24 May 2010

'nuf said

Gene and Me, 1990.

What’s in a name?

Gene. Short form of Eugene, English variant of the Greek name Eugenios, meaning well or proudly born.

A dignified name, fits my brother nicely. Just don’t call him Eugene. His name is Gene. He is immensely proud of that name.

There was a time in his life that he just didn’t like it, and insisted his parents call him. . .Chip. He thought the name Gene was. . . too feminine? Unusual?

It was a phase, thankfully. His name is Gene, and proud is he of that name.

Callahan. His great-grandfather’s name. As Irish a name as the day is long. Strangely enough, as a given name, it means contention or strife. I just learned that bit last Friday. It’s ironic, because my parents and Gene often did not see eye-to-eye, which was a source of contention. . .but they have always respected each other. Gene bears the name Callahan with gusto. He gave it to his firstborn son. If he hadn’t, I would have.

Gene recently became quite fascinated with all things Irish—music, dance, history, and—you’ll forgive me father—Gene loves Irish whisky. . .but that’s a story for another time. Gene has always been proud of his heritage, and lately was becoming more so.

I’d like to paraphrase from a letter Gene wrote to his children in March, to illustrate this particular point of his pride. He wanted them to knowwho they are and from where they come:

Munster, the southwestern province of Ireland, was ruled by a people called Eóghanachta for almost 16 centuries. The Eóghanachta take their name from Eóghan Mór, who died about 192 A.D., and is the earliest-known ancestor of the MacCarthys. Of the Eóghanachta, the MacCarthys were Kings of Lower Munster or Desmond from 1118 to 1596.

Gene’s point? We are descended of Irish Noble Blood.

The English form of the name Eóghanachta is. . .Eugenian.

According to the best known of ancient Irish legal texts, these are qualifications of a just ruler: That he does not violate his people by falsehood, force, or superior strength; let him be a just, sound mediator between weak and strong. Let him be a man of full righteousness on every side, let him be a man who inquires after knowledge, let him be an abode of patience.

. . .that sounds a bit like Gene.

I'd like to say a few words to his family, his people:

Ryan. You are the strong, quiet one, with a dry wit inherited from your dad. You are headstrong, but not stubborn. You have an artistic streak which I envy. You have been thrust into the role of man-of-the-family at much too early an age, but you’re bearing up quite well.

Connor, two years younger. Your humor manifests itself a little more as mischief. You’re the sensitive one. You wear your heart on your sleeve at times, whether it comes forth as anger, or compassion, or wit. You are as likely to show emotion openly as you are to crawl under a rock. . .either of which is ok. You too have been forced to grow up too quickly due to circumstance, but you’ve come a long way lately.

Meagan, two years younger again. Gene’s little princess turned tall beauty. Your personality and wit remind me of my own sister sometimes. You danced your way into our hearts from the very beginning. . .appropriate, since you are now studying dance. You are maturing magnificently.

Allison, the surprise bundle of joy. Five years after Meagan. You were so shy and quiet in the beginning. . .but not any more. You’re a charmer. Your humor is a perfect mix from your dad, and from your brothers and sister. You’ve grown very nicely yourself. Keep your brothers in line.

Lori, thank you so much for bringing four such beautiful people into this world and raising them so well with Gene. . .and Sabrina, thank you (and Lori) for being such a joy and comfort to Gene for all his days.

Gene is insanely proud of all of you, and he loves you dearly. It sounds cliché, but he is watching over you.

Gene was a tough person, not so much that he wouldn’t ask for help if he needed it. He would do anything for his family. Nothing is beneath him. When times were tough, Gene was not too self-important to work the odd job or two to make ends meet, all in the name of his family. While he and Sabrina were away in Florida, his heart ached for you, his children, and it was that heartache which brought him back to Oregon, to be nearer to all of you.

Our hearts ache with yours that he wasn’t here longer.

Gene loves all of us—this won’t change. He will be here with us as long as we continue to keep him in our hearts, to think of him and talk to him. You might have noticed that I have been speaking of Gene mainly in the present tense, because I believe he is still here with us, part of us, perhaps not in body, but certainly in spirit.

I am honored to call Gene my brother, my friend. I hope I can live up to his pride in me. He envies his sister’s accomplishments, even if he never said as much to her. He is immeasurably proud of his parents, of what they stand for and what they gave to him. His parents are proud of him as a son, we are all proud of what he gave as a father. I know in my heart that you, his children, are proud of him.

So what’s in a name?

Gene summed it up in his person. Pride. . .not boastful or conceited, but Valiant. Magnanimous. Gregarious. Full of love for his family and friends in abundance.

All that, in his name.

As Gene would say at this point, 'nuf said. . .

Before I go, I would like to share with you a simple prayer, which Gene spoke in this very room at our father’s funeral fifteen years ago. It is likely the most beautiful prayer I have ever heard. It bears repeating today for Gene.

Please close your eyes, listen carefully, and you’ll understand.

by some
that when a bell
rings, a soul, waiting
to get into heaven, gets
its wings to take it there.
the next time you hear a bell
close your eyes, think of Gene,
pray with all your heart and soul
that this time, Gene gets his wings
to take him to paradise and to those who
are waiting
for him.


Gene Callahan McCarthy 
Proud Father, Proud Son, Proud Brother
21 August 1955 - 18 May 2010
Too short a time indeed.
We love you. We will miss you.
We weep because you are gone in body,
We rejoice because you are here in our hearts.
Save a seat at God's banquet for us.
Hoist a glass of the Water of Life with Dad,
And save a drop for me for when I join you.

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