When my father passed away in January, I imagined his voice saying, “Everything will be all right.”
Dad taught me how to drive by letting me take the wheel of the family station wagon on the way home from an uncle’s summer place in Springville. As I navigated those dark and twisting country roads, I don’t know who was more terrified – me or my mom and sisters in the back seat.
But Dad was always encouraging. He would say, “just keep your eye on that white guideline on the shoulder of the road … and everything will be all right.”
I think that sums up my father’s long journey on this earth. He always kept an eye on that guideline – that sense of direction that came from his deep faith, his inherent goodness and his love of family. He was a devout Catholic who believed that if he followed the path that God set before him, everything would be all right.
It wasn’t that my father was naively optimistic. He was an educated and intelligent man. He learned early that life doesn’t always travel in straight lines and there are times when guidance is more important than ever. As a young boy, he lost a 3-year-old sister to illness. During World War II, he was stationed overseas and could not go home when his own father passed away. Later on in life, his career of 32 years disappeared when the steel plant where he worked as an accountant moved out of Buffalo.
Through it all, he kept an eye on what he knew was right and kept moving forward.
Looking back down that road, it seems my father’s philosophy worked. Nearly 65 years of marriage; seven children; 18 grandchildren; and more love surrounding him than you can ever imagine.
There was a particular experience during World War II that I think helped forge my father’s faith that everything would be all right. Dad was a radio operator on a B-17 airplane and flew bombing missions over German targets. I’m guessing that was a bit scarier than teaching me how to drive.
Stationed in a small Italian village called Foggia, he had an opportunity to visit with Padre Pio at a monastery located way up in the Gargano Mountains of San Giovanni. Padre Pio, canonized a saint in the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II in 2002, was known for bearing the stigmata – he had unexplained wounds on his hands, feet and other areas that corresponded to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. St. Francis of Assisi was the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history.
My father spoke often of his encounter with Padre Pio – about the long, treacherous ride up winding mountain roads to the monastery. And the grimacing facial expressions and cries of pain from Padre Pio when his wounds caused discomfort.
Visiting and attending Mass with Padre Pio bolstered my father’s confidence that everything would be all right, even as he returned to the skies over Germany. That visit affected my father profoundly and he carried the lessons of the experience the rest of his life.
Interestingly, one of his favorite quotes from Padre Pio was, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”
It reminds me of my father saying “keep your eye on that white guideline” – be guided by faith, hope, love and trust in God.
Next time the road gets rough, think of that white guideline. And remember to pray, hope and don’t worry. Everything will be all right.