I just lost my father -- suddenly and unexpectedly. One day he was cutting down a tree in his backyard. The next day he dropped dead. Gone. Just like that.
This letter is my eulogy to him. My hope is that sharing it will inspire divorced parents to continue to reach for connection with their children, to listen, and to forgive. Never mind the miles that separate, the time apart that's created distance between you, the ex that makes everything extra challenging, the fear that you're no longer needed or wanted.
There was a time when I professed to hate my father. I didn't know how to say, "I miss you. I want you in my life. I need you to accept me even though my life looks different than yours. But boy did I know how to say, "I hate you!" For an entire year I refused to answer his calls. But he kept calling.
You never know when the roses are going to bloom, but if you keep tending them, it's bound to happen sometime.
I'm looking back at the letter you wrote me on my birthday, just two weeks before you left so suddenly. It feels like something in the universe knew our time together was running out. You left nothing unsaid.
You spoke of the magic of my birth, "that 3:26 moment" as you referred to it. The time you called me each year. You said that no words could describe it, but that there was an original musical composition called Passions of the Heart that you felt described it deeply. You sent it to me and hoped it would convey to me the depth and spirit of that moment. You explained that because of the complication of the time difference this year, that you set your alarm for 5:25 a.m. Pacific Time, so that you'd get me at 3:26 pm Israel time. You acknowledged the flight of the last 45 years, and how that long ago moment of my birth still feels like yesterday. You told me that you love me and that we always will be connected in the spirit that transcends time and space. That was you. A combination of the spiritual and the factually mundane. Other worlds and logistics of time zones.
Our story is one of truth. Fun times and difficult ones. Periods of extreme closeness and others where there was distance between us. No lies. No pretending. Just the harshness and beauty of reality. Two solid beings searching for a way to stay true to ourselves, yet bend towards one another.
We started off strong. My memories are of rope swings and blackberry picking, driftwood and ocean vistas.
Then we broke apart. I was angry and you were self-absorbed. Our lives looked very different through my little girl eyes. Yours was rich with things and people who I barely knew and didn't particularly like. I don't know what my life looked liked to you. Those years were hard. But I spoke my mind, as I do. And you listened well. I remember where we sat and the look on your face the day we had it out. I was maybe 10. And then things started to get better.
Our life together -- apart -- wasn't perfect. But it was better. We spoke more regularly. Enjoyed more laughs than tears.
You came to David's and my wedding in Israel, and life was good.
When I was close to birthing Z, there was no question in my mind that you'd be there. You had delivered me, and it seemed obvious that you would be there for my children's grand entrances as well. Z was born at 8:01 p.m. (Pacific Time ;), and that moment, too, was magical. Those wide-open bright eyes that looked straight into your soul.
Your eyes lit up too, and that birth turned out to be a rebirth for you as well. It felt to me like a second chance. And then you said, with tears rolling down your cheeks, that you were very sorry to have missed so much of my childhood, and acknowledged how grateful you were to be able to spend this time with my family now. From then on things only got better. We grew closer than we'd been since the rope swings and blackberry bushes. Life seemed full.
Now that you're gone and I sit in your office, rifling through old photos, I feel like my life and yours and that of your parents and grandparents swirl through my head like a storm. I wonder what time is and how it brought about all the miracles that our family has seen.
When I left Israel to come bury you here, Z texted me that he was scared that something was going to happen to someone else in the family. I texted him back. I said I thought we'd paid our dues for now. And I told him he just has to live life. I said, "Live fully. Try your best. Love with all your heart." I told him that while I missed you terribly, I had no regrets. That we had a good relationship, and we knew we loved each other, and that was all I could wish for. I acknowledged that life sometimes gives us lemons, but reminded him that mostly it's lemonade.
When I asked the boys if there was anything of yours they wanted me to bring back as a memento, Z asked for a couple of your shirts to wear. The other two want me to bring back the 1000 lb juicer they used to use here to make fresh ice cream when they'd visit. That's not going to happen, but the point is that their memories of you are sweet. Making ice cream, playing football on the grass in your yard, weeding your garden. Memories that they will carry with them until they, too, disappear into some other realm.
We are about to lower your body into the ground in the tradition of our family, of our people. I know that many say you wouldn't care, but I think you would, and I do, so work with me. I think you would appreciate the importance of coming full circle in life. You passed through the rest of our lifecycle traditions, so it seemed important to honor you with this one as well.
You always said people thought you were weird, but I don't think so. I think people admired you for your integrity and healing powers, and for your obvious connection with a realm of energy or spirituality or God or whatever you want to call it. Though you may often have felt alone, you were not alone, and you will be remembered for your uniqueness, but also for your contributions to our people and to the world.
When I think about the qualities that I admire in others, I think integrity, honesty, the devotion to one's beliefs and values, tikkun olam - the drive to make the world a better place, and the drive to work hard to achieve your dreams. Though there were certainly things about you that made me crazy at times, you embodied each of these qualities fully, and I can't help but wonder if despite the geographical distance that separated us for most of the last 45 years, you passed on those values to me.
There is a gaping hole where you once were, but it is peaceful.
I miss you, but you are still with me.
Your memory is for a blessing.