Today I was privileged to behold a beautiful sight - a church packed with Catholic schoolchildren, and their parents, to bid farewell to a man who made everyone's life a little easier. Mr. Virgil Tabasco, one of the custodians at St. Mary's Interparochial School, died suddenly on Sunday and today the school was closed, in his honor, so that teachers and students alike could pay their final respects.
When my son had to leave St. Mary's so he could benefit from a special education program for autistic children, Mr. Tobasco continued to ask for him. One day he said, with obvious sadness, " I really miss having Matthew around. He was always a good boy and I miss seeing him everyday. I wish he was still here." It meant the world to my son to hear this. Mr. Tobasco was a constant figure at St. Paul's at Mass and during the weekly Novena. He loved to see my daughter Rebecca, an altar server, at Mass and would always comment to my husband and I that "she serves a beautiful Mass." He was genuinely touched by how attentive she was, especially knowing the physical problems she's had.
One day, I was frantic to discover that Rebecca had left her lunch at home, and I had no way of getting it to her before Noon. I called St. Mary's and the grandfatherly Mr. Tobasco answered the phone. After listening to me carry on about how stupid I was to let her forget it, he reassured me. "It's no big deal. It happens all the time. Is it ok with you if I make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and give her some chocolate milk with it?" I could have hugged him through the phone. Once before when she forgot her lunch, Rebecca was too afraid to speak up, and she went the whole day without eating. That's what made my carelessness all the more painful but the guardian angel who worked at St. Mary's took care of her, and me, with out fanfare.
Mr. Tabasco had no biological children of his own, but every one of those children who came to that church today, many of them in tears, were his. He was the first person they saw when they got dropped off each day and he made sure he gave each one the kind of greeting that would start them off on the right foot. He had some serious health problems throughout the years but you would never know it. Mr. Tabasco had nieces and nephews who loved him dearly, and the last thing I remember about today was the sheer gratitude on his niece Helen's face as she walked behind his casket and saw for the first time how many grieving children filled the church. It was a beautiful testament to a man who exemplified a humble servant of God.