We said a final farewell to my dad on Friday, April 10, three days after he passed away. Under the heavy Coronavirus cloud we’re all living under, there was no large gathering of guests, no music played, no Shivah sitting and no formal funeral service. On a gray, windy day where we saw rain, hail, even some snow, the sun miraculously shown right as six of us – masked, gloved, in winter coats with hoods and standing a safe distance apart from each other – were able to say our goodbyes by my dad’s graveside.
We each spoke too, in a short, meaningful personal ‘service’ my mom felt satisfied with (which was the main thing for me). We also made the decision to bury him in the tuxedo and red suspenders he wore in his orchestra concerts, with the extra touch of a t-shirt bearing his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers.
And we knew that the way we honored – and continue to honor – my dad’s memory is similar to what people all over the world are doing in these strange and tragic times: paring everything down to absolute essentials. What really matters. Doing the best we can to feel and bring out the good, in circumstances that can seem anything but. Trying hard not to pay too much attention to all the rest.
What’s warmed my heart more than anything is the outpouring of love, empathy, caring, kindness, prayers and concern that’s been flowing into our lives ever since my dad died.
Every little thing seems so much more meaningful when you know people are reaching out in the midst of their own fears, concerns and even tragic events. We’ve received phone calls, texts, flowers, gifts, cards (some transformed to sympathy cards by people who can’t get out to shop), food, donations, even soothing candles and plants – everything imaginable from new friends and old, relatives we haven’t spent enough time connecting with over the years, long-time former coworkers and brand-new colleagues. Some friends were checking in on me daily just to see if mom and I were o.k.
It overwhelms me with gratitude for the love and loyalty that can spring from tragedy when you know others are dealing with their own losses. It honestly amazes me and feeds my faith in the human spirit.
With that ‘COVID cloud’ over all of us, I’ve noticed, too, that it’s not that easy to grieve, not for me anyway. Maybe there’s just no more room in our hearts or souls for more sorrow, fear, anger, pettiness, you name the emotion. I feel like I’ve been letting a lot more go and protecting myself from feeling too much of anything … beyond being in a pure ‘survival mode’. I feel like maybe when the world gets (more) back to normal, things will hit me more. And I’ll shed more tears over dad. But I’m prepared for that and will welcome it.
In the meantime, family, friends and I have agreed we’re choosing to remember my father for how he lived the majority of his 89-year life – fully, surrounded by family and friends, and doing all the things he loved. And I will remember some of the sweet things in the later years too … the way he kept his sense of humor till the end, the happiness he so purely showed when we brought him black licorice (he didn’t believe in red) or Halvah bars (what he always jokingly called ‘Jewish heroin’). Also the fact that the last time Jim and I saw him was the best ever, filled with stories, smiles and words of love when we parted.
Anyway, I wanted to send continued wishes of health and safety for everyone reading this. Until next time (when I will move to ‘lighter’ subjects), I wanted to also share a segment of what I wrote for, and read to, my dad on April 10. Sending love …
Message for Dad – 4/10/20
I want to thank you for your kindness, generosity and gentleness
— The traits you instilled in me
I want to thank you for your love of music, nature, the ocean, the forests, the beach
— The passions you shared with me
I want to thank you for the unconditional caring and love you showed your family
— And the amazing grandfather you were to our kids
When I feel sad and miss you most, I will call to mind some of the things that will continue to bring me joy and keep your memory alive. I’ll picture you up on stage playing your violin with the Pops … running into the freezing cold ocean shrieking… sharing your Brooklyn boyhood memories and corny jokes with us and the kids … and showing us your favorite spots in California, which we came to love so very much too.
I’ll carry you with me always and you are an inextricable part of me … and the family … forever.