By: Maggie (Della Rocco) Griffin
The cessation of life is a human emotion that is a powerful force. However, when life ends, somehow it is then we see a “standstill” in the emotions of families, friends, communities and nations. Tragic endings, sudden endings, expected endings; creates a moment where time becomes contemplation.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” My Dad lived by those words. However, in-between he made choices in his life that proved anything is possible when you have the courage to make it happen, a man that once said “with 50 cents in my pocket, I will give to you.”
Remembering 9/11 is a day I won’t forget. The world stopped as People from all walks of life in every nation asked themselves, “What if I had lost my family member?” Consider the destructive aftermaths of Natural Disasters or Military Men and Women who die to fight for our freedom because of wars. There is so much more I can mention, but as a politician asked me once “Maggie, where are you going with this.” It’s apparent that politician never read what Benjamin Franklin once wrote, but a phrase my Dad lived by, starting out with 50 cents in his pocket. The irony was, he knew my Dad.
My Dad Made a Difference. He felt personal grief losing close family members and friends. Grief is unbearable. Coming face to face with the harsh reality that you will never again see that person is something we cannot explain, but the remains are photographs and memories. Whether it is a natural loss or loss by tragedy, one will always feel the emotional grief. Where am I going with this? Like my Dad would always say to me “There is always a method to your madness”.
As I write this in memory of my Dad, I am reading a letter he wrote me before he passed. It says “The day you were born, there was a star in the sky. That is why I call you my lucky star, love Daddy.” When people tell me I am just like my Father, that’s a compliment. My Father cared enough about people in need. He cared so much; he gave and expected nothing in return. He loved his family and was the core to keep values in me. He was there when I was born, and I was there when he died. He taught me more than values; he taught me to speak up and reminded me I will never walk alone. It became a moment when I looked back and suddenly remembered precious moments the day he died. Knowing my Father, he would never want to see those in his life cry in his death.
I was the chosen one out of his six kids to speak his eulogy. It began with “Many of you here knew my Father as a successful business man, leader, fire commissioner and councilman. Now I am going to tell you about my Dad". I made mention of every single one of his children, including me, and the funny things he would say and do. I spoke his eulogy in celebrating his life. Turning tears into laughter reminded people he was more than what they knew about him.
The method to my madness, something I somehow inherited by my Dad, was to make people realize and understand that in life, we all have a purpose. We live in a world of uncertainty, a cruel world where there is too much hate and tragedy, yet in between we know for certain death and taxes are guaranteed.
My Dad once said to me “we live in a world of false promises, a cruel world where you need to understand the unexpected.” For that reason, in my high school year book, I wrote “There was yesterday to remember, today that we live and tomorrow we shall see.” There is a meaning behind that phrase. That meaning is, as we live today, it’s important to remember yesterday, for today we can make a change for tomorrow. No matter what that change is, it is possible when we remember all the things people experience in life - personal, nationally and worldwide, along with tragedy that took place and losses we came face to face with.
My Dad, with 50 cents in his pocket, was a man of Wisdom. He provided for people in need and gave his love to his family. A man, like others, who was misjudged at times because he stepped up to the plate to make a change for others. A man who commonly would say to his kids when we didn’t listen “I am taking you out of my will”, received a response by me when I was younger “wipe your butt with your will”, he hugged me for saying that back to him. He reminded me of the time I said that before he died, ending with “I am proud of you that you made that comment, here is 50 cents.” Then I told him, “Dad, times have changed, prices went up, I should be getting $50.00”. A few days later, when I was young and made that response about his will, I found taped to the wall above my bed head board a $100.00 bill that I still have today just in case I ever need it to pay taxes.
My Dad, with 50 cents in his pocket, created and filled his promises to his family, friends and people in need. When he gave my daughter 50 cents, he told her she will go farther with 50 cents than with $50.00. She graduated high school recently as a National Honor Society Student, Varsity and CAPT Scholar. When my Dad gave my son 50 cents, he told my son to use it wisely. My son collected food, leading a group of fellow classmates to triple the collection of food items to feed the hungry. Both my children took pride in honorable citations from the State of CT.
He gave me instructions of things to do for him before he passed. They were: “Make sure I am buried wearing my best suit, comb my hair the way I comb it, spray my favorite cologne on me, make sure they put my pants on me that goes with that suit, and don't forget to put 50 cents in my pants pocket". My family wondered why I showed up an hour before they arrived. He put that in writing and had it notarized so that nobody gave me a difficult time when I fulfilled that promise.
One of his wishes was to have the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra played at his funeral. Unfortunately, the church wouldn’t allow it. But in speaking his eulogy I ended it with “Dad, I know you wanted this song played, but it’s a request that cannot be done here. However, when I play this song, it will always be in your memory because you certainly did do it your way".
August 16th marks the 5th year of his passing. I was taught by a man of wisdom, a man I call Dad. His name is Dom Della Rocco, my Dad. He came from poverty and committed by determination to do things his way. Starting with 50 cents in his pocket, he became a man of success with values and morals, a man who is still remembered, loved and missed by many. And when he told me I will never walk alone, he meant it, with 50 cents in his pocket.
This is for you Dad, your song, I love you always, with love, Your Lucky Star: