Rochester, NY

As the choir sang and Tony slammed the piano, I looked around at a church that hadn’t been that full in many years. Kleenexes dabbed the corners of eyes and took away sniffles. There were consoling rubbing of shoulders. The black shirts and dresses did not give off doom and gloom. There were tears, but there were also smiles. This was the way a funeral should be, a Celebration of Life and a Passing to Eternal Life.

John Miller, a great man, my confirmation sponsor, and a man my father admired, died this week. He fought hard and long with heart failure. For years we would ask about Mr. Miller and how he was doing. The reports would vary about his health, but there was never a wavering report on his mind and soul. “He’s so strong, I don’t know he does it.”

When my family went and saw him at the hospital a few weeks ago, there he was, weak, but smiling, cracking jokes and making Caytie show him her engagement ring. There he was asking me in detail about my journey and my book. Even in his sickness, he was a pillar of strength.

I knew that was the last time I would ever see Mr. Miller. It made me sad. His family was there that night and I have known them since I was born. We are not close in terms of seeing each other often, but when we see each other, there is a special bond that comes from our parents and our upbringing. We are a different type of family. I see them and I see a lot of Mr. Miller’s. The luckiest gift you can be given is a father that you want to be like. I can say without a shadow of a doubt all 6 of his children would be honored to be like their father. I see him in them. I saw it in the hospital, I saw it when I stayed with Joe in NYC, I saw it yesterday at the funeral, and I saw it in their send off letters.

At the Holy Name of Jesus Church yesterday, my boyhood catholic church that I don’t go to very often anymore, I felt a change inside of me. It could’ve been the music Mr. Miller chose or the friends that spoke, but as they sang the song, “This One’s with Me,” my mind flashed to what I imagine as the Gates of Heaven. I also flashed to the book the 5 People you meet in Heaven. Amongst the clouds I saw in my mind, there was Mr. Miller, my confirmation sponsor, welcoming me, hand on my shoulder, and telling some people I could not see, “This one’s with me.”

You take things for granted as a kid, and I did not listen to all that he said during our time leading up to my confirmation. But in the past weeks, I knew why my parents were so approving of Mr. Miller as my sponsor. His words are still there waiting for me.

No one is perfect and we all have to overcome adversity, but wherever it is that God and Mr. Miller get together and talk about life, I can see God saying to him, “Thanks for listening. Thanks for getting it right.”

The day was a sad one yesterday, but it was incredible to see all of the people and hear all of the stories. Mr. Miller is the real deal. He is not of this earth anymore, but he has passed on a legacy to so many. I am lucky to say he is in my corner and that thought brings me peace.