This is my dad at my wedding, which is the last time I saw him healthy. The following week he got the biopsy that confirmed his cancer diagnosis.
This is my dad 6 years later with his grandson, the last time they got to visit with each other.
He went peacefully at the hospital on March 28, 2010, surrounded by his wife and two daughters. This is the eulogy I wrote and recited at his funeral. (Yes, I stole one paragraph from a previous blog post ;)
Thank you to everyone for coming today. My dad would be so touched to see so many people here, coming to say goodbye. I think he would say, if he saw all of here, "You like me! You really like me!"
My father had many sides to his personality.
He was a trooper and a fighter. My father had a lot of health challenges these past years. Serious, life threatening health challenges. Nonetheless, he viewed most them as minor inconveniences. "I'm gonna outlive half these doctors!" was a common refrain around his house.
He really loved nature, and was the first environmentalist I ever knew. He taught me that the earth was special, that nature could be magical. He held a spiritual connection to nature, which he managed to pass on to me. When my dad picked up bonsai as a hobby, he told me about a Shinto belief that spirits would find beautiful places in nature to reside. It was his goal to create a bonsai tree so beautiful that a Shinto spirit would honor and bless him by making one of my fatherís trees its home. He seemed most at peace outside, planting and tending to flowers, concentrating on trimming his bonsai just right.
Sometimes, after spending a few hours outside working, he would then come inside with the family, and proceed to tell fart jokes... at the dinner table. My father was definitely not one to put on airs, even (or especially) when there was food involved. And he was certainly not one to give up an opportunity for a laugh.
He loved tradition and ritual. Fiercely proud of his own religious heritage, he still saw beauty in the rituals of other faiths. Growing up going to a Catholic school in Shanghai, he was told he would make a fabulous priest, and was a little miffed that they wouldn't let him be the only Jewish alter boy.
Most of all he loved family. His favorite times were when he had his family around him. He was so delighted to become a grandfather almost 2 years ago. He wrote me an email a few months after Justin was born that I kept. I would have liked to quote it exactly, but it is on my computer at home in Las Vegas, and I haven't seen it in a while. I do remember that he wrote "The fact that he is here means I was here, and that gives me such comfort and happiness. I sleep better at night just knowing he is alive." The last time I was out visiting about a month ago, I got a few cute pictures of my dad with his grandson. When I first got in to town on Friday and visited him at the hospital, he held those pictures and smiled. I think that is one of the last things he was conscious of remembering - his wife and daughters by his side, pictures of him and his grandson smiling.
Good bye, Dad. I love you. You will live forever in my heart and mind's eye.