Preparing for the ‘Big Transfer’

My father grew up as an extremely poor child in South Boston (aka “Southie”). He basically lost his father at the age of 8 to heart disease. He was one of those boys who literally wore holes in his shoes and lined them with newspaper in order to keep pebbles out. He also experienced having to move from apartment to apartment in the middle of the night when they didn’t have enough money to pay the rent. And although he was one of the top students in his class, he was forced to leave school in the eighth grade in order to earn money to help support his family.

These experiences affected him deeply for the rest of his life. When he had children, he vowed that they would never experience that level of poverty and insecurity.

As a young man, he worked his way up to foreman in a manufacturing company and was well respected in the labor union. He later moved on to selling wholesale tools to hardware stores and was successful at that as well. However, as the company for which he worked continually failed to fulfill promises for additional sales territory, he decided that he needed to find an opportunity in which he had greater control of his financial and professional destiny.

On a whim, he answered an ad that he noticed in the paper — it turned out to be for New York Life. His initial reaction was negative, but the recruiter pressed him to give it a chance, in order to see what he could accomplish. My father ended up being the company’s third-ranked life-insurance salesman in the country that year. However, after a time selling insurance for others, he decided that he wanted to see what he could accomplish on his own.

My father was an extremely successful businessman who managed to build up an insurance agency from scratch shortly after moving to a new part of the state. Building up from nothing a clientele large enough to support a family of 11, especially under those circumstances, was no mean feat. To this day, I have friends in the insurance industry who still have trouble believing what he accomplished.

He worked incredibly long hours and seemed on the verge of collapse at times. I can still remember the tremendous strain he would endure during certain times of the year, staying up virtually all night taking care of paperwork or following up on clients who had failed to pay their bills, so that he could pay his own. He always stressed to me, “Mike, in order to succeed, you need to be prepared. You need to know your business inside and out, and you need to work ‘smart,’ not just hard.”

My father was also always a man of faith, who believed in God and accepted Jesus as his savior. He also had a vigorous moral sensibility, with little tolerance for any disrespect shown to God. But as I grew older and wanted to discuss religious matters with him, I was confused and somewhat troubled by the fact that he resisted reading books about the faith that I suggested to him — including even the Bible. He also was inconsistent at times in regard to church attendance.

About 20 years ago, I wanted to respectfully challenge him about these concerns. But, first, I knew I had to find a way to reach him — a way that would resonate with him personally. He was a very logical, driven man, having little patience for poor thinking and irrational arguments.

So, one day, after praying about it, I asked him, “Dad, tell me: What would you have done if one of the companies that you worked for told you that you were going to be transferred to Japan and you knew you had no other viable option? How would you have handled that?”

My father responded, “Well, I can tell you exactly what I would have done: I would have read and studied as much as I could about the Japanese market and culture. I would also have learned Japanese to the best of my ability.”

I replied, “So you would have wanted to know everything you could about Japan in order to be prepared to be successful after your transfer there. And I assume you’d also want to know the best way to get there, right?”

He answered, “Yes, exactly. All of that, of course.”

Then I said, “Well, Dad, not to be morbid, but at some point, you’re going to experience the biggest transfer of your life to a very different place, and it’ll be permanent. I’ll eventually be going, too, but in all likelihood, quite a while after you.”

His eyes opened wide, followed by a growing, wry grin.

I continued, “If you would have spent all that time reading and learning about Japan for a temporary transfer, doesn’t it make sense to read and learn as much as you can about a permanent transfer to heaven, so that you know for sure not only how to get there, but what it’s like and what God wants of you?”

At that, my father smiled, nodded and said, “Okay, Michael. Point taken. Give me the books. I’ll read them.”

He was good to his word. He read the books and began reading the Bible more frequently — although he preferred the “Bible on tape” that my brother purchased for him. He also returned faithfully to Mass every Sunday until the day of the “big transfer,” which came through in 2010.

We also received a tremendous blessing from the woman who brought my father holy Communion shortly before he died from acute onset leukemia. I had left the hospital room to speak with my father’s doctors, and he was largely unconscious when she arrived. But he apparently roused when she asked him if he wanted to receive Communion. She subsequently sent us a card, which read:

 

Dear Mrs. Forrest and family,

I am a Catholic Eucharistic minister, and I volunteer at Baystate. On Ascension Thursday, I gave your husband holy Communion at about 12:45pm. We prayed the Our Father, and when he received the Eucharist, he said, “It’s beautiful!”

I thought that you would like to know this. I am very sorry for your loss.

Sincerely,

Edie Ferrero

 

God is good.

I love and miss you, Dad. I hope to see you again, after my own “big transfer.”

Michael Forrest is a Catholic speaker, apologist and catechist who writes from Massachusetts. His articles have appeared in several Catholic periodicals.