Father’s Funeral

Katarina Tepesh

How can I forgive my father, a violent alcoholic who attacked us with a butcher knife so many times I
lost count, finally forcing us to run away for good?

Clutching a bible, the priest dressed in his long, black clerical garb with long sleeves, stood framed by
two altar boys, one on each side, while he proceeded to read, “By the divine power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all evil spirits who wander now throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.”  We
gathered, in the scorching heat on August 7, 1986, in Croatia.  Standing in front of an open grave, the
priest continued, “Here lies our parishioner Ivan, who was a good Catholic, and followed his duty to
come to mass often, until he got sick.”

How many times had this same priest seen my mother black and blue with a swollen face, missing
teeth, and with fractured bones, but chose to turn the other cheek and say nothing?

“We pray for Ivan, lowly servant to God in this valley of tears.  O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us
from the fire of hell and lead Ivan’s soul to Heaven.”  Clearing his throat and straightening his spine, the
priest continued, “As everyone in our village knows, Ivan was a carpenter and spent his life supervising
others in the carpentry shop.  Ivan and his wife Bozena had six children – Joza, Milka, Slavek, Josipa,
Milek and Ana. Two out of six children are here with us today.”

After neighbors in Croatia found our father’s body, police called our relatives who sent a telegram to us
in America.  Our father died alone, without anyone knowing for six days.  The last thing our father did,
was get drunk and beat up his girlfriend, Marica, who then ran away to her own one room sublet.
Now, Marica was standing next to me at the grave, dressed in a heavy woolen black dress, holding a
rosary and wearing a necklace with a silver cross.  Her arm was in a sling from the beating and the
right side of her face was still swollen, and black and blue.  We owed her money, she said, for a black
and white television and other material things she had bought for our father over a period of many
years.  There were other bills to be paid, too, the highest was to the local bar just across the street from
where our father lived.

“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.  Slava Bogu na visini. Hvalimo
te. Blagoslivljamo te. Klanjamo ti se. Slavimo te. Slavu Ocu i Sinu i Duhu Svetome.”