Trying to honor my father through words seems inadequate since he was a man of action. He was a man that rose long before the sun did, and did it with a sense of purpose. Like a Shepard preparing to tend his flock.
He usually was on rounds at the hospital visiting patients, or in meetings by the time I even opened my eyes. Whenever I would be up early enough, I'd call him, half asleep but excited to hear his voice so energized at 5:30am—I can hear him jokingly answering, “Mobile Spine Unit?”
He was a giant of man,- 6 feet tall, strong and muscular (our superman we'd say)
and yet, he had the most gentle presence and soft embrace I have ever felt. His hands were sacred tools not only for surgery, but also for providing the peace and safety that would wash over mean when he would touch me. Over the years, his head rubs lulled me to sleep, and his back rubs loosened out my knots. When I was distraught over decisions or relationships, he was my guide. I would speak and he would listen. Eventually he would ask what I think is right, what I think I need to do. Usually, we agreed but he always provided a framework for me to “see the bigger picture.” Boys Dadda, Life goes on Faithy. College, You'll love it no matter what. I want to go to Israel. Go, education is an investment in yourself. Daddy, I'm afraid, Fear is only in your mind. Bad Thoughts? They are not your actions. Death? Life is a circle. He was a gentle giant of wisdom and my greatest confidant.
As many of you know, my Dad was a runner for many years. An all star athlete and 8th in the world in the Decathlon, things you'd never know if you asked and even if you did, he might just make a joke, change the subject, or tell you a story about the time he was competing in the USSR and after a night out with his teammates, got confronted by armed Soviets whom they appeased with cigarettes. My husband said to me, “Faithy, your Dad ran for his life.” These words have been echoing in my ears that past three days and I think I understand what they mean.
My dad never took a day for granted. As a young man, younger me, at age 18, he decided his ticket to college was his pure athletic ability and he did everything in his power to shape, nurture, and challenge his body. 6 hours a day in college just working out. When I asked him how this affected his social life, he never really seem to get the question. I am sure he had many friends, but he just had a clarity about what was most important for him at the time. Growing up as young girls, my dad encouraged us to always be active and would stand next to us on the treadmill, pushing our level higher and higher until we got scared and would squeal, Daddy, Daddy Stop. He usually did not.
Some might think, what a nut. But I understood then, and I understand now much more, that he did not stop because he believed in us, in our ability to run faster, to breathe deeper, and to lengthen our stride. He believed in us. He believed we could do anything, go a little father, reach a little higher. His belief grew into a deeper philosophy of believing in good and understanding that there is a thin line sometimes, between what is good and what is right and what not good and what is not right. He deeply believed that people were good and that education is one's most valuable asset. He believed that the world would be repaired by my generation and those to follow. He believed in evidence-based medicine and never wavered for anyone. He believed in the moment- and in being present. He believed in my mom. Ultimately, his belief, helped me be a believer—A believer that I am a beautiful tiny speck of a much greater world and my job is to be a good person, help others, dream, believe and always follow through on my beliefs and convictions. That was my father. A man of conviction and action but never divorced from human, sensitivity, or an appreciation for the big picture.
I will just end with a short note my Dad wrote me in January 2011 before I embarked on my year of studying in Jerusalem.
“There are many ways to express love, saying it is important- showing it is more. You have shown me your love by your growth, commitment to ideals, faith, and knowledge. My pride is not for me- it is for you. Life the great teacher is still full of unfathomable mysteries—no matter how much knowledge we gain. I love you. I am so proud of you. I am, Paj.”