My mother passed away 10 years ago and my father died two years later. My brother Chris found the eulogy I wrote and delivered at my father’s funeral in February 2008. I have very little memory of writing or delivering it, proving that the heart and brain can push past fear, sadness, and severe emotional trauma.
Mel Meiners funeral, February 18, 2008
This very room is the epicenter of Mel & Norma Meiners’ legacy. The Roman Catholic Church was the guiding light in every Meiners moment. Mom & Dad met through church activities at St. Elizabeth. They raised their children across the street from this church property. Both passed away at the sacred Nazareth Home, just a few feet away from each other. Dad will be laid to rest alongside Mom at Calvary Cemetery. Two simply outstanding lives, cradled in Christ’s light in perpetuity.
The Miracle that is the Meiners family just rolled into its newest chapter, “The Reunion.”
If there was a remote control for life, Mel Meiners would have gleefully pushed the fast forward button on the day Norma Meiners died until hyperspeed brought him to today.
We are elated that our father is once again in the arms of our mother. Dad had just finished hugging each of his children, somehow summoning the strength to raise his right arm to pull each of us close one last time as we thanked him for his many sacrifices on our behalf. We sang to him, retold funny stories, and prayed with vigor as the imminent moment neared.
Our only request of him: Hug Mom for us when you get there.
Mel Meiners’ powerful arms got plenty of use in his lifetime, throwing milk crates in his childhood, putting his wrestling competitors into headlocks, hugging anyone and everyone he ever met, and clasped together in prayer.
Watching Dad use that giant arm the other night in his final act of love was reminiscent of his swimming pool ritual from our childhood. He would take us one at a time to the top of the high dive at Turners and say, “There’s nothing to it, brother.” He covered the child’s entire face with his massive hand and then plunged down into the pool, preventing any water intake by the kid. Perhaps even the water was too afraid of him to dare harm us.
After their marriage in June 1949, Mel & Norma enjoyed sixteen months of something they would never know again: peace and quiet. Nor did they want it.
With the help of a stork on steroids, Mom & Dad spent the next 19 years creating 15 children who worship their legacy.
***Obit Clarification: 15 children, “Got that $20 you owe me?”, and DOT COM***
There were inevitable challenges unique to our chosen situation, but our parents always found solutions, filtered first through Dogma & Discipline.
When we were in need, people stepped forward to help. Now when we find people backed into a corner, we respond in kind.
Mel & Norma’s benevolence shown toward Catholic charities, orphans, mentally challenged adults, and the spiritually adrift created tributaries of like behavior in their children, my siblings. Every single one of us has tried to mirror some aspect of our parents’ selflessness. Yet not one of us has been able to comprehend how they accomplished all of their goals.
Back in the day, the Meiners even added orphans from the St Joseph Children’s Home on holidays to assure that they had the Christmas or Easter they deserved. No one ever asked why other families didn’t have extra members for the holidays. Perhaps we thought we’d won the honor in a church raffle.
Dad’s German work ethic permeated everything in our lives. To make extra money, he would umpire games on summer nights. Pushed by the clock to get the games completed so he could hustle to his truck driving job, Dad often declared base runners OUT! when even Stevie Wonder could see they were safe.
After the truck driving shift, Dad and Mom spent abundant time organizing and selling ad space for The Catholic Directory or driving their kids on newspaper routes. Sleep was for slackers. Dad had mouths to feed and endless ways to get the job done.
In hindsight, the Meiners children are now able to see that Dad’s oft- repeated declaration that we were “BORN TO WORK” was an abridged version of his real message: We were BORN TO WORK for others.
How Catholic. How Mel & Norma. How perfect.
Having 13 brothers and sisters was never an intrusion, just a membership in a miracle that was out of our view because we were in it. Amazed onlookers painted a clearer picture for us with their words of admiration.
And our family count was really 24, once you combine all the Meiners and Sadlo family members next door. Henry, Cathy, Frank, Susan, Linda, and Jim remain our auxiliary brothers and sisters, with Henry Sr. and Pat in charge.
Meiners and Sadlo children were interchangeable, coming and going into each other’s unlocked homes without even knocking on the door. And other neighborhood kids knew better than to wait for someone to answer the door. If you knocked, a Meiners inside would yell, “It’s open!” and the visitor would pop in, crack off a joke, and go seek out his Meiners of choice.
Mel & Norma are to blame for this swinging saloon door fun house feel. For the past fifty years, our parents’ home was filled with party guests who sometimes stayed for several days for our “Big Blowouts.” Dad would sometimes have to go to work but the party just rolled on. Uncle Corky or Father Dalton might be sleeping on the kitchen table at sunup but gleefully arise to help deliver papers on a Meiners route. Then it’s back to the house to flip pancakes and wait for the party music to start again. And it did.
The only inherent danger for a Meiners guest came if you were a passenger in a vehicle that Dad was driving. God Bless your soul as Mel navigated his Fred Sanford vehicle by looking up and over stacks of mail, crumpled McDonalds bags, 14 empty eyeglass cases, and an oversized St Christopher bobblehead doll, no doubt shaking his swollen plaster cast head in disbelief at the number of near misses Dad had survived in the first block alone.
Mel was always mindful to connect the seatbelt around the statue of the Blessed Mary, yet not feel the need to buckle up himself, or offer a lap belt in the back for Mr. Bartley, who was usually bouncing around like a crash dummy getting tasered.
The statue was always immaculate, and Mr. Bartley was usually as white as a sheet, which, luckily, matched the monogrammed neck brace Dad’s insurance man had made for him.
Mom and Dad died with massive reserves of love in their hearts for the Catholic Church, their fellow parishioners, relatives, neighbors, the needy, and most of all, their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, all assembled here today.
Dad’s love was more feminine-centered than even he ever realized. He lived for the Blessed Mother, his dad was gone before he even married Norma so his love for his own mother (Deeny) burned brightly. His love for Norma was his constant craving, and it consumed him from the moment she died 26 months ago. And he loved his seven daughters so deeply that he finally felt safe enough to go to Heaven once he knew all seven of his daughters had arrived to visit on his last day.
The other night, he gave all that he had left by summoning the last bit of strength he had in that massive body to extend that big powerful arm and hug each child just hours before the Pearly Gates opened.
When the time arrives for the eternal gift each of us desires, be assured that Mel Meiners’ giant, powerful arm will pull you through that last rough passage with his massive hand protecting you from harm.
And he’ll greet you with a hug and an invitation to the Big Blowout they’ll throw in your honor.
Welcome home, Mom & Dad. We’re thrilled that you made it.
Just don’t get used to the peace and quiet. We’re on our way.