Monday, March 05, 2007

Maurice Wilbur Evans August 12 1914 - October 27 1991

I have been thinking about my father lately, and last night I found my typewritten talk at his funeral at the Rushville New York Methodist Church in 1991. Not long ago, I thought I had misplaced this paper permanently. I'm posting it on my blog in part because it's the best way I can think of to keep track of it. As a tribute, it falls short of what he deserves, but these were the words that came to me then. Dad was a wonderful human being - a fact that I'm glad I lived long enough to realize, because it wasn't as clear to me as it ought to have been when I was very young.

The hospital nurses described him as a “sweet guy” and as “a gentleman”. He was. Even while suffering with cancer, pneumonia, shingles, bed sores and fever he seemed to be trying to make things easier for people around him. He was courteous and thoughtful to the last.

But there was also more to him than the nice old guy the nurses saw. He was a good man in all seasons of his life. He was a father, a husband, a worker, a neighbor, and a man of faith. And always he was himself,never vain, never pretentious.

If you knew him at all you know that he was modest and shy almost to a fault. He tried not to attract attention. He avoided crowds when he could. He never put himself forward as a leader, was never on the church board or union executive committee, never gave speeches and never preached. If you had asked him he might have claimed he wasn’t very religious. Even when I told him what a good father he was during one of our last visiits, he waved away the compliment with a gesture of his hand. He didn’t think of himself as especially good.

Yet he was. He was a kind and loving husband and father and grandfather. Not the kind of father who threw his weight around and demanded respect, but the kind who spreads his care around and earned respect. He and my mother raised their family in an atmosphere of love, which I know has helped us in our lives. He was a loyal church member and a deep believer, though he didn’t talk about this much. He began a practice of daily devotions and Bible reading almost thirty years ago – originally in order to encourage his children – and continued the practice as long as he was able to live at home. Knowing this about him and knowing that so few other people did always reminded me of Jesus’ advice that we should pray in a closet rather than in a showsy public place.

As for kindness toward others, this came naturally to him. He and my mother were doing things for neighbors and relatives as long as I can remember. I think of an older man who used to live alone on our street and who was always welcome to come over for visits and sometimes for meals. I’m sure there are people in this room who can recall times in recent years when Dad offered a ride to the hospital or clinic, or brought a meal to someone who was shut in. Most of you know that he and my mother opened their home to a grandson who was very ill for many weeks just a few years ago. To hear him tell it, though, these were never good deeds - - just a kind of trade he was making with others who had been or would be good to h im. He was more aware of what he received from others than of what he gave to them.

And, of course, others did do things for him. He was grateful, and we in his family are grateful for all the love and support we received during his illness: the neighbors, friends and relatives who visited, helped us to visit, sent cards, sent prayers, or just said a word or two of comfort when it was needed.

When Jesus was trying to tell his disciples about the way it will be in the Kingdom of God, he warned them not to be like a man who went to a banquet and sat down uninvited beside the master of the feast. He said it was better to sit at the lower end of the table and wait to be invited to a better seat. I can picture of my father at the Great Banquet not even taking a seat at all, but sort of standing near the edges, back near the door. I picture the Lord taking him by the arm and guiding him to the head of the table and telling him to sit in the place of honor.

Finally – I want to mention the fact that Dad had the same name as a certain famous actor. Once in a while when I have filled in “father’s name” on an application blank or official document, I’ve been asked if I am the son of the Maurice Evans. If I am ever asked that again, I will say that “Yes, I am.” And if I am asked what it is like to be the son of an actor, then I will explain that the Maurice Evans was not an actor but a farm hand, a truck driver, and a construction worker. It was the other Maurice Evans who was an actor.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Paul L said...

This is beautiful, Rich. You must realize that you carry a lot of your father in you; it shows in your writing.

5:49 PM, March 06, 2007  
Blogger Contemplative Activist said...

That is really beautiful Rich. Your father's influence is very evident in you (although I suspect like him you will wave this compliment away.)

I hope you are well - I think of you and Friends at 15th Street often.

CA

8:54 AM, March 09, 2007  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Many thanks to both Paul L and CA for their comments.

I wouldn't want to "wave away" their compliments. I'm gratified to think something of my father lives in me. At the same time, I am sometimes more conscious of how different I am from him than of the similarities. As I get older, the differences seem more and more in his favor, so to speak. He was a hard-working construction worker who actually helped build things. I work in an office and am hard put to describe what my work accomplishes. Moreover, he acheived what he did without the benefit of a formal education beyond 8th grade. I spent a lot more time and money (both his and the state's) getting "educated" and it remains unclear to me whether I have made the best use of that education.

His piety was very private and he shrank from attention. I tend to be a tad preachy and seem to keep pushing myself into prominent positions in my Meeting.

I do not say this to put myself down, nor to earn additional recognition for my "modesty". I know that I have my good points and I do owe many or most of them to my father and mother. Even my preachiness and self-assertion, which seem to have first sprouted in my generation, are good things (in moderation) since they embolden me sometmies to say or do something that needs to be said or done.

As to whether I am well....I am definitely getting better. I have had some hard times in the past year and some folks even thought I was going through a "breakdown". I would like to write more about this and I think I eventually will. At first I shrank from doing so because I thought that if I did I would have to violate others' privacy. Increasingly, I see that a lot of my distress has really been my own and that I can discuss it honestly without saying anything about the troubles of others that I at first thought were the "real problem".

- - Rich Accetta-Evans

10:33 AM, March 09, 2007  
Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

I am very glad that some of what has been burdening you this year is getting better--whatever it has been. I hope that you will find a way to put your difficulties of the past year into words here, because I value you you, and I'd like to be able to take your struggles to heart.

Thanks for sharing about your dad.

2:52 PM, March 10, 2007  

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