"It's a special day today," he explained.
The Gredziks, like multitudes of Americans, rose before dawn to witness the 4 a.m. funeral Mass of John Paul II, the pope who had filled the couple with indescribable joy when they saw him in their native Poland.
"When he was close, you feel quite different. How to say it? Like a wave coming to you, like a radiating spirit," Jozef Gredzik said.
They longed to be in Rome yesterday.
"If we were still in Poland, we would have gone to the Vatican," Jozef Gredzik said.
Instead, they watched the stirring ceremony in the snug living room of their Port Richmond rental home, on a tiny portable TV with a grainy picture.
Every image on the TV screen rekindled a memory for the Gredziks - of the Pope's globe-trotting, his love for children, his athleticism, his flair for bridging religions, politics, cultures.
"Usually, we don't watch TV," said Elizabeth Gredzik, 44.
"Today is special, so we bring it out," said her husband, 50.
Just at 4 a.m., Jozef Gredzik jumped up.
"Hey, we should record this," he cried. "Where is the tape?"
Michael, 13, slumped in a chair and puffy-eyed from lack of sleep, assured his father the tape was in and running.
"We'll be watching this over and over again," his father said.
Jacob, 16, came down to the living room briefly, then went back to bed; he would represent Northeast Catholic High School later in the day at a Mass for the Pope at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Center City.
Eleven-year-old Katherine snuggled on her father's lap on the couch, drifting in and out of sleep under a red and gold blanket.
"We woke them at 3 a.m.," Jozef Gredzik said.
During Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's homily, the TV screen suddenly faded to fuzzy gray. Katherine leapt up and fussed frantically with the antennas until the picture returned.
She is the only member of the family who had not seen the Pope in person.
"She is always upset about that," her mother said. "My mother met the Pope in St. Peter's Square. He was walking by, and he came to her, and he talked to her. She called me, crying."
Elizabeth Gredzik served coffee in china cups and sweet rolls on a cake plate. The parrots, relocated to the kitchen during the broadcast, protested noisily. On the bench in front of the organ, a Catholic newspaper was open to a full-page image of John Paul. On the buffet nearby, a strand of black ribbon had been wound around a small, framed picture of him.
"When I'm watching, I'm not thinking of his funeral, I'm thinking of the memories," Elizabeth Gredzik said.
"Yes," her husband agreed. "When I was in Czestochowa, in Poland, there was an older lady standing nearby who had come from a village to see the Pope. Because of the huge crowds, she couldn't see him. Someone helped her to stand up on something, and she was so joyful. She yelled out, 'I see him, I see him! He's all dressed in red.' A simple woman from the village, so spontaneous."
Elizabeth Gredzik, a homemaker, came to the United States to visit an aunt in 1985 and stayed. Jozef, who taught physics in Poland, came to visit a friend in 1986 and stayed. They met at the Polish shrine outside Doylestown, Our Lady of Czestochowa, and married in 1988.
In the mid-'90s, they returned to Poland to care for Jozef Gredzik's ailing mother, but they came back to the United States two years ago. Jozef Gredzik takes math and chemistry classes in hopes of becoming a teacher here, and he works as a paratransit driver.
"I take people to hospitals, dialysis, to day-care centers for Alzheimer's," he said. "You see people suffer, like the Pope suffered."
He is studious, serious, and remained dry-eyed during the nearly three-hour funeral pageant.
"I'm still reading his sermons, still trying to get, in depth, what he was teaching," he said. "We will be with him spiritually."
Across the globe in Poland, both Jozef's and Elizabeth's mothers would be waiting for them to call, to talk about the funeral.
Elizabeth Gredzik, cheery and open for most of the Mass, grew emotional just before Communion.
She reached out for Katherine's hand.
"Kasia," she whispered, "they're singing the 'Our Father.' "
As the papal gentlemen lifted John Paul's casket and slowly turned it toward the crowd, the applause swelling, the bells tolling, she broke down quietly.
But only for a moment.
"What I think about is, I still feel the Pope is alive. If you look inside, in your heart, the Pope will always be alive, he will never die," she said. "I'm not saying goodbye forever."
Contact staff writer Julie Stoiber at 215-854-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.