My paternal grandpa, my Dad’s Dad, passed away on March 16th. Baby G and I spent a whirlwind couple-a days down in the Bay Area attending his rosary, funeral and burial.
The priest at his rosary and funeral knew him from daily Mass. He spoke words of wisdom, lessons we could learn from Grandpa. The bottom line: Grandpa was prepared. We know not the hour nor the day of death, in that way death is mysterious, so the best thing we can do is to remain prepared. Grandpa did just that: frequent Mass, he seemingly waited to pass until after a priest came to do an anointing, and- even in his senility- he tapped his fingers over and over repeating the 5 worded prayer “Jesus, I trust in you.”
The priest at his burial didn’t know him. In fact, called him Joseph the whole time, though we always knew him as Paul. True to his French-Canadian heritage, all his brothers were named Joseph (his sisters Marie) so middle names were the way to go. It was somehow fitting though, because the Feast of St Joseph was mere days after his death. And we all related to him as a father or grandfather. This priest spoke of stories. Tell his stories. Gather and tell his stories and that is how you will remember him. Little did he know, that was all we had been doing. All we ever do. The Labries are a tribe of story tellers.
My own Dad, actually named Paul Joseph, gave the funeral eulogy. He stood straight and brave, the love and grief and truth cracking through every once in a while. His words are far better than mine could ever be, so, with permission, I’m re-printing them here.
I hope that through them you will know, even just a little, who my Grandpa was, and who he will remain to those of us who love him.
I would say “Good afternoon” but I’ll leave it at, “Afternoon.”
I am Paul Labrie, Paul and Paulette’s oldest son. My family and I thank you all for attending this memorial Mass for our beloved Father. We are humbled by your acts of kindness and your presence helps to lift our spirits during this difficult time.
For those of you who many not have known Dad, well, what you did see was a kind, gentle man, quick to smile, or with a joke. A man who volunteered for service without question to lend a hand or build and design some project without recompense.
For those of us who loved him and knew him well…That was Dad. No airs, no need to put on false pretense. Simple, quiet, loving, true.
I would have trouble finding anyone who ever heard him say a cross word about anyone. Well, other than those directed at my brother Willie and I. Though in retrospect they were certainly deserved. Yet once delivered, that was the end.
Raised during the hardships of the Depression and the deprivations of WWII, he learned how to persevere through hard work and thrift. A life-long trait many of us are familiar with.
To make ends meet, he and his family took many hard labor jobs. A funny one he related from his youth was working as a grave digger, of all things, with his Father in Massachusetts during the winter in sub zero temperatures, where the ground froze at times down 2 1/2 feet. They would use a 10lb sledge and metal pike to break through the ice. With his father swinging the sledge and Dad holding the pike, he was always grateful his Father never missed. He said, “All those years I never saw him strike the pike, as I always had my eyes closed.” -A true man of faith.
He took great pride in the accomplishments and careers of his children and grandkids. If any asked for help, he never said no. It was only important we continued to move forward. He may have questioned our choices but enthusiastically supported our decisions once made.
He would guide us with gentle encouragement and spoke with pride to others of our successes. At first, it did not come easy to lavish praise, as he was from that generation of quiet fortitude and self-sacrifice.
Born in 1922 and raised in a large family of 5 brothers and 3 sisters in the midst of the Depression, he told us they did not know they were poor as everyone else was too.
Serving with distinction in the Pacific Theater during WWII as a marine, he rarely spoke of his service- if only to joke that he went in a 154lb civilian and discharged as a 128lb Marine. Even with his propensity towards seasickness, he served honorably on the Flagship Appalachian under Rear Admiral RL Connely. They were involved in many battles in the South Pacific and sustained many casualties. In correspondence home he never complained, he always spun a positive light on the dangers and constant threat he and his fellow marines faced.
Dad always relished the gathering of family. The chaos, laughter and food- mostly the desserts. He would greet all with a smile, a genuinely warm handshake, or in the later years “the HUG”. Then sit back, and take it all in. He would dive into any game of cards with a relentless pursuit of a win. Unless the grandkids were playing him, where somehow he could never win, then with a harumph and a laugh, dive right back in to lose over and over again.
We all seek guidance and knowledge about life. Yet, occasionally as in my father, this pathway existed right in front of us. If only we could have removed the blinders of youth and inexperience that shielded us from seeing. Most times only age and experience allow us to finally glimpse and then know the truth.
Dad was a man who set a path, focused his energy and invited us to join him on his journey. When he wavered it was only to stop and look back at who faltered, then patiently wait for them to catch up, join hands again and continue the journey- in love, virtue and integrity with him.
To assign these few words to Dad and to understand and honor him, is just not enough. Yet all we have today are words and memories. He loved his beautiful wife of 63 years, Paulette, his family and his God.
Many of you know him by his prayer, repeated everywhere, hundreds of times a day, “Jesus, I trust in you.” (I can assure those you who heard him in church, he was not saying as some thought, “Jesus, please be quiet!”)
To close I would like to paraphrase an old saying: “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle to burn as brightly, yet the life of the original candle will not be shortened. Love never decreases by being shared.”
This world is a lesser place today without his guiding spirit. Were the world more like my Dad it would be a better place. We all miss him. Like the Dark misses the Light.
We love you Dad.
Genevieve is our only child to never meet Grandpa. She is also the only one who saw his funeral and I know she shares a special connection with him.
The night he passed away was a terrible night for sleep….well, for me, anyway. G kept waking up, and somewhere between 2 and 2:30 AM she just kept talking. Not crying or fussing- just her normal 6 month baby babble she speaks to those she loves.
Bet you can guess why I mention it: Grandpa passed away during those same early morning hours.
We feel his loss, but we also feel his close presence and his intercession.
Joseph Paul Labrie
July 24, 1922 – March 16, 2017
Pray for us, Grandpa.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.