A death, a prayer, a boy’s promise

Forty years ago, a twelve-year-old boy stood next to his Dad’s casket and made a lifetime promise to never forget him.

On Dec. 17, 2010, our father, Raymond Thomas Mullen, will be deceased 40 years. He passed away in the building that is now the Codman Square Health Center but was the Edgewood Nursing Home back in 1970.

Dad was a simple man. He lived a simple life with many health-related issues.  As a young boy of four, he developed diabetes. At that time there was not much they could do for him but prescribe a terrible regimen of shots and really bad food. As a teen-ager he developed tuberculosis and lost a lung. He and my mother met in the institution that he lived in while recovering from his TB. They soon married and had seven children.

Life was hard and very challenging for them. Dad eventually went blind from the diabetes and could not work, so Mom had to stay home to take care of him and her children, a year apart in age right down the line.

We grew up in the Franklin Hill Housing Development and as children we thought we had everything anyone could ever want. We did not realize how tough things really were. In the late ‘60s, my parents were able to purchase a home with government programs in the Four Corners neighborhood of Dorchester, across the street from the John Marshall School.  I was nine years old at the time. We were raised on the government surplus food and back then my mom would hit all the day-old bakeries. I was into my early twenties before I realized that “day-old” was not a name brand.

In the spring of 1969, Dad became very ill. Blind and in a lot of pain, he had trouble walking. Mom could no longer care for him, so he moved into the Edgewood Home.

We remember visiting him there, and tried to do so as much as possible, but as he got worse, Mom tried to shield us. I remember her spending the few dollars that she had to buy crafts. We would get together as a family on the holidays or whenever she could afford it and we would put little baskets together not only for Dad, but also for the other residents at the home. We would spend the holidays at the nursing home, singing songs and visiting everyone there. We children were so young then, ranging from 15 years down to 7, but we never complained because we were doing it for Dad.

I remember the winter of 1970 as if it were yesterday. It was a cold December and Mom was at the nursing home a lot. My brothers and sister and I decided that we would decorate the house for Christmas so when Mom came in she would be surprised. And she was. The next morning when we got up Mom was not at home, but my grandmother was. During the night Dad had taken a turn for the worse, then passed away.

I remember my mom coming home and sitting us down by the Christmas tree, which had been lighted by us earlier to show our grandmother after which we forgot to shut the lights off. Mom told us that Dad had passed and the fun went quickly out of the room. We all ran to our rooms and dealt with the news in our own ways. Mom fell apart and her mother tried to pull her together.

What I remember the most is that the house was very quiet for the longest time; no playing, no kids giggling; no music playing; and, most of all, no phone ringing. I believe that people just did not know how to deal with the pain of seeing my Mom and so many young kids in turmoil, so they stayed away.
At his funeral we made a promise to Dad that we would never forget him. Over the last 40 years, we have made pilgrimages to Dad’s grave on many occasions like the birth of his grandchildren, birthdays, holidays, and funerals. Our mother Nellie, our brother Marc, and our sister Eileen were laid to rest at the gravesite a few years back.

We hope you can join us at 10:30 a.m. on Sat., Dec. 11, as we dedicate a bench and host a reception at the Codman Square Health Center, 637 Washington Street to honor Raymond Thomas Mullen, a simple man, a father, brother, son, grandfather, great grandfather, uncle, and, most of all, a friend.