Reflections on My Dad’s Example


Norb Kwiecinski, my dad, knew how to make you feel completely comfortable.

Oh… he could make you squirm, too. Make no mistake! Don’t forget. He was also the toughest guy I ever knew.

And I may have provoked his “tough guy” side a time or two over the years…

But at his core, Dad’s enormously compassionate heart shone through.

Today, I took some time to reflect on Dad’s disarming, loving example. Please take some time to watch:

#dadupdate – Funeral Arrangements


Sometime during the first overtime.

Reality walloped me.

Right in the back of the skull. Like an accelerating two by four.

Like a battering ram. Reality came crashing through the walls of my defenses.

We got home around … hell, I don’t remember … 10:30? It was the third period of the hockey game. That’s all I know.

Sharks and Preds. Game four. Round two.

That’s how I tell time during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I’m not joking.  The world sorta stops for a few hours almost every single night for two months. A playoff game is on!

And it’s thanks to Dad that I watch with such fanatical fervor.

Like a kid. Still. Almost 58 years old.

That’s a topic for another time. More later.

But this week… and more particularly on this night… things are different.

I sat on the right edge of the bed. My side. TV on. Hockey game on. Kathy sawing logs behind me.

I’d taken my contacts out, so I was pretty much blind. Didn’t bother finding my glasses. I sat there and stared at my smartphone.

I looked at some Facebook notifications, posts and comments that Facebook decides are important to me. I saw Doug’s post about Dad’s funeral arrangements. Then Stephanie’s post.

I  shared Stephanie’s post on my Facebook page. Then I decided to share the actual obituary.

Earlier in the evening, before we left Mom and Dad’s house, I made the last-minute decision to cancel my appointments this morning.

It was too late to call anyone. I have a rule not to call a client after 9 PM. I sent texts and emails to cover all the bases.

One client acknowledged me immediately via text and asked for details about Dad’s services. I wanted to share a link to the obit.

The obit on the funeral home’s mobile website didn’t appear to be shareable. Before I shared it with my client, I tested it out to see what page opened when I typed the address into my browser.

It took me to a generic page for Simkins Funeral Home.

“Well, that’s no good. I want to give him information, not send him on a wild goose chase. He’s being very kind.”

I wanted whatever I sent to be complete information… didn’t want to make him work to answer his own question.

There was a link to the full website. That’s what I was looking for. Clicked on the obits. Clicked on Dad’s name.

There was his obit. With that great picture.

Was the link shareable? That was the most important part of this experiment.

I tested it.

Yes. That link took me directly to Dad’s complete obituary.

I sent the link to my client.

So there I was, sitting on the bed. After sharing Stephanie’s Facebook post, I decided to share this direct link to the full obituary.OI2047625967_Kwiecinski

Countless numbers of people have replied to Facebook posts and have sent me personal messages.

I haven’t seen most of them. We’ve been too busy with funeral arrangements, the cemetery, funeral Mass prep, fighting traffic…

As I sat on the edge of the bed, TV no more than four feet away (all I can see are shadows without glasses or contacts), I read some of the messages.

All of the emotions of the words written by friends and family welled up inside of me as I read and responded.

But none of the words hit me harder than gazing at that picture of Dad’s smiling face.

I’ll never see your smiling face again.

I’ll never hear another smart-ass wisecrack.

Doesn’t it look like he’s got one on his lips?

One look at that picture and tears flooded my eyes. I sobbed hysterically. And I pretty much haven’t stopped since.

I’ll never hear him tell me “Love you, Dave” again.

I’ll never hear his voice. I’ll never hear his laugh.

I’ll never kiss his puckered lips again.

Yes, we kissed each other on the lips.

Men, if you don’t kiss your Dad, start. Look directly into his eyes. Tell him you love him. While looking directly into his eyes.

And give him a kiss. Doesn’t have to be on the lips. But if you kiss your Mom on the lips, find a way to start kissing your Dad on the lips. Or on the cheek. Make it tender. Make it loving. Make it heartfelt.

I’ll never get to do it again.

Here’s Dad’s obituary:


Even a Perfect Seed Needs TLC. And Good Soil!


Dad can grow anything. He has the green thumb in our family.

Last year, when he realized he was going to be in the hospital for such a long time, one of his biggest worries was “who’s going to take care of my plants?”

They survived, thanks to the joint efforts of Mom, sister Stephanie, daughter Martha, and even a small assist from me.

Dad recently got home from the hospital after another of what seem like regular monthly visits since his discharge a year ago May.

It was Fat Tuesday. Easy to remember. Mom was scheduled for an outpatient procedure that morning. Dad was going to go, but just home from the hospital hours before, we thought the best place for him would be at home. My sister, Karen, was picking Mom up for the procedure. Kathy had the day off and I rearranged my schedule so we could spend the time with Dad.

He agreed, albeit reluctantly, to stay home.

Kathy and I got to the house after Mom and Karen had left for Lutheran General. Dad was already hard at work, carrying each of his orchids from their perch in the sun near the southwest windows over to the sink for their weekly drenching.

His orchids are beautiful. Without a doubt, he has the green thumb.

One of Dad's orchids.

One of Dad’s orchids.

I, on the other hand, tell everyone that I have crispy brown thumbs. I didn’t inherit Dad’s touch with plants. But he was able to coach me up — from the confines of his hospital bed — just enough to keep his precious babies alive.

TLC is part of it. Good soil is also essential.

In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter (John 15:1-8), Jesus continues teaching the disciples that he is the true vine and God is the vine grower.

In Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI (copyright 2007, Ignatius Press), Pope Benedict uses the analogy of Mary as the willing soil, accepting the seed of God, the seed that becomes Jesus.

What a perfect analogy of the importance of Mary in the life of every believer!

Even a perfect seed needs the right soil.

Jesus taught us about seed that falls on different types of ground, too. Remember? So this analogy makes perfect sense, right?

The Word became flesh.

Pope Benedict explains that seed “assimilates the earth’s energies and changes them into itself.”

“Mary, the holy soil of the Church, is an essential part of Christ. The mystery of Mary means precisely that God’s Word did not remain alone. Rather, it became Man in the soil of His mother, and then fused with the soil of the whole of humanity returned to God in a new form…

“To be soil for the Word means that the soil must allow itself to be absorbed by the seed.

Mary’s maternity means that she willing places her own substance, body and soul, into the seed so that new life can grow.”

Without Mary, God’s Word remains apart from Man. Or maybe Man cannot assimilate to God’s Word.

Mary’s willingness to allow God’s Word, God’s seed, to meld with her flesh is essential to Jesus becoming Man. Her humble submission is an essential, vital part of our salvation.

Did you ever stop to think where Jesus got His hair color, His eyes, His voice, His stature? From the soil of His mother.

And where and how did the helpless baby Jesus learn human love and respect? From the TLC of His mother and stepfather.

If Jesus was truly human, His humanness is as essential as His divinity. His Earthly parents are truly part of Him. And Mary is truly present in His physical presence.


Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.



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