I keep pressing backspace; whatever I write just doesn’t seem to come out right.
I’ll try again.
He was a giant of a man. He was larger than life. He cared for everyone.
It’s all true. But it doesn’t seem to really explain who Zaidy was. It sounds like just Anyone’s biography. And Zaidy was certainly not just Anyone.
So I’ll try yet again.
He was timeless. He was 90 but too young to leave us. He only saw the positive in everything and everyone. He made an impact on the life of thousands of people.
It sounds so cliche, but it’s all true! Yet, it’s still missing the heart of who Zaidy was.
He educated thousands of children in the Torah’s ways. He dedicated himself to reaching out to every Jewish person he came in contact with. He worked full time, every day of his life. He never retired and never got old.
It’s all Zaidy; every word of it.
But it still not capturing the life of Zaidy.
And the more I write, the more I realize that words alone will never suffice to describe my Zaidy; Zaidy isn’t someone you can just write about; Zaidy was life. And the words themselves are only half the picture.
And the other half are the memories I hold close to me.
The shared memories of me, my family and my relatives. The precious memories of love for all of us, never ending enthusiasm for anything we were telling him and patience for each one of us. And when I say “us”, thats a few hundred “us”, the lucky grandchildren.
He made each of us feel as though we were his only grandchild.
In my memories, Zaidy is full of life. Passionately sharing a word on the parsha. Enthusiastically telling us a story at the Shabbos table; every story he told felt as though he was there to witness it. On the way to some far out little city to find a lonely Jew who needs some motivation to pursue Judaism. Boarding a plane to yet another grandchild’s wedding. Holding yet another great grandchild, as Sandek of the bris. Listening to a three year old grandchild reciting his alef bais, glowing with pride. Patiently asking my children what they were learning in Chumash, so eager to hear their responses.
And glowing grandchildren lined up, waiting for his warm embrace.
Bubby and Zaidy were an inseparable pair; together they not only raised a large family, they raised a community and a generation. They lived for the same goals, aspired for the same dreams.
Yet Zaidy never sat back to marvel at what he accomplished – even though he had every right to! He only kept moving forward. His focus was the next generation; making sure they were educated and trusted to continue his holy work.
It’s so hard to share the memories properly, complete with their rich warmth and life. And I don’t think I ever can.
The other night we had a conference call with lots of cousins. And we shared memories. And we all felt it; we all knew Zaidy, and we felt the life of these memories.
And that’s where I know Zaidy will continue to live.
Pen and paper alone are not enough.
He will live with each one of us, his grandchildren.
And as the sadness sets in that Zaidy, our patriarch, our role model, our grandfather who was blessed to live until 90 without ever getting old is no longer with us, I know he will continue to live in all of us. All of us who know his life, who felt his warmth, and who still feel the love when we talk about him.
Zaidy will continue to live in how I live my life.
With his positive outlook on life; with his patience for every child; with his love for each one of his children, grandchild and great grandchildren; with his incredible ability to always see the good in everything; with his great respect and admiration for Bubby, with his determination to reach every Jew and share with them the joy of Judaism, with his passion for Torah and mitzvos; and with his acceptance of everyone, as they are.
And I think I know the secret to how he was able to do all this; how he was able to be 90 but young, to get older without ever aging.
Turning 90 was but a mere detail of his active and busy life.
Because he never retired.
He never sat back, saying his work was complete and it’s time to relax. His life was not about himself, it was about everyone else.
When you have a life worth living, you never retire.