Eulogy delivered by Steven Capri on Sept. 30, 2013 at Church of Saint Mary's, Roslyn, New York
A Tribute to John F. Capri
On behalf of my mom, my sister Michele, myself and my entire family I want to welcome you all and thank you for your show of support. It was no secret us before but these in these past days and then seeing all of you here this morning only confirms what we already knew -that my dad touched a lot of people in a very unique way. He is always described as a really good guy, a great guy. He was someone who had an uncanny ability to always immediately connect with whomever he met. But he was more than just a great guy. He was SPECIAL. He was my best friend. He was MY DAD.
Five very brief letters, MY DAD.
Now the first time I was asked to describe my Dad was in 1st grade. I still have the report framed in my house. It consists of three pages. The first page is titled “My Dad”. The second one says “My dad likes to sit down” and finally the last says “My dad likes to lay down”. For that I got my first “A” in school. Sr. Mary Laurentia was not a particularly tough grader.
So where do I start with this today, to try and condense, to abridge to summarize his rich life and to encapsulate the essence of the man and to somehow celebrate him?
As I wrote down his date of birth and date of passing something seemed so finite about it. It bothered me to think about it that way and as I searched for the words they came and went. I thought the words would come rolling out of my head but for some reason they didn’t. There’s too much to say, too much history to cram in. There are too many ripe stories and accomplishments to recount in a short period of time. The words were a jumbled mess and so I turned to God and asked for some help.
I said “Please help me out here”, and He agreed to help me. After all who could refuse a request on behalf of John? God said of course He would because John was one of his best guys. Anything for John.
God said that he didn’t think that people really needed a recap of the thousands of details that were a part of his life, the organizations and people he loved, and the particulars of the things he did and the stories he told. Everybody has their own fond memories of him. Besides, He told me, as much as I love you, I know that you have a terrible memory and there is no way you would tell those stories like John. Leave it to others to tell them. And then He told me to sleep on it a little.
And so I did fall sleep. And when I awoke it was dawn. I could feel that I was outside, it was wet and it smelled like dirt. I could see a wall of earth. I am standing on a rock and I get the feeling that I am in a void, a chasm, a hole. I am all alone.
I look up and see light penetrating the foggy mist and I head that way. It’s muddy and I start climbing up. The fog begins to lift and now I can see further. It is indeed a hole. A huge, huge hole. I continue climbing. And as I reach the top the mist begins to rise and as I look out on the horizon and look a little closer I see concrete. A lot of concrete. Walls and walls and walls.
And now I see it. It’s a building foundation. A big one. And the foggy mist hangs. I still can’t see up through it. I get a tap on the shoulder -turn around -and there is he is, smiling. “Dad? I thought you were gone”? “Na, not really gone he says – just can’t talk out loud anymore”. He puts his arm around me and says, “This -is for you”. And I say “Really”? “Yea – really” he says. “How do you like it?”
And I say “What is it”? “It’s a foundation. All that college education and those engineering degrees and I have to tell you what it is”?
He says “C’mon let’s grab a sandwich and some olives and we’ll walk and talk. I’m buying. You want salami or turkey?
“Salami is good Dad”. He says “Listen, I need to show you a few things. I want to make sure everything is alright with the job”.
“The JOB”? I say?
I look down in the hole again and I turn to him and say “Dad – this foundation is pretty impressive – and I know you gave it to me as a gift -but what do I do with this thing. I mean -where are the plans”? “Don’t worry about it. You don’t need plans” he tells me. “You just need some love. This thing will
practically build itself with love. Floor by floor. Brick by brick, piece by piece. Look what happened over here on this section I worked on”. And I look up. The fog fades and I see it. It’s a huge tower and it disappears again into the clouds.
He says to me. “I only put the foundation here. The rest came from others. Look at this thing”. And I’m thinking to myself of course he is being modest about it -as usual. With John it was never about him. It was ALWAYS about someone else.
“Give it away he says to me. It will come back to you many times over” So I asked him. “Dad what do you mean? Give what away? And he tells me “IT means YOU. It means giving away what we all seem to think is the most precious commodities that we have. And that is ourselves and our time”. And I thought, you know he always seemed to dig deeper into his pocket and pull out more time.
Where did he get all that time? Like magic. He was always there.
We walk into the first floor and take the elevator up, and up and up.
“Where we goin”? “Up – can’t you tell”? “Dad this place looks pretty nice and I bet that with way you always extended yourself and the things you did for others that God’s got you pegged for a special place like the penthouse here. Me – I probably have a place on the second floor. I’m worried I might not see you again”. He says to me “All those years of college and you haven’t figured out that the floors are all connected by an elevator? You can see me anytime and I’m going to see you too”.
“Don’t worry. Everything will work out in time”. And as we ride up I trust him – as usual. It was always easy to trust him. Everything always seemed to work out just fine for him. “Dad? Hey you know everyone is looking for you? I’m really happy we got to talk but everyone is going to ask me about you. I’d really like to be able to tell them I spoke to you. What do I tell them about the job”?
He says, “Tell them they can find me everywhere.
Tell them I tried to live the way God would have liked.
Tell them I love them – all of them. Equally. They are all beautiful people.
Tell them to trust each other. Have faith in God and of course faith in your fellow man.
Tell them to be men and women of their word and to live with integrity.
Lead by example first then by words – and then trust and hope others will follow. You know there are a lot of good people out there who are waiting to follow. Always hope. Stay positive. It will all work out in the end. Others will gravitate towards that energy. Be there for one another. If you are there for someone else they will be there someday for you. Carry a blanket with you at all times. Someone else will always need to be comforted. Tell them to try travel as much as they can – if they can. There is so much to see and do. You only have one life. There are no repeats. For the most part I did what I wanted and I have no regrets. Enjoy what you do and do it because you love it. You will never really have to work if you do. Work for peace. But peace needs to begin with you. Without that beginning there can be no end. Tell them there is beauty in everything, even the ugly things. Look close and you will see it. Don’t dwell on things you can’t change. Figure out the ones you can and then do it.
Forgive others. It is God’s treatment for mental wounds and internal scars. Learn to compromise. Most of the time it isn’t all that important anyway. Take comfort that there are more good people on Earth than bad ones. Learn to fly – in your own way. And it doesn’t have to be in an airplane. Tell them to not be so quick to judge one another. If they do they’ll probably be wrong anyway. Tell them to never speak ill of one another or talk behind each other’s backs. Be patient. Be honest. Be loyal to one another. People will love you in return. Don’t be afraid to give people a second chance even when they let you down the first time. Believe
that they will ultimately reward you. Work hard and play hard -if you can. Someday you may not be able to. Don’t stop working – otherwise you’re likely to rust. And speaking of rust. Don’t drink too much water. Did you ever see what it does to the inside of pipes? Be fair and compassionate. Look out and stay connected to the family. It is the only one you’ll get. Entertain and celebrate with friends and family whenever possible. Be kind to others, feed the poor and the hungry and take care of the sick. Look out for those less fortunate than yourself.
Don’t be afraid to be last. Why does everyone want to be first all the time? It’s all a big circle anyway. Remember that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Live to serve others and do it with a smile. Give of yourself. You can never empty that bank account.
Cherish craft and skilled labor. It is one of God’s finest ways of letting you play a little part in creation.
Tell them not to be afraid to get dirty and work with their hands. It all comes off with soap and water.
Honor and cherish your spouse or partner.
Treat each other with respect.
Tell them there is no such thing as a job that is beneath you.
Tell them to keep their composure, to have grace and style – even when those around you won’t or don’t. Be genuine. You can’t fake real.
Whatever you do give it 100% or better. Some day you may only be able to give it 1% or less. Take care of the children. They are the innocent in need of love.
Capture their hearts before they become lost.
Be an ambassador for goodwill and love through community service. I promise you that you will meet some of the finest selfless people on Earth. Tell them to cherish the little things in life and remember to keep it simple. Life really isn’t all that complicated. Besides, nobody remembers anything complicated anyway.
Love food and drink and remember to eat well – if you can. Food IS life. Someday you may never be able to eat again. Tell them to live life to the fullest. Love life, spread life and cherish it. Make life, share life and nurture it. Taste life, smell life and sense it.
Tell them that I am always with them and looking out for them. Tell them to please take care of my beautiful bride the way she took care of me. She was the wind beneath my wings and the rock upon which this building is built. We are one and what you do for her you do for me.
Finally - Love one another as I have loved them. “Dad -I’m on this job for over 50 years. How come you never told me all of these things”? “Sure I did. Just because you didn’t hear them come out of my mouth doesn’t mean I didn’t tell you”. And I thought – he never DID tell me. I watched and I knew. “Man, that’s a lot to remember” I said. “And you know about my memory”. “Don’t worry” he says. “It’s all inscribed in the foundation. You may have to dig a little to find it but it’s all there”. Finally, we get to the top and step out onto a large roof. I see a plane in the distance with some smiley little faces in it.
“Dad, can you do us all a favor please? Will you work on that book with all of the stories? I want to keep it around for everyone to read. We’re sure going to miss those stories and you know about my memory.”
“Maybe you and I will write it together someday he says”. “Hey Dad -whatever happened to that salami sandwich”? “Forget it for now. I’ve got something better planned for later. It’s time for you and everyone else to pick up and start building this thing again. I’ve been talking too much – as usual. Listen, we’ll talk again but right now I gotta go. I’ve got a new job to start. Besides, they’ve got a big celebration dinner for me and I told Noni , Pop, Uncle Frank and the rest of the gang that I’d be there and it’s getting late. My Manhattan is waiting for me”.
“Dad do you really have to go?”
“I’m afraid so. When God calls EVERYONE has to listen. I know you’ve got a hard head and never did listen too well but I tell you that you will need to listen one day too.” “Hey, check out my new plane. A six seater with room for a pile of kids. “ “Tell Mom this one has autopilot. Now I can finally fly AND sleep”! “Don’t forget – all those things I told you and remember to tell everyone – I love you”. “Hey Dad? Did I ever tell you how proud I am of you”?
“Yes you did”. He hopped in, fired the engine and gave the thumbs up. “4-5-5-0 Delta requesting permission to taxi to the runway”. And he was gone. I turned to God and said “You know this is all so very hard for my family and everyone else who knew him”. He says, “Of course. I know it is but I’ve got something else for him to do and I need the rest of you to spread the good word. Don’t worry, you’ll all get together again. In the meantime I put a little piece of him in ALL of you – don’t you know that”? And I say yes of course. Thank you, thank you thank, thank you dear God. What a gift. It’s Christmas every day. Dad, I love you. We ALL love you.