Along with all other law students, if there’s anyone who understands the pressure of trying to make your résumé look as polished and perfect as possible, it’s me.
Late last night I got the news that someone who was a fixture in my life growing up, passed away. He was 99 years old and left a big family and indispensable positive impression behind in this world.
Let’s call him Opa. While he wasn’t my grandfather, he was definitely someone who I saw multiple times a week on the block, davened next to him in shul and got to know him pretty well. For all that I feel blessed. Opa was someone who could make anyone or the entire shul congregation at the same time laugh. Whether the joke was appropriate or not, or maybe even included some animal noises, there wasn’t a chance of being in his presence and not cracking at least a smile or two if not rolling on the floor laughing hysterically. He definitely kept us all on our toes.
After Opa lost his wife a few years back, everyone was worried how much he would suffer considering the fact that they were married and inseparable for over 64 years. However, as the dementia set in, it was only those close to him who suffered the loss of his lucidity. His wife was somehow always just in the other room or going for a walk. He was still smiling – all the time.
In the last few days of Opa’s life, there were thoughts of his imminent 100th birthday and how big of a celebration that would be. There was a thought that he’s so close, he’s got to make it. But, he unfortunately didn’t.
This changed nothing.
Opa was still the awesome man that he was. His legacy will be the same. Whether 99 or 100 on his last day, he was who he was.
We used to talk about a variety of different things, but he always made sure to tell a joke. It was so obvious that his happiness came from living life itself and all while being surrounded by a thriving and beautiful large family with kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and an entire community who he had as extended family.
This is what’s important. Opa will not be remembered as someone who had a great résumé or what his income was. He will be remembered by the most important of all things – who he was.
Opa, you are already living on through your amazing family. As I finish writing this, I just got off the phone with two of your granddaughters. I intended to call and comfort them, and instead ended up being comforted by them and laughing hysterically sharing stories about you and hearing jokes they just had to share with me. Your laughs are eternal.
We must all do the best we can every day and make sure that we’re doing the best we can to excel. We must more importantly never lose sight of why we’re here and what will actually remain.
Opa, may it be God’s will that you rest in peace and continue to be the great example and role model you have always been for us.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emet