This was my eulogy for my father.
My Dad was not a rabbi but he was a great teacher. By his words, but mostly by his actions. He taught me – and my sister, my brother, my nieces, all of us – a great deal.
And I’m not talking about fishing – everyone else but me learned that I think. Dad taught me how to be a leader, how to stand up for my beliefs. He was a boss in every sense of the word and I can only hope to live up to his example. He taught me about being a husband – “marry your best friend.” “Never go to sleep angry.” He taught me about unconditional love. When he was confronted with things he didn’t entirely understand, he always told me I was his son and he would love me no matter what. He taught me to be strong. ‘Keep it together during a crisis, fall apart afterwards.” He taught me there’s the right time to worry. When things looked bleak he’d say “don’t worry. I’ll tell you when to worry, and now’s not the time.”
Well Dad we don’t have to worry about you any more. Your suffering is over and you are in a better place. I’ll do my best to stay strong and follow your example. I ask you mechilah (Hebrew for forgiveness).
Thank you for being the best Dad and teacher a man could have.
The forgiveness bit I put in after hearing my siblings put it in theirs. I guessed it was something you do.
The grave was very deep – 12 feet as it was a double plot. When it comes time for my Mom, she has a space six feet under, and over my Dad. That was new.
The funeral kicked off the first part of the Jewish mourning process – sitting ‘shivah.’ ‘Shivah‘ means seven, and for seven days you sit in mourning. You sit at the family house, on a low chair, and can’t do much other than sit. You wear the same outer clothing from the funeral for the whole week – so those were strategically chosen for comfort. You also can’t shower, wash your hair, wear leather, shave, cut your hair, do business or serve yourself.
I sat at my sister’s house with my mother, sister and brother. My sister’s friends were incredible – they organized all our meals for the week. My nieces and nephews-in-law were also incredible, taking care of our needs, fetching endless cups of water, coffee, tea. Pictures of my Dad were spread in front of us – good conversation and memory springboards. The purpose of shivah is to work through your grief. It is also, to be honest, a bit of work to have to make conversation, and also put those visiting you at ease themselves. By the fifth day or so you find yourself repeating the same stories, explaining once again how he died. My sister and I joked we needed new stories after a certain point.
I have only a few friends in Israel, so most of the visitors were friends of my sister or mother. When I did have my friends visit it was very special – one of them reached out to some childhood friends he knew were in Israel – so two guys I hadn’t seen since high school paid shivah calls. That was pretty cool.
Sabbath came on the fifth day of the shiva, and you don’t sit on the Sabbath, so by late Friday afternoon the house was cleared, and it was just family. We were all in the kitchen, a few hours before sunset and the beginning of the Sabbath. I told everyone that Friday night would be hard, and that there will be crying, and I will likely be the first.
I was right.