Today is the one year anniversary of my father’s passing away. It is hard for me to believe that a whole year has gone by. I still look for him in my house–sitting in his chair watching football, at the dinner table reading the newspaper, or in his bed at night when I used to check on him to make sure he was okay…
I couldn’t let the day pass without paying tribute to this wonderful, gentle man–my Dad. Below is the eulogy that I wrote for my father last year that was read by my cousin (and Godfather) Jack Berta.
I miss you Dad. Rest in peace.
Written December 2, 2005
Thank you for being here today to celebrate the life of John Alzo.
John was a wonderful son, husband, and father; a kind and caring brother and uncle, and a loyal friend and neighbor. He was a skilled carpenter and a fantastic basketball player. John served his country in the Navy during Word War II, and more importantly, he served God by his kindness to others whenever and however they needed him.
John was a man with simple tastes. A bowl of homemade chicken soup would satisfy him, as well as potato pancakes with buttermilk, and any other Slovak food my mother prepared for him. He would also enjoy a “shot and a beer” at the Slovak Club or Union Grill after a long day on the job at the Union Railroad.
John loved to laugh, enjoyed watching sports, reading the newspaper, and having fun at family gatherings and basketball tournaments. You are here today because John touched your life in some way, and I would like to briefly share with you a few words about how my father shaped, influenced and inspired my life.
Dad worked as a carpenter on the Union Railroad. Every weekday morning he rose at dawn to put in eight hours of hard labor. Although his job was not glamorous, he earned a decent salary and took pride in the fact that he worked hard for an honest living. It also gave him great satisfaction to know that he helped to construct many of the buildings and bridges in the area. Dad’s appearance at the end of each day showed how dedicated he was to earning the money necessary to look after his family.
For the last 13 years I served as the primary caregiver for my father. I took on this role after my father suffered a stroke in 1992 from which he made a near full recovery except for impairment to the peripheral vision in his left eye. Two years later, my father was diagnosed with cancer which required extensive regimens of chemotherapy and radiation. I would drive him to and from his appointments and there were times when I wondered if he would make it until the next day. But he did. He survived 11 years in complete remission. Then, in 2001 circulatory problems nearly caused the amputation of his right foot, but he survived that too. The Lord had other plans for him and granted him more time. Still, the arms which used to powerfully wield a hammer or saw became thin and fragile like a delicate piece of glass. The fingers which could maneuver any tool so effortlessly became bent from the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. The muscular legs that carried him up and down the basketball court for over 20 years, were reduced to slow and deliberate movements with the aid of a walker. Over the years, I watched him overcome these debilities – and others – with grace, dignity, a sense of humor and a strong, sound mind.
Not long before Dad was hospitalized, we shared a special moment one night that upon reflection I think was Dad’s way of letting me know that he would soon be leaving this earth. He remarked how the Lord had been good to him his whole life, but then the illnesses knocked him down, and he was no longer able to do the things he used to do. Dad said that his only regret was that he wasn’t able to do the “Lord’s work” in the ways he desired. But the truth is, my father was a steadfast and faithful servant to the Lord. Right up until his last days he was still showing love and kindness to those who cared for him—thanking his nurses and me for helping him. He kept smiling even though his strength was weakening. I believe it was fitting that he died on a Sunday–the Lord’s day–and also on the first Sunday of Advent, when the scriptures tell us we all need to be “alert and watchful for the Lord.” My father did not once indicate to me that he was afraid of dying. His faith was a great source of inner strength and comfort.
I know that my father was an exceptionally strong person both physically and emotionally because of how he dealt with all of the circumstances life handed him. Today, I want to express gratitude to God for my father. I am grateful for so many things—for the stable and loving home he and my mother provided for me growing up, for teaching me right from wrong by example. I want to thank my father:
For tucking me in at night.
For riding the roller coasters and Ferris wheel with me when I was a child.
For serving as arbitrator during my teenage years when my mom and I did not agree.
For driving 30 minutes each way every Tuesday to pick me up after my classes during my graduate school years.
For lending his shoulder to cry on during the most difficult moments in my life.
I want to express thanks for these and so many other things that made my father “my dad.”
My cousin, Cathy, recently said the following about my father:
“If all the people in the world could have someone like him in their lives, the world would be a much better place and there would be peace through out.”
I am sure those of you who are here today will agree. And to Dad, who now knows what it is like to be free from worldly cares, pain and suffering, and to experience the joy and reward of being the faithful servant to the Lord, I say,
God bless you always.
Although we – who are gathered here today – are all sad to let you go, we’re happy in the knowledge that you are with loved ones in the company of our Lord.