Once in a while, or should I say, as often as possible, I like to remember those who have gone before us. The personal blessing of this blog I’ve created is that I have a record of the important things in my life, all the while, hopefully sharing some things that can help others and relate to their lives as well. We’re never alone. Sometimes we feel alone, but someone’s always going through something similar and whether they are a friend or family member – or a stranger – we can certainly try to take comfort in the embrace of someone who is experiencing what you are.
On April 11, 2014, my mother and our dear extended family lost its patriarch, Francis J. O’Connor, of Sarasota, Florida. My mother was the eldest daughter of nine kids and always exemplified leadership in the family. Myself, as the eldest of four, and the second oldest of 31 grandchildren, often had occasion to step into a leadership role as well. I had the absolute pleasure of leading our family in prayer as we gathered in the funeral home before moving to the church for Grandpa’s funeral. I’ll share with you my dedication and prayer, and hope that it inspires you if ever put into a similar position:
Grandpa had a fantastic, warm, jovial smile, didn’t he?! Imagine that your smile was so revered that every time someone who knew you, and loved you, smiled at someone else, they would think of you. What an incredible legacy to leave. I’m going to think of Grandpa when I share my smile, and the joy he exuded will live on because of it. Let’s all honor him by smiling more. Smile at each other, smile when you talk to God, and most importantly, smile at a stranger every day because you might be the only one who made the effort to do so. You’ll make someone’s day.
Lord, thank you for this cherished time together with family. Help us to see the very best in everyone and to live by your example of peace. As your servant Fran did, help us to lead enthusiastically, rejoice with humility and to serve with compassion. And for all of those who are in need of your strength on this day, we pray that you will offer your healing hands and loving heart. Bless our precious time together, comfort us in our sorrow, lead us to greener pastures, and give us the conviction to do your goodwill, as Grandpa did. Amen.
To paraphrase some of his obituary, “Fran took great joy in his role of loving grandfather to 31 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Fran was a true family man who drew much satisfaction from his ‘one, big, happy family.’
Fran was inquisitive by nature and strongly supported education. After completing high school, he enlisted in the Navy, serving during WWII. He also continued his education, studying mathematics and law, eventually becoming a member of the Ohio State Bar Association.
Fran worked his entire professional career for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, a national grocery store chain. He was the Director of Budgets and Controls, when he retired in 1987.
Fran loved the water. He enjoyed swimming in pools, lakes and oceans. He also enjoyed tennis and golf, especially in his retirement years at Palm Aire Country Club. He made lots of good friends there and at his church, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, where he was a founding member of the Knights of Columbus.”
I loved my Grandpa dearly. I had the utmost respect for what he accomplished in his life. He worked for the same company his whole life, affording his wife to be home with NINE children, all of whom are incredible, loving, compassionate people. He and my Grandma were best friends, always by each others’ side in everything they did, until the very end. His smile was infectious and his heart bigger than you can imagine one man’s chest could hold.