2020 has been a year none of us will ever forget. Is that not the understatement of the year!? We had a global pandemic, government shutdowns, trillions in stimulus, panic, fear, riots, election chaos, and it's still not over. None of this even scratches the surface of how I'll remember 2020. For me, it's the permanent end of my childhood and the time for me to prove out the legacy left to me. What does that even mean... "the end of my childhood"? In 2020, both of my grandparents on my father's side passed away. On the surface, this may seem extraordinary that I still have grandparents living... and it is. It's so much deeper. Ken Sr and Gabriella Carfagno were my Nana & Pop-Pop for 43 years. In reality, they are the true mother and father in my life. I spent every weekend with them growing up. They are the ones I sought approval and affirmation, especially my Pop. Their loss ends my extended childhood, where I still had a father to go to for counsel. Pop was the patriarch of the Carfagno Family and now he's gone. I'm now left to stand on my own and become the new patriarch, but I don't stand from the ground. I stand upon his shoulders. This episode is a short departure from cleaning as I want you all to pause and reflect on what you have already. What are you grateful for? Your family? Your health? Your business, where ever it is?
Here's the text of the eulogy I gave at my Pop-Pop's funeral:
I would like to thank my dad, Ken Jr, my uncles Bob and David, and my brother Dominic for allowing me the honor to remember our father and Pop-Pop today. Ken Carfagno, Sr was always larger than life to us. We have always felt that Pop was the greatest man that ever walked this earth except for Jesus himself. I am so grateful that I got to spend every weekend with Nana and Pop-Pop growing up. They made me who I am.
Ken was the youngest of five children from Jerry and Concetta Carfagno. Nana Concetta ran out of Italian names, so she named her 5th after the 1930's singer & actor Kenny Baker who she thought was very handsome. Who knew that name would carry on 4+ generations? Ken married his high school sweetheart, Gabriella Corbett on October 20th, 1956 after going steady for over 4 years. They raised 3 boys and half the neighborhood on both Anchor Street and Harvard Road! Nana and Pop were inseparable for over 63 years of marriage. None of us could ever say one's name without mentioning the other. They were Mom and Dad, Nana and Pop. That's how interconnected their souls were. When Nana passed away this February, a huge piece of Pop died with her. Although we're grieving, we know they're together again.
Pop was only 40 when I was born. He was young, full of energy, joy, and life. Nana and Pop raised me as their 4th son (even though I was a grandson). Pop taught me humility, gratitude, how to be a man, how to live a righteous life, how to keep God at the center of your life and make church-going & prayer a discipline. He taught me how to be faithful to one woman your whole life, how to love, how to honor, how to live, how to share wisdom with those you love, how to provide for your family, and how to invest in your future. He was the only man to truly recognize my potential and creativity and he fanned that flame throughout my life. When I met Teresa in 1998, he did the same for her and over time built a very special relationship. Nana and Pop never treated her as an "in-law". She was truly their daughter.
Teresa and I recently watched a movie where a wise elder of the church gave this advice to a grieving 13-year-old who lost his baby sister to cancer. "You will walk with a limp the rest of your life, having lost someone you loved so much. But God will bring you through the shadow of death and make you stronger because of it." After the movie, I read David's 23rd Psalm as I felt the Holy Spirit teaching me something.
"The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for endless days."
I have a rare ability some call a photographic memory, but it's much more profound. My mind constantly replays memories of my Nana and Pop-Pop. I can see them. I can hear their voices, their laughter, their joy. I can feel them, feel their adoration and love. Smell them and just about reach through my mind and touch and hold them again. These vivid memories are the shadow of death to me, yet each is a single light to strengthen me when I am faltering. My life is Pop's legacy. I will finish the race. I will keep the faith with the hope to hear these words from Jesus that I know my Pop just heard. "Well done, good and faithful servant."
I am so grateful to my family that I was the one honored to be with Pop on his last day on earth. I have three highlights from that day. Number one. I held his hand and played his favorite songs by Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, and Jo Stafford. Two. I heard him laugh. Nana hated Pop's beard and wouldn't kiss him when he wore it. I said to Pop. "We better get you cleaned up. If you go to heaven with that beard, Nana is going to kill you." I also told him. "Pop, the squirrels are getting excited in heaven." He knew what that meant and laughed (squirrels like nuts). And third, I thanked, encouraged, and prayed for him as he took his final breath. The pain of loss is none like I've ever experienced. It's a huge limp! But I have an overwhelming joy and peace in the knowledge that I was not saying goodbye forever. Pop-Pop, Goodbye... for now. Thank you for every hug, every rebuke, every praise, every memory. I love you, Big Guy.
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