I wrote this a few weeks ago for Memorial Day but set it aside and delivered a different homily in response to recent tragic events. Being Father’s Day, I have LAZILY repurposed this blog post about my dad for my June 19th homily.
Father’s Day is a day to remember. A day to commemorate, a day to record, note, and honor the lives of our dads.
Today we re-tell, re-visit, and re-connect. Today we re-member and piece together the stories of the fatherly lives – who have blessed ours. Page through that photo album, re-read those newspaper clippings, sort through their papers.
Who is that you re-member today?
Today I remember my dad. I apologize. I originally wrote this for Memorial Day — his story that might have been better told on Veterans Day. And now I am re-telling it on Father’s Day!
My Navy dad was not a lifer. He served in the Navy only a few years. But his military service meant the world to him – so much so that he proudly held on to his Cracker Jack navy blue wool seaman’s jumper for the rest of his life.
My dad, Dr. Peacock, was mad about the 1970’s TV show M.A.S.H. He LOVED it. A Board-Certified surgeon, it totally jived with his identity. Right out of high school in 1945, he gratefully enlisted in the Navy – the Navy that sent him to college at Holy Cross and later put him through medical school at Georgetown U. Stationed in Alameda, California during the Korean War – in the operating rooms at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, he stitched together and saved the lives of who knows how many service men and women.
When M.A.S.H. played on primetime TV, my dad, was in the prime of his career – Chief of Surgery at Cafritz Hospital and a teaching doc at Howard U. The Navy had launched him into a lifetime of service to his fellow man. I would like to say humble service — flamboyant is a better word — he was a surgeon after all.
High priest at the hospital, his every word was gospel. Young doctors came to sit at his feet. Colleagues sent him patients they did not know how to treat. Nurses snapped to attention at his command. And grateful patients who could not pay, paid him homage — with bushels of crabs and crates of cantaloupes.
My dad was Jesuit-educated and at the top of his class. Insatiably curious about the world, he read three newspapers a day. A voracious reader, he subscribed to Heritage Press and Book of the Month. Musically minded, he listened to both Mozart and Mad, Madam Mame. Fastidious, he fussed over his attire and fiddled with his ties. Drop dead handsome, he rivaled the likes of a Gary Grant – or maybe a Rock Hudson — or at least, so he believed.
Being a doctor, of course, he worked doctor’s hours: weekends, holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter – no exceptions. As a child it seemed to me that he was always making rounds. And on very rare occasions, I got to go round with him and troop behind him at the hospital – like an acolyte.
My father once told me, that there was nowhere he was more at ease, there was nowhere he was more relaxed than in surgery. He was most himself in the operating room.
Can you imagine that?
I thought him a miracle worker and I was in awe of him.
Not even Father Knows Best/Dr. Welby could compare with the likes of him.
Both grandiose and grand, my dad expected our house to operate like the hospital – where he was totally in command. Domestic life baffled him. He was not very good at it; in fact, he was terrible at it. But that’s okay.
Complicated and imperfect and insufferable, my dad is still a hero to me.
And on this Fathers Day, I honor and remember him.
And because of my dad, I also am mad about M.A.S.H. Binge watching reruns on my couch, I realized that this is the homily I never got to give at his memorial service.
So, who was my dad?
He was Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, brash, and brilliant, and bold.
He was Colonel Sherman Potter, commanding and demanding, extremely knowledgeable, and sometimes wise.
He was Captain B.J. Hunnicut, dedicated, driven, devoted to his work — and as best he could be — a family man.
He was Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester, pompous and full of himself, and truly a gifted surgeon.
Not quite as crazy as Klinger — nor quite as compassionate as Father Mulcahy — he had all the sex appeal of Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan – a very handsome man, indeed.
He was Dr. Bernard Francis Peacock, Jr., my dad. And he ran for 78 seasons and went off the air in August of 2004.
I loved him madly. I love him still.
And so, on this Fathers Day, who do you remember, who do you honor, and celebrate? Your grandfather, father, or the father of your children? Whose memories do you embrace and hold close today?
Give thanks to God for all fathers and father figures.
Tell their fatherly stories so that they may not be forgotten. So that they may be examples for fathers of every kind.
Share the stories of both good times and bad times.
Tell their stories honestly, lovingly, and with gratitude.
Praise Our Father, who art in heaven, for them. Our Father — who you may or may not know affectionately in Hebrew is the name of Abba, which basically means dad.
In celebration of all the dads — let me end here with F. Bland Tucker’s lyrical verse from Hymn 289.
Our Father, by whose name all fatherhood is known, who does in love proclaim each family as God’s own, bless all parents guarding well, with constant love as sentinel, the homes in which your children dwell.
O Spirit, who binds our hearts in unity, who teaches us to find love from self set free, in all our hearts such love increase, that every home by this release, may be a holy place of peace.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog