Honoring my Father: a son’s moving tribute to columnist Jerry Klein
EDITOR’S NOTE: While Catholic Post columnist Jerry Klein, who observed his 90th birthday on Dec. 19, was hospitalized over the holidays, his son Jerry Klein Jr. submitted this tribute column to his father as well as to the virtues of fatherhood. We are grateful to both father and son, and wish our beloved columnist and friend a swift recovery.
As my Dad lies hospitalized from so many maladies that I am reminded of the many old cars he drove well past their normal lives, I am hoping to use his space to acknowledge his gifts to his readers, to his church and to his children.
My Dad’s illness is a reminder that the latter stages of life are no less noble than the earliest days. As he maintains his grace and sense of humor through illness, it is a reminder that the spark of his soul lives on even though his body becomes more frail. And that all life has dignity and is worth respecting, from conception to the final days.
Mom and Dad raised seven children. Family has always come first. Now, as my sister Mary put it best, it is a privilege to be there to care for him in return, and to have cared for my Mom in her final days. The sacrifices they made for their children are now coming back to them.
As my Dad wrote about his own mother on the occasion of her 100th birthday: “we learned by the best possible example of having parents who not only are there, but who care passionately about their children. It is the greatest gift anyone can give.” And Mom and Dad, it’s a gift you have passed on.
DEEP RESPECT FOR LIFE, NATURE
In all his writings, the virtues of a strong moral and ethical fiber, and a deep respect for all of life have been constant themes. In today’s world more than ever, there is a place for doing the right thing, for humility, for treating others with respect, for being civil and kind. Part of this foundation is a deep respect for all of life. Writing again about my grandmother on her 105th birthday, he reminds us: “No life is useless. No visit or word of encouragement is wasted. It comes back a hundredfold.”
In addition to a strong moral foundation, my parents instilled in all of us a love of nature from our upbringing in the country and a deep reserve of curiosity. There have always been books in our household. We were raised in a veritable branch of the Illinois Valley Library System. The books continue to proliferate. A new book is an invitation on a journey, and I begin each journey hoping to share it with my Dad.
A WORDSMITH AND MORAL GIANT
Dad still uses his pen to weave a tapestry of images out of words, much like a symphony conductor creates a tapestry of music from the disparate sounds of the orchestra. He has written many moving articles on faith, on family, on nature, and on the arts. His work is a verbal diorama of a lifetime in central Illinois. His ability to wield words to create dazzling images and profound insights is a gift, and a reminder that a touch of the divine graces us all.
His ability to wield words to create dazzling images and profound insights is a gift, and a reminder that a touch of the divine graces us all.
Dad’s words are a reminder that you don’t have to be loud to have a mighty impact. In a world that can’t stop talking, it’s refreshing to find a moral giant who speaks barely loudly enough to be heard above the hubbub at the local pub, yet who has earned the respect of everyone who knows him. Dad’s hospital room has featured a procession of people whom he has inspired. Few of us will be fortunate enough to be a landmark of our communities in the way he has been.
His life continues to inspire me. I share these thoughts as a tribute to the man he has been, and because I want him to know that his children are immeasurably blessed by his life, love and wisdom. I hope he can take his space again in this newspaper, but even after his tongue falls silent, his words and his life will continue to inspire his children. He wrote years ago about “keeping the home fires burning” for family throughout the holidays and beyond. We will keep the home fires of love burning for you and Mom, Dad.
Get well and pick up that pen (or keyboard) again soon!
Cards or letters may be sent to Jerry Klein c/o The Catholic Post, PO Box 1722, Peoria, IL 61656.