peterandwife sm



Mulhern, Emmett

Remembering my Father
Jonathan Mulhern

A couple of summers ago, I was talking with dad in our kitchen in our house in Falmouth. I had had two close friends down for the weekend and as they were packing up to leave, my dad said: "you know Jonathan, I think it way great that you hosted your  friends so graciously this weekend, you have a remarkable gift for friendship. I always wished I had that gift."

At this point, had I been a cartoon character, my jaw would have hit my floor. My immediate thought was "what is he talking about?  There isn't a person on earth who a better friend to anyone than my dad was to his friends".  But as I stared at him in disbelief, I could see that he was being genuine and then I thought to myself that it figured. Dad may have been a great man. but he was always the last person you would hear it from.

This little story is a microcosm of what made my father such a special person. He lived life according to the Franciscan principle of serving the Lord with great humility, and it certainly showed. It is worth noting that the most important fundamental part of every job he ever had was listening. I’m not sure a better listener way ever born.

During his life he traveled the globe as a missionary, most notably spending eight years in Japan teaching English and preaching a message of hope to many. I'm often struck by the courage and strength of spirit  that must have taken to live so far away from home and bring comfort to people, even the poorest of the poor, including, those who were stricken with leprosy.. Of course, he never bragged about it, he simply saw it as his calling.

He brought the same spirit back home with him, as the pastor of St. Mary’s in Pompton Lakes New Jersey, and as a superior at the Franciscan retreat house at Rye Beach, New,Hampshire among other places. Here and there he assisted people through many  high and low points, celebrating weddings, providing comfort at funerals, counseling those who were lost or heartbroken, always ready with kind words, spiritual guidance, and of course, a hug.

In his layman career as a probate officer in the Middlesex court system he continued his counseling vocation as a mediator for divorcing couples. For someone! who loved his own wife and children as deeply as he did, it was often gut-wrenching for him to see families torn apart, especially the effects it had on children. Still, he remained patient (aside from the occasional blow-up on a lawyer, but who could blame him?) also managed to ease the pain of the process for many people.

During these lay years, family was always dad's number one priority. He loved my mom in a way poets have tried to capture for centuries and his dedication to his sister Virginia, his brother Lucian, and all his cousins, nieces, nephews and in-laws was always evident.  For my brother and I, dad was everything a dad can possibly be, never leaving a shadow of a doubt in our minds that we were loved and that he was proud of us.

But at The same time, he remained dedicated to ail his old friends, from the seminary,  from Japan, from Rye, from Pompton Lakes, and from countless other spots around the world. He became a kind of wise man, superhero for my friends and my brother's friends, to the point where my friend Neil wanted a poster of him for our freshman dorm room at BC. He also continued to work and pray for social justice as a means of bringing about peace. Even as he struggled with his own declining health he felt his calling to offer comfort and peace to other people because, again, that was his calling in life.

Some may wonder why a man of such obvious physical and intellectual gifts never set out to make millions or write best-sellers or take over the world in some other way. The answer to that is simple. Dad knew in his heart and his mind that the chief way we experience God is through other people and that loving other people, with kindness, gentleness, and humility is doing the work God wants us to do. Dad was able to see that in each and every person there is goodness, dignity, and enormous worth (even employees of the Boston Bruins) and he wanted that to be recognized.  And that is why, in addition to being a wonderful and loving husband, father, brother and uncle, he was also the perfect friend.  Even if he didn't always recognize that quality in himself, I'm certain it never escaped the attention of anyone in here.

I'd like to close with dad's own words. He wrote a farewell letter to his parishioners in Pompton Lakes just before he left to take over at Rye Beach but I think they can be applied to this day as well.  "I think there is no easy way to say good-bye, but the Germans have a nice expression, "Auf wiederschen"- till we meet again; and the French make a marvelous distinction between a final good-bye (adieu) and a temporary one (au-revoir).

Last week someone confided to me that a friend never has to say good-bye, because in true friendship, you become part of the one you love, and time and space cannot separate that bond." Even though Dad has gone home to God, he has left part of himself with each of us and for that there should be much gladness