When the duty of eulogizing my father fell to me, I couldn’t have been more honored to do it, and I was mildly amazed at the prospect of actually getting the last word in. But when I sat down to write this, it quickly set in how difficult a task it was to properly summarize his life and to convey how much he meant to so many people in just a few moments. Instead of trying to do that, I hope to tell you who he meant to be and I think that when all is said and done, we can agree that he succeeded, perhaps moreso than he ever realized.
My father was a man with a great sense of duty to his God and to his fellow man. He pursued that duty in a lot of ways, both great and small, but nowhere is it more evident than in his chosen vocation. A very intelligent man, with a strong education and all the options the world had to offer, he chose to spend his days teaching children, and in doing so he took upon himself one of the most difficult jobs in education: teaching remedial reading to some of the most disadvantaged kids in Rhode Island, something you certainly don’t decide to do for the money. Instead, he followed Jesus’ example. He welcomed the children unto him, and gave them one of the most important gifts a child ever gets, something these children were lacking: the power of the written word.
This created something of a conflict for him, as he also saw another duty that he needed to fulfill. This one was to Ginny, the love of his life and to their children. Ken came from humble beginnings, and he was determined to see that his family didn’t struggle as he did growing up, and that we would never want. In order for him to be able to do that, a
Before she passed away, my father promised my grandmother that his brother Gene, who was born with a number of challenges, would be taken care of, and my father saw to that flawlessly. It wasn’t enough for him to see that Gene’s physical needs were met, he also saw to it that Gene knew he was loved and to that end Uncle Gene was a frequent fixture in our house with my father driving to Providence to pick him up and again take him home, ensuring that he always knew he was part of a loving family…with plenty of beer.
My mother mentioned something to Dad shortly before he passed that is an ultimate tribute to a life well lived. Not only did they share 48 years of joyful devotion to each other, but they left absolutely nothing undone. Everything they hoped and dreamed of doing together, they did. This includes being blessed with seven grandchildren. Times spent with them were the happiest moments of his life. Ken McKay was a man fulfilled. He didn’t lose his life, he completed it.
I’d like to share a proclamation of faith with you. It was written by Cardinal John Henry Newman in 19th century
“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good. I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it - if I do but keep His commandments.
“Therefore I will trust in Him. Whatever, wherever I am. I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me - still He knows what He is about.”
Today, my father knows what He is about. Today, Dad knows the answer to the question that tugs at every one of us. Today, Ken McKay knows why.
“My Christ is a balanced teacher who would suggest that we lighten up, or as the kids say “chill out”. Life is not supposed to be somber. If peace is the tranquility of order, we must have time for laughter after the required tasks are done. Any time I put a smile on my neighbor’s face, I have, if only for a moment, lightened his load as Simon did with the cross. Laughter then, is an act of love.
It is said that every cigarette puts another nail in one’s casket. Perhaps then, it is fair to say that every laugh takes a nail out of that same casket. So maybe smokers should laugh a lot!
If I can’t laugh my way into Heaven, I may well be in serious trouble! Pray for me! And that’s no joke!”
I would be remiss if I didn’t make mention of my father’s 45 year relationship with St. Philip’s. My father loved this Church, and he loved this parish. That was evident to me from as far back as I can remember, as I heard his voice fill the building that this one replaced with prayerful song every Saturday at 5:00 mass. But it was when my daughter Alannah fell ill and we found ourselves confronted with incomprehensible pain and overwhelming fear that we truly came to know how much this parish loved him. I hadn’t been around much for more than twenty years, and my wife and daughter were virtually strangers to this community I had just returned to. The darkness that we found ourselves in was no match for the outpouring of love and support that this parish showed for us. My father called it “the most beautiful display of Christian love that has ever blessed our family” and I know that he appreciated that love as much as my family did. I also know that it was a direct reflection of the love that all of you had for him. We thank God for it, and we will be eternally grateful for it. So, thank you all from the bottom of my heart and my father’s.
Ken McKay leaves us with an enormous hole in our world, but with overflowing hearts. We should all live so faithfully and so well, and leave this Earth so loved.
God bless you, Dad. Enjoy your reward. You’ve earned it.