I had the honor of eulogizing my aunt Rose Farinas on Friday, February 5, 2016 at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. The formal eulogy was delivered by my cousin Irene Dayuha. The wake and prayer service was presided by Most Rev. Larry Silva, bishop of Honolulu.
4,250 miles. Rose Farinas was worth the thousands of miles I had to travel to be here tonight.
They say we are shaped by the experiences we have, and the people we meet, the people in our lives. Everything I am today is in part because I had Rose Farinas in my life.
Several years ago, Aunt Rose traveled that same 4,250 miles to see me in Chicago.
She stayed in my Boystown home. I took her on a yacht along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. I watched her eat a Chicago hot dog and an Italian beef sandwich. We went shopping on the Magnificent Mile.
Sitting at my office desk, and then later, watching dozens of random people greet me on the streets of my city, on a sidewalk in front of the Sears Tower, she hugged me and told me she was proud of what I had become.
At that moment I felt in her the pride, not of an aunt, but also that of a mother.
My memories of Aunt Rose is that of a doting mother. Always looking adoringly at her children, her younger nieces and nephews.
Because my brother and I lived so close to them, because we went to places together, because we went to the same schools and same church, just as I saw Jonathan, Irene and Rochel as my own brother and my own twin sisters, I also saw Aunt Rose as a second mother.
Another mother that offered advice from boyhood into adulthood. Another mother to offer a word of responsible judgment or compliment. Another mother to offer a smile to share in my joy, or offer a smile to make things better than they really were.
It is that last part that I will most remember Aunt Rose—the part I want everyone to know about and remember, the part everyone should take away from here.
Rose Farinas was always full of hope.
It would be a lie to tell you that her life was easy. It wasn’t.
Her life was met with hardship, uncertainty, and even moments of fear.
But she persevered.
She persevered because she had faith.
Aunt Rose didn’t know it but she was a philosopher.
During her visit to Chicago, she began to slow down a bit as we walked around the Adler Planetarium, looking across the lakefront at the cityscape of skyscrapers.
With her haggard breathing, her hair blowing in the cool wind, she told me, “I think things aren’t supposed to be easy sometimes. It’s what you need to make you stronger for what comes next.”
Of all the challenges of her life, being diagnosed with a rare disease in 1991 commenced a period of preparing to die.
But in her philosophical manner, preparing to die meant something else to her. Preparing to die meant living each day determined to pour out as much love that was left in her.
That’s why she kept inviting all of us to come to her house. That’s why she wanted to cook for you and feed you. She wanted to sit with you. She wanted to listen to you. She wanted to hug you, kiss you, cry with you, smile for you and smile with you.
She loved with understanding. She loved with reserved judgment if not without it.
Determined to keep pouring out her love, I truly believe God intervened. After her diagnosis, she was expected to only live a few more years. She ended up living 25 more years.
She didn’t live on what people call “borrowed time.” She took ownership of the time she had left and she made use of it.
The love she shared with many fostered memories. It is by those memories, born of her love, that even in death, she will live forever.
While Aunt Rose has gone from us, it isn’t as it seems.
Arriving for my flight to Honolulu from O’Hare, I watched as people hugged and kissed, bidding fathers and mothers, boyfriends and girlfriends, goodbye before their loved ones disappeared through the gates.
For many of us, we see death as that goodbye. Watching as the airplane lifts off, lifting off into the sky, disappearing over the horizon. And we’re sad because we seem to be sending her off alone.
But the reality is that airplane will land. The doors will open. They will walk through the gates on the other side. And there with arms wide open will be those who went before, welcoming her with great joy and gladness to say, “Welcome home.”
Be happy for Rose Farinas. She’s being welcomed home.