silly a few times and I’m doing my best to keep the mood light.

We’ve opened and read sympathy cards together while chatting about those that have reached out. We have been chipping away at the many thank you notes we want to send while wading our way through the emotional waters churned up by grief. It’s all part of the process. People have been so very kind and we have been immensely touched.

We’re walking this journey together and I feel that my father is accompanying us most of the way.

Either way, we’re in it together. And I keep reminding myself to be not afraid.

Mom and Me this Past Summer in Nova Scotia

Mom and Me this Past Summer in Nova Scotia

Here’s one of many stories I shared in my eulogy to my father

Some say that food is the fastest way to a man’s heart, especially an Italian’s. If so, Dad was served in abundance and he was always so grateful.

One of my brothers told me that the day before Dad passed away, he rang for the nurse from his hospital bed. She came to his room and asked him “What can I do for you, Frank?”

“Oh, I just wanted to tell you how delicious that fruit salad was at lunch,” he said.

That’s my father, for you. I think that story also demonstrates the sweet, innocent side of him. Some call it a certain naiveté. He was genuine, humble and full of boyish charm.

15 Apr 2016, 10:33am
by Lee Recca


After reading this, I feel as if I knew him! My Dad was a WWII veteran too. May you and your Mom know peace and happiness in remembering him.

This is a beautiful tribute to your dad! Love and kisses to you and your mom.

18 Apr 2016, 10:28am
by Denise Gendreau


This time w/ your mom sounds so special despite the circumstances. She is lucky to have you. Take good care, D

22 Apr 2016, 5:49am
by Clea Stagnitti


I’m so lucky to have met both you and your Mom yesterday at Crossgates. It’s obvious that there is so much love there and that your father is and always will be a part of that. This post is a wonderful tribute to him. My best to both of you.

 

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    This blog is a personal blog written and edited by Maribeth Clemente. This blog sometimes accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content. The owner of this blog is sometimes compensated to provide opinion on products, services, Web sites and various other topics. Even though the owner of this blog receives compensation for certain posts or advertisements, she always gives her honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blogger's own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.
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