“GOODBYE”, DEAR JACKIE !
Ever since I got the call from Austin on Thursday morning telling me that you were no more, I have just been too numbed for words! The news of your sudden death has shocked us all - your beloved wife Leela, your loving children Alka and Austin and their families: Kevin, Darin, Edwin, Ethan, Ian and Ingrid and all the rest of us: family and friends, gathered here today – and those far away!
Everything at this moment seems unreal: like a bad dream which will hopefully pass away. It is so difficult and painful for us to accept that you are no longer here Jackie; that you just had to leave us so suddenly, swiftly and silently.
But then, we do accept that our life here is but a pilgrimage. All of us are here today and gone tomorrow. As Christians, we do believe in the resurrection, that all of us are called to eternal life. In some ways, the hollowness that we experience at this moment is mitigated by the fact that we will unite with you one day.
So at this moment, we gather together as one family to celebrate what you have meant to each one of us during your life here on earth – warm and tender memories of a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a companion, a colleague, a neighbour.
Last night, I was wondering what to say at this homily today. Like a film the many years that we have known each others just rolled by - almost twenty five perhaps, if not more! I cherish those happy moments we spent together; but at this moment I want to highlight just three remarkable qualities which were you Jackie.
Our world today is fraught with hypocrisy and a lack of authenticity. So a person like you Jackie who has always been so sincere, so very genuine - was like a breath of fresh air. There was a kind of transparency that always radiated from you; a special joy which one felt when in close proximity of you. In your life there were no pretensions. You did not try to hide anything nor did you try to put on any airs. You were always just yourself Jackie! That is what drew people to you. There were people like me, who were just happy to be your friend or to call you theirs. From your sincerity, there always exuded a genuine warmth, something special, which your immediate family always experienced in you.
The sincerity in you Jackie also made you a very sensitive person; always loving and caring, responding to the needs of the others. It was this sensitivity, which made you always available for others. Last night, as we celebrated your memory in a special family Eucharist, I asked each of your four grandsons Kevin, Darin, Ian and Ethan - this one question – “What did granddad mean to you?” The answers were spontaneous and genuine: “he loved us”; “he accompanied us”; “he played with us”; “he took me to the park”; “he accompanied me to my karate classes”; “he spent time with us”; “he talked to us”. This, Jackie is the best tribute that anyone can get. Out of the mouths of babes flow words of truth. There are indeed so many all around who have experienced your sensitivity during your life here on earth. We thank you Jackie for this.
Whenever I think of you Jackie, I am reminded of St. Joseph. St. Joseph, we know was a simple and just man. There was a profound simplicity in you Jackie: In your demeanour, the way you came across to people; your unassuming nature was definitely something special. All of us needed to learn this from you. Yes Jackie, there was a touch of class in your simplicity. You were unobtrusive yet you became a comfort-zone for many. There was something about your simplicity Jackie, which had an ‘old-world-charm’, a kind of a quiet which belonged to the distant shores of Karwar. In your simplicity you were always there for all.
So dear Jackie, as you lie here in front of us – Leela, Alka, Austin, Ingrid, Ethan, Ian, Darin, Kevin and Edwin and this large crowd who have come to pay their respects to you, we thank you for the sincere, sensitive and simple life you led here on earth. These 3 S’s in fact highlight your SELFLESSNESS throughout your life.
There are several questions all of us ask this moment: Why did you have to go away so suddenly dear Jackie and so swiftly and so silently? Why did you choose to go away when all were so unprepared, with no a hint or trace of any warning from you? Why did you choose to say your last ‘goodbye’ in the midst of all your immediate family? Why did you choose the very time I happened to be in the United States in spite of my own programmes being rescheduled at so many different times? Yes dear Jackie, there are many questions indeed and we will always search for the answers. But even in death, you wanted to trouble no one – that was typical of you Jackie!
We are all going to miss you very, very much, dear Jackie:
Leela, Alka, Austin, Ingrid, Ian, Ethan, Edwin, Kevin and Darin will miss you in ways unknown to others because you have been a loving husband, a devoted father and a doting grandfather.
My colleagues at ‘Prashant’ are shocked and saddened to hear the news of your death! They will miss those many fleeting visits with a ‘hi-and-bye’ from you, with a wave of hand and that very special smile you had reserved for us.
And there are many others who will miss you in a countless different ways!
Above all Jackie, I will miss dearly someone who regarded me as his closest friend and to which I reciprocated without hesitation.
In the Gospel of today Jesus tells us, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he die, shall live”. (John 11:25) Yes, Jackie, we believe, that at this moment, you are there with the angels and the saints enjoying the eternal happiness to which you have been called.
Thank you, Jackie for being with us and accompanying in the journey of life here on earth.
Thank you for being that wonderful husband, father and grandfather and above all I thank you for being a true friend.
Goodbye dear friend – till we meet again!
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
This homily was delivered on 12th October, 2013 at the Funeral Mass for Mr. Jackie Fernandes at St. David the King, Catholic Church, Princeton. NJ, USA. Mr. Jackie Fernandes expired in Princeton on 10th October, 2013.
This homily was put in text – form, a few days later)