This eulogy was delivered by Nicholas Vrtis as Michael Vrtis' proxy eulogist at the funeral of Thomas I. Vrtis on September 3rd, 2005.

My name is Nick, and Tom Vrtis was my dad's brother, my uncle. I must make a disclaimer here. When Uncle Tom died, my brother Mike was asked to compose and deliver a eulogy. Unfortunately, Mike works for the Post Office, and the only funeral he is allowed to attend is his own. And he has to punch off the clock first.

So, I am acting as my brother Mike's proxy eulogist.
If you dislike the content, you can blame Mike.
If you dislike the presentation, you can blame the Post Office.

Mike wrote:

My earliest memories of Uncle Tom were of him gathered together with my dad, Jim Vrtis, and the rest of their brothers - Uncle Bill, Uncle Fred, Uncle John, and Uncle Paul.
At a poker table. And laughing.
Or in an egg toss. And laughing.
Or in a 16" softball game. And laughing.
Or telling stories. And laughing.
And sometimes they weren't really doing anything... Just laughing.

I remember when I was about 5 years old, and Uncle Tom asked me (of all kids) to get him a beer. Well, my Dad never had much beer around our house. And I wanted to impress the Uncle I thought was the "coolest" uncle. So I got him a beer.
------with ice in the glass!
Boy, was my Dad embarrassed.

And I remember the honor of being invited to sit in at one of their poker games. I think I was about 12 at the time. Not straight poker... They played Woolworth's, Black Moria, No-peek baseball, 5 card progressive, Jacks or better to open..
Heck... I didn't even know which was higher - a straight or a flush!
Do you know the poker advice my uncles all gave me?
It was "Put your money in, kid. We'll tell you if you won."

To this day, there are three things that remind me of my uncles.
Poker... Beer... And laughter.

I came across an item in a sales catalogue not long ago. I thought it was such a neat gift. Something my Mom would have loved to have given. It was a silver "Blessing Cuff" - a "C" shaped bracelet. On the inside surface was inscribed, "Bless this woman". Kind of a prayer, in tangible form.

As a guy, I had never heard of a "cuff" before. But as I thought about that "C" shaped bracelet, I realized it was a circle.
Part of it tangible and visible.
Part of it intangible and invisible.

That's kind of what our own circle of family and friends are like.

Some of them are like the SILVER part of the cuff - tangibly present here and now. We can see and talk with them.

Some of our circle of family and friends are the "missing" part of the cuff. They are present - NOT to our eyes or ears or touch. But UNDENIABLY present - to our minds and to our hearts.

One of the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church that I find most comforting is the belief in a vibrant, active, afterlife.

I mean, angels are nice. But we have SAINTS.

,p>Don't get me wrong. I like angels. I'm named after two of the Archangels - Michael and Raphael. So I LIKE angels.

And many of us like to think of our deceased loved ones as angels. And I have no doubt that many of our loved ones - living and dead - have angelic qualities. And that's great.

But Catholics go one better. We have SAINTS!

Big ones, like Saint Francis and Saint Jude and Saint Patrick. And who can top Jesus' mother Mary? (I believe Uncle Tom first spotted Aunt Joanne at a Wednesday night novena to the Blessed Mother... he figured that an attractive girl like her must be "unattached", otherwise she would have had other things to do on a Wednesday night.)

But the most important saints to me are the little ones.
The ones I knew and admired while they lived. The ones who loved me while they lived, and heck, must love me even more now that they're in heaven. Flesh and blood people who were parents and spouses and children and friends and relatives.

Those are the important saints.

There's something wonderfully reassuring in thinking of saints.

Could Uncle Tom be an angel? Or my Dad? Or Uncle Paul? or Bob Boutin? Not in a million years. Not in my wildest imagination! I don't even think they'd WANT to be angels! But COULD they be SAINTS? Well, yea. If you don't mind a few rough spots on your saints. And that's what saints are all about....those rough spots that make loved ones human.

Could my Mom be an angel? Or Suzie? Or Cathy Vrtis? Well, that's a lot easier to believe. But why deny their humanness?

What angel ever drank beer?
Or fished?
Or married the girl that hooked HIM?

What angel ever protected his brother,
Or ran through the neighborhood, tipping over flower pots on everyone's porches?
Or flew at the controls of a fighter plane and landed it on the deck of an aircraft carrier?
Or got his brother out of shore duty for a drink in the Officers Club?

What angel ever opened his home to the neighborhood kids?
Or buried his own child?
Or struggled good-naturedly for years in a wheelchair?
Or suffered the weakness that comes from getting old?
Or kept his promise not to tell his kids of his mischevious childhood?

Earlier, I mentioned the "Blessing Cuff". We are blessed by those around us. Our circle of family and friends. Both the visible ones, and the invisible ones.

Maybe Uncle Tom isn't an angel. But I'm sure that in heaven they allow poker, beer and laugher. So he will make one heck of a Saint!