Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Keith's Eulogy for Dad


I guess I'm that 'independent-minded' son who my sister, Claudia, referred to earlier. I'm the one who went furthest away, across those seven seas, traveling beyond, and opened up the larger world outside for my father and family.

In Nepal, Nepalis use the word, "Namaste", to greet each other. Like Hebrew, Nepali is based on a sacred language. The word Namaste, in its depth, means 'I bow down to the g-d within you'. Now, of course, that isn't exactly how it's used in everyday life, but this is its richer, more historical, religious meaning.

And today, we are gathered here to honor my father and 'bow down' to the spark of divinity that was my father. The godliness that was within him.

I first met that spark when I was born in Newfoundland, Canada and opened my eyes to see my father. I was either very fortunate or blessed by good karma to be born as my father's son and into this family. In fact, my father actually brought me into this world as he was the only doctor on the air force base where I was born.

In this, as in so many other ways, my Dad was ahead of his time, because my birth was photographed by both my mother and father. My Dad took movies and my Mom took slides. As Bruce said, Dad loved to record every moment of our lives. I guess, in this way, my birth was the original reality TV show!

Although I was the second son, second child, I took my time getting married. It seemed a rather large decision, one that I needed to take my time to make sure I got it right and chose wisely.

When Shakun and I decided to get married some twenty years ago in Kathmandu, there were no rabbis nearby to ask to officiate the ceremony. So, I looked up the traditional Jewish rules regarding marriage before our suburban society created its own modern forms. According to ancient times and traditions, there were only three requirements for a Jewish wedding: to make a public declaration, to exchange something of value and, of course, to spend the night together.

Since my father had birthed me, it seemed only natural that the most appropriate person to officiate our wedding ceremony was my Dad. Shakun and I wrote the service and my best friend, who I traveled the world with, came. I was very fortunate that my whole family travelled to Kathmandu to attend our marriage and, as you can imagine, my father was extremely proud to serve as our religious guide.

Then, after our children were born, Shakun and I decided to have the boys' bar mitzvahs in Israel. Once again, I was dragging my family around the world, as they were becoming accustomed to. As Bruce remembered earlier in his image of he and Dad walking together in Jerusalem, most of my family came to share this beautiful event in our family's life.

Now, just a few weeks ago, 55 years to the day I was born, March 5th, 2009, as you know, my father fell at night which precipitated his death. I was already on my way to the States, flying over the Gulf or the Atlantic Ocean at the time he fell, to spend Spring break with Josh & Ezra while seeing Mom and Dad in Florida. Of course all of our plans changed that night.

But I consider myself extremely fortunate, my friends in Nepal would say it was a spiritual karmic confluence, that I was on my way to see Dad when he fell. In every way, I feel extremely blessed that I could share these past three weeks with him.

And, since I first saw the spark of divinity in my father's eyes when I was born, it seemed right that I should be there with him at the time when the light of his eyes departed. For me, it was a spiritual gift to have this time with my father in the hospital and hospice. For, besides the birth of my three children, when their eyes first opened, there is no more sacred time in life than death.

All of us, Bruce, Claudia, Avery and I were blessed to have this time with Dad these past few weeks, and to be near Mom during this passage.

There was an etching that was in my parents' home when we were growing up. For some reason, I was always attracted to that lithograph by Ben Shahn. It was titled, "And, one must have been beside the dead and dying." The words come from a Ranier Marie Rilke prose poem. Rilke was a young man, 27, I think, and he was writing about how little he had accomplished in life at that time. He was reflecting on the many things he must do in life, travel, emotions, experiences, before he could write a single line of verse, of poetry. Shahn turned these thoughts of Rilke into a beautiful series of lithographs. My parents still have the one titled, "Beside the dying" in their home. We have a copy in our home in Kathmandu, as well. Since I was a child, this drawing of a black man's head, stretched back, his eyes closed, the spark of life extinguished spoke to me.

Dad, this poem, this one's for you...

[then I read the poem, "Within Beyond", that I wrote the night Dad died, which is included down below Josh & Ezra's eulogies...]

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