My Uncle Dave had my mother sew a series of chef hats that he wore at his most recent place of employment. On one of them - and there was a vast assortment of patterns and colors - he had my mom embroider “I am a joy”. This was in response to a job review that he received and, rightly so, in which he took immense pride.
On anyone else, it would seem boastful or just out of place. Maybe even annoying. But, for Uncle Dave it fit. Simply, because he truly was a joy.
I’m sure that everyone in this room experienced it in some way, shape or form. Whether it was his contagious and incessant and often ill-timed laugh (Abbot Gary mentioned yesterday that Uncle Dave always got a good laugh out of witnessing someone falling, or getting mildly hurt - even if he was the cause of this pain like he was when he dropped a 45 pound weight on my foot), his playfulness especially around kids or dogs (my kids wore socks with frogs on them yesterday - on their own - as a way to honor their silly Uncle Frog), or his love for cooking and sharing food, each one of us could tell a story - many stories - of how Uncle Dave brought joy into our lives.
He was a joy.
He was the type of person that made you feel better after being with him. You always left an encounter with Uncle Dave feeling full.
To extend the Beatitudes, read during the Gospel from the funeral Mass:
Blessed are we who knew David Zelenka, for we were filled with joy.Perhaps Uncle Dave’s greatest expression of joy came through food. He was a rare person who did what he loved – which was cook – and loved what he did. His passion was cooking and he used this ability as a mechanism to fill the bellies and hearts of others. Again, I’m sure that everyone in this room shared a meal with my Uncle Dave. Whether it was a 4th of July cookout that he and my Aunt Cheryl hosted, a trip into their home to Curly’s Diner or meeting at a local restaurant you walked away from one of those meals stuffed – not only with food but also with love.
You always left an encounter with Uncle Dave feeling full.
He was a joy.
And even though today we mourn our loss but celebrate his life, I think we’re supposed to walk away from even this encounter with Uncle Dave full.
Because what made a meal with Uncle Dave so special wasn’t necessarily the food - although the food was always good and it was always filling - it was his spirit. It was his ability to make conversation, to initiate and sustain laughter, to engage you – through food – with his love that filled you up.
As a community that believes in the hope of the resurrection and promise of eternal life, we, along with Uncle Dave, just gathered around a table – the Eucharistic table – through the celebration of this Mass. We just feasted on heavenly food – our daily bread – the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – and that should leave us – like an encounter with Uncle Dave – full. Joyful.
Jesus, during His Last Supper with His closest friends, told them to take and eat and drink and to do these things in memory of Him. I think every meal that I ever shared with Uncle Dave contained a similar invitation. Take and eat and drink and when you do those things remember that I love you. The Responsorial Psalm at Mass echoed this sentiment:
All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.Uncle Dave was a joy and let it be our joy that David Zelenka now sits at the heavenly banquet table of our Lord, where I’m sure that he is taking and eating the juiciest meats and drinking the choicest wines - On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines (Isaiah 25:6) - and spreading good conversation, belly aching laughter and an eternal supply of joy.
-In loving memory of David Zelenka (February 23, 1954 - January 27, 2018)