I once heard that the number of people attending a funeral represented the number of angels watching over the deceased. Your being here is so appreciated.
Something like this happens and suddenly the world as you knew it is no more: something has changed and now your world is different.
Until a month ago, Dad was living a healthy, active life full of vigour, youthfulness and joy. Recently, I saw Dad with a very different perspective and insight.
Some of the visits to my Dad over the past weeks took on a profound significance. There were times when I held his feet and thought of all the places they had traveled early childhood in London, England, his youth in Toronto, the war zone in the air over England and Europe, his married life with Mom in Montreal, Kingston, Windsor, and once again in Toronto. He was fortunate to step on the sweet soil of Israel. He was even more fortunate to take steps with his grandchildren to playgrounds, school events, convocations, and most recently, a wonderful wedding. He walked through the halls and holy places within Beth Tzedec and the chapel at Sunnybrook Hospital. He walked in Shriners' parades and volunteered with the children that they supported. Dad was a strong man who supported us when we fell stable on his feet. He walked through parks and on beaches mostly with my dear Mom taking in glorious views of nature. He "walked a million miles with one of his smiles".
There were times when I held his hands and just stared at
how beautifully they were formed and he did love a good manicure.
Dad loved to look at hands particularly in art: he felt they
showed character and the loveliness of the individual. Dad's
hands produced the finest penmanship, artistic and clear, always
insisting on using his valued fountain pen. And with that pen
in his early twenties, Dad composed a series of poetry reflecting
his struggle with the war, his love of England and Canada, and
his love of music. In his poem "The Concert Violinist",
Dad says "What tender glances he bestows/On his loved friend,
the violin,/As standing on the stage, he waits/ The introduction
to begin./The liquid notes begin to fall/Like raindrops on a dusty
day,/As listeners fall quiet now/And scarcely move, as on he'll
play./His lightning fingers seem to flash,/Perpetual their motion
seems,/While heavenly melodic sounds/Rush on, like fancies known
in dreams./" It continues . . .
When I held Dad's hands at his bedside, I told him that I loved holding his hands especially at that time; after all, he held mine for fifty-nine years.
There were times when I smoothed his hair and niced his cheeks, kissed him on the forehead. Dad's smile, barely recognizable to me now, had been known by so many. He would smile and chat with everyone except when he was ushering among what he perceived to be some unruly congregants in our sanctuary! Even still, his joie de vivre continues. Dad's ears brought him pleasure through the classical music which he adored, through the tweeting sounds of birds, and through the special sacred sounds on our bimah. In fact, the last email that Dad sent to me and likely to many of you, too, was the Johnny Mathis rendition of Kol Nidre. How ironic! Dad's eyes reflected his inner wisdom, his mouth, his curiosity about everything: those were his love songs. That face! When our children visited him and he was limited in his verbal conversation because of his breathing tube, Dad still was able to transmit his sense of humour to them by quickly winking alternately with his eyes. They laughed. Oh, if he could talk! When the breathing tube was removed last Sunday and he was able to talk again though limited, I asked what he had remembered most about the previous, difficult week. His response: "My beautiful wife!" Precious, oh, so precious.
Dad and I shared our interests in Judaism and shul life.
We sat together on Shabbat, we davened, we listened, we talked,
we disagreed, we complained all the usual stuff. We had
slightly different perceptions about Judaism and religion, but
he still gave so much to feed off of. Just as Mom was his soul
mate, I was his shul mate.
I had no intention of discussing here how Dad died, but wanted to illustrate how he lived. I have said to our children "Do not neglect your soul for that is the driving spirit behind who you are and everything you do". That is how Dad lived.
Dad ha Kohen, "May the L-rd bless you and keep you/May
the L-rd turn his countenance to shine upon you and be gracious
to you/May the L-rd turn his countenance to you and give you everlasting
peace" - Ken Y'hi Ritzon.