Near the end of September Diane and I were at 7:30a Sunday mass at St Pius X Church, like usual. Diane was born into this Parish and went to school at St Pius School. Our daughter Sara was married here, our granddaughter Larissa baptized here and we have been to many funerals, renewed our vows and celebrated holidays as a family for over 30-years at St Pius. Most importantly to me I became a Catholic at St Pius in 1990 as a member of the Parishes first RCIA class. The next year Ted Forsythe completed RCIA and a friendship, formed of our common experience, was born. I was 34 when I completed RCIA, Ted was 56. I was the radio guy who served on Parish Council and lectured at Mass on Sunday. A good talker. Ted was the retired Air Force Master Sergeant who set up, cleaned up and always made sure things were in order. A good doer. I know people liked me because I was on the radio, which was cool, and I could read ok. People liked Ted because he was always there when they needed. He mentored people in the RCIA program, always reached out to young people trying to find their way, and had a word of encouragement for anyone who seemed down on their luck. Ted was a living example of how all of us should be and I wish people liked me the way they liked Ted. Not for being a radio guy…but for being a godly guy.
From the minute he first laid eyes on her Ted loved Eileen. They were teenage sweethearts and had been inseparable for all of their adult life. What the sun is to light, Eileen was to Ted. Everything. They had children and grandchildren together, went on camping trips and escorted trips around the world, together. They came to church and went to parties, together. While Eileen was Ted’s true love, he was known to fawn over some others and our granddaughter Larissa was one of those. When he first laid eyes on her he adopted her as his own. He and Eileen never let a birthday or holiday go by without a card and gift for Larissa. He fussed over Riss for all of her 11 years and would tell me every Sunday how beautiful she had become and how proud he was of her. When she became an altar server it was Ted who taught her the ropes. Ted knew Larissa’s father wasn’t active in her life and he went out of his way to make sure not all guys would disappoint her! And this brings me to that Sunday late in September, the last time I would see Ted alive.
Ted was serving that day, like he often did and Diane and I both noticed that during Mass he was looking at his best friend and wife, Eileen and smiling. He was kneeling behind the altar and he couldn’t stop looking at her…and smiling. It was one of the sweetest, most loving things I have ever seen in my life. When he did take his eyes off Eileen for a moment he would like at Larissa, and gently smile at her as well. At the time it seemed innocent enough, just someone in a happy mood, but I know better now. What I was seeing was Ted saying to God, “Thank you for blessing me with such beautiful gifts and please take care of my treasures.”
Ted had been fighting cancer and its side effects for some time. He had been in and out of the hospital a couple times, holding off the inevitable each time. He didn’t care for many people to know about it and got mad when we put him on the sick list. The times we talked about it he always said he was going to beat it, and would switch the subject and tell me about cute nurses and God not being ready for him yet. Then we’d laugh like we always did about how much more we knew than the “cradle Catholics” and we’d threaten to switch faiths if people didn’t wise up. The Sunday we saw him last he told us to have a good trip and he’d see us when we got home. A couple days later he was hospitalized and never recovered. My last memory of Ted alive is him making eyes at his wife. Ted making sure she knew how much he loved her…right to the end.
In my life I have rubbed elbows with really famous people. I have met starts and superstars and interviewed the supposedly most important people of my generation. I’ll bet if I asked them when the last time they looked at their wives or husbands and just smiled was, they couldn’t answer me. If I asked who the last person was they personally mentored, or reached a hand out too, they would fumble for an answer. It’s easy to become famous, it’s hard as hell to be yourself and do what you know is right. Ted showed us all that there is so much more joy in the simple things in life than there will ever be elsewhere. I love you Ted Forsythe and I miss you terribly. You were a good friend and a great role model. I know we’ll see each other again, just don’t change faiths until I get there!!