Raul Jorge Lozano was born 72 years ago today to Raul and Francesca Lozano in Laredo, TX. The oldest of four children, he worked hard through high school, married my Mom, Mary Lozano during undergrad school, and with everybody straining together somehow both he and Mom figured out how to get through their bachelor’s degrees at the University of Texas, Austin.
Hardships were a way of life, but somehow they survived the death of their second child, David, while nearly alone a million miles from home.
Well not quite a million miles physically, but at least that far culturally. Used to family and the small town of Laredo, they were tossed into the cold isolation of the roiling masses in LA … East LA (Huntington Park, a tough part of the metro area even then) to be exact.
Isolated from all, and still only in their early to mid 20s they had a baby die … imagine what that was like, if you can. I cannot.
By the grace of God they took a temporary job (only to be six months) at McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis, and well you know how that goes … six months turned into the rest of his life.
St. Louis turned out to be a perfect match for the young couple with a growing family. Two more children were added to the two that survived LA, followed by one lost in miscarriage.
We all made friends, Dad’s work was great and running in front of the industry, and the years went by very, very fast.
Next thing you know I (the oldest) was leaving for college, with all sorts of unresolved conflicts and anxieties. I respected my Dad, but if you pressed me I probably couldn’t really tell you why.
He died only four years later, at the relatively young age of 43. One kid married and in graduate school, one grandchild and one on the way, one kid each in undergrad, high school, and junior high.
I’m sure that as he heard God’s call Dad would rather have stayed and finished raising us, yet the One who created time itself knew what was best for everyone.
Definitely not easiest, but best.
Some Reasons Why
More than 28 years have passed since Dad went home, and I think I can begin to name out some of the reasons why I intuitively knew that I respected him on that day, just about 33 years ago now, that day when I left to “find my life”.
I have since struggled to live out my own vocation as husband and father, falling often, yet being overwhelmed by the mercy and grace of God in measures inexpressible.
Carol and I now have 8 biological kids of our own, 4 more by marriage (well one is almost, but that’s close enough!), 3 grandkids that we’ve lost through miscarriage, 3 more that we can hold today, and two more on the way later this year.
So it is from that perspective, that humbling place of gratitude for grace and joy undeserved, that I offer these reflections on why I respected my Dad, and why I still respect my Dad today:
Faith. My Dad lived his faith. While he wasn’t necessarily the most vocal, we all knew that we were Catholic, and that Dad really believed what the Church taught. Yes, we got to Mass every Sunday, until I was old enough to lie about going myself and dug my own hole. And when I had a big conversion experience my first year of college, I knew that he was very, very relieved. That Mom & Dad held on to their faith through the turmoil of those early post-Vatican II days is remarkable, something for which all of us are very grateful.
Family. Family really mattered to Dad. Sometimes it mattered enough to him that in a very Hispanic way he would want to shred us (particularly the teenage boys in the midst of doing something that sure seemed to make sense at the time), but as I got older I understood better that this went far deeper in him. Dad was willing to risk being ostracized for not being “hip”, for not going along with the decaying social / sexual norms of his peers, the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and 70s. While the toll in broken lives, devastated families, and increasing despair for those who dive down that path is increasingly obvious to us today, at the time people just thought it was something new and cool. Thanks for going against the grain big time on this one, Dad.
Driven. Dad was driven to do the best with what he was given – talents, circumstances, everything – and wasn’t too patient with reasons why he should wish for something more, with people who suggested that he had been shortchanged in any way.
Priorities. As his career prospered and money got a bit easier, many of my parent’s friends moved out to more upscale parts of St. Louis. Mom & Dad stayed in a solidly middle-class, mixed blue-collar / white-collar part of town for the explicit reason that being in this neighborhood would make it a little easier for us to stay balanced, to avoid the trap of endlessly chasing this world’s worthless “treasures”.
Open. As hard-headed as he could be, the last conversation I had with Dad was just two weeks before he unexpectedly died. As he prepared to take my pregnant wife and baby with me to the airport for our return to grad school (after an awesome two week Christmas break, which they had paid for), he told me about some of the regrets that he had from his life, from decisions that he made and the consequences derived. Dad also told me that he was proud of what we’d done in the few years since our head-butting conflicts that are so common in teenage years, and I KNEW that he loved us.
DAD WAS NOT A SAINT
Lest you think I’m doing an ad-hoc canonization, I’m not … we all know that Raul Jorge Lozano was not without faults, that like all of us he could (and did) mess some things up. Sometimes big time.
I also do not know whether he was active in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before his death, though it is my deepest desire that he finds mercy in the arms of Our Lord.
Grief and the Flow of Time
When Dad died we all experienced that well known ache of grief, perhaps compounded by the unexpected, to us untimely nature of his passing. That unanswerable pain seemed to come from everywhere we looked, from reservoirs hidden yet painfully real.
Yet as these things go, with time the immediacy of the pain subsided, gradually leaving a holy residue, an echo of times past and a hint of times to come, a lingering call of heaven on the wind, a reminder that we are moving on our own path towards the One who loved us into existence. We still miss you, Dad, and we wait hopefully for the day when through His grace we may meet again.
Our Birthday Present for You, Dad
So on this, what would have marked the 72 year of my Dad’s sojourn in this ephemeral life, please join me in giving my Dad the best birthday present that we can give him: pray that he find the mercy that we all so earnestly hope for, the mercy that answers all of our doubts, the mercy that comforts all of our sorrows, the mercy that forgives all of our sins, the mercy that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself.
Pray as best you know how. If you are actively Catholic, please pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Heck, even if you aren’t go ahead and offer that beautiful prayer!
Happy Birthday, Dad!