I am sure many of you will regard this as odd and perhaps I will get a few unsubscribes. So be it.
What follows is the text of the eulogy delivered by my Uncle Richard Kless at my father’s funeral earlier this week.
Thank the Lord for Marriott stationary. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Frank’s little brother, Richard, and this is the third time I’m doing this for one of my siblings. You know, they talk about sibling rivalry, how they always pick on the little guy? You got him, right here; Thanks to my brother. It was my brother Frank that suggested that perhaps I should say some remarks when my mom passed away, and I didn’t know it was going to turn into an industry.
Father, please forgive us for laughing in the sanctuary, and I want to thank you for a beautiful liturgy, and a wonderful mass. You saw enough of my brother in the gospel readings, so I’ll try to give some reflection too. Frank was the oldest of both sides of my family, in terms of cousins, the oldest of my three siblings, he had a lot of roles, so as Father mentioned, he was a great teacher. He did a lot of things, and I was reflecting so much that I can stand up here forever, when I thought of the many roles that he had.
When you have 10 years between your oldest sibling and yourself, there’s this ten year lapse of the little intimate snapshots. It’s not so much a video, but it’s these little pictures in my mind, and Skip was always the big guy in my life. He didn’t speak much, as a lot of you know. He wasn’t the easiest guy to communicate with. You’d wait that half hour for the, “Yes.” But I think of the many roles that he played: Big brother, oldest cousin on both sides of my family, my mother’s side and my dad’s side, and he was looked up to. He was this quiet guy.
I got an email from a good friend of mine, who was actually writing to my sons, talking about their uncle, and he said, “Your brother, your uncle Frank was always a kind and considerate man,” and that’s how we knew him. I think of the roles that he played as the oldest sibling, the oldest cousin, and then, as he went through life, I remember him deeply, and I was thinking about the first real memory I have of Frank.
He took me for a bike ride around the block in Brooklyn, New York, and if you knew, growing up in Brooklyn, New York, your street was the world. And when he took me around the block, wow. That just opened up my horizons. And I remember him as the oldest sibling — my mother would drag me along, my brother was in a play — through high school years and all that. I look at these roles, and he fulfilled each one that he had, and not only as a sibling, where I think his quiet demeanor spoke much more than the words he could ever say. As he went through life, he became a boyfriend to a girl who only lived a block and a half away, and they met in the first grade. They went through grammar school together, and when they went to a wedding, he caught the garter, and she caught the bouquet, and the greatest role that he played was as a husband.
And then, he was asked to do some more: play the role of dad, and it was awesome to see him as a dad.
I, again, as the youngest, always had the great, nice way of going out and spoiling my nephews, and nieces and would just go back to college, and leave them all in disarray, to annoy Frank. But he was a husband, and a dad, and the role he played as grandfather was his finest that he would play, through 11 grandchildren. In all those roles that Skip played — I can call him Skip. That’s all I ever knew him– I think I only called him Frank, like twice in my life. I really mean that. To me, he was Skip, and the inspiration that he gave to us.
Some people say, “You know, it’s tough to get to know your brother. He doesn’t say much.” And look at his whole entire life. His life was speaking volumes. You have these poignant moments when someone dies, and the other day, when we went in to the funeral home — and Paul want to thank you too on behalf of the family; you’ve been a great godsend to us — Peggy started lying to her children and me. She started saying, “I am sorry I am not strong.” And Eddie said, “Ma, the last six years say otherwise.”
And I think of Skip’s last six years, the suffering that he went through. Never once would Frank complain. I remember talking to him, saying, “Why are you watching the food channel? You can’t eat it. Why are you doing this?” But he loved cooking, and it was almost–he could watch the food channel, and taste what they were doing, and he was okay with that. And I was like, “You’re sick. What’re you doing?”
But to know Skip, Frank, you have to know his faith. He was a deeply devoted Christian, Catholic man. Father alluded to that. And he was really proud of me when I was going for my masters in theology, and I think that’s the one thing, that he was always proud of other people’s achievements. When he was coaching in high school, he coached three national champion hurdlers and sprinters at Mt. Vernon High School. He only coached for five years, but he did his best.
He read up on coaching techniques, he talked to a lot of people. I know he became very good, close friends with my high school coach, and they just couldn’t believe where he got these talents from. It had to do with his great mind. He loved to read, but we know, he loved to direct too, and he taught so much.
But it’s in his quiet faith, his quiet and unassuming faith, that I would say that you would really have to know the depth of my brother. We once discussed, I remember this a few years ago. It was after he had a stroke, and he could not eat anymore. And he once asked me what my favorite scripture passage was. And I said, “Well, that’s kind of too difficult.” I have a couple of favorite ones, and one that we used in the gospel tonight is one of my favorite. But I said, “I think it’s the one in Mark’s gospel, that it’s the shortest prayer that I ever heard, but it’s the most honest prayer.” I want my relatives to know this, and Skip’s friends to know this, and I told him.
I said, it is, “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.” And I got talking to him about that, and he said, “That’s pretty honest, right?” You don’t believe, but you believe, and you kind of want to believe some more. And I know after a stroke, this is very ironic, you know, Kathleen passed, Jimmy had passed, and it was just he and I. Peggy told me the other night, “There’s no more bookends.” He would often say we were the two twins separated by ten years. But getting back to this mention of faith, I know that there’s some of you who don’t believe in God. I know that you’re here out of respect, but I would also say, if you want to know my brother Frank, you’d have to know the depth of his belief in the Lord Jesus. Often times, we are asked, what is it about death? We are the Kless family, so we are the family that puts fun in the word funeral because we do it so well. And again, I mean no disrespect, but I would say part of that fun, is your faith.
It’s that little seed in all of us. That says, “I believe, help my unbelief,” because Jesus honors that. In the face of death, in the face of loss that we all have, I’ve looked for it. I know other people have looked for it. And there’s only one person that has an answer for this, and that’s Jesus. And my brother knew that so well. Frank knew it so well.
Jesus hated death, and death is not the natural order of things. It’s life everlasting, it’s the love that we have for one another. It’s the love that mocks death, as Jesus would, and says come into the kingdom. The last vision I have of my brother Frank, is sitting up at the Father’s banquet, and boy, enjoying those ribs, and everything else he saw on the Food Channel. He had a beautiful understanding that men and women are the crown of God’s creation, and as great as this universe is, as great as this creation is, God loves us beyond the grave. God does not allow this to be the final word.
That was Frank. He lived it. He did not have to say too much about it. He was a kind and considerate man. As the scriptures told us, we honor him. He honored us in his life, his quiet life that he led by example. For this, we are all grateful. Thank you.
And here is the audio.