Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eulogy for Dad
by David Gilfix

                                   My father, Edward Gilfix, passed 
                                              away on March 17, 2014 (the 15 of Adar)

There was a movie scene that disturbed my father that I will never forget.  The movie, Bound for Glory, was based on the autobiographical book by folk singer Woody Guthrie, and in the scene that disturbed my Dad, Woody Guthrie walks out on his wife and family.  I still remember my father’s reaction, as we watched it together on television in the early 80s.  He said, simply, “I don’t respect that.”  It didn’t matter that Woody was frustrated with his work or experiencing marital strife, or even that had he stayed the “glory” that Woody would later achieve as perhaps the greatest American folk singer might have eluded him.   Dad did not respect that.

My father believed in taking responsibility.  It was at the core of his identity; being able to respond when anyone needed him, including friends, family, neighbors, strangers.  If anyone needed advice he was always willing to help.  He was great at solving practical problems, but also wise in a moral/ethical sense.  What ever you needed he was the go-to person. 

My father respected religion, but he was not religious, even though he was a proud Jew and a Zionist and he certainly knew a lot about his Jewish heritage.  Yet, I have never known anyone with higher “middos,” which is a Hebrew word meaning “measures” that refers to character traits.  In my entire life I never heard my father say a really mean comment about anyone.  I never saw him treat anyone with disrespect or prejudice or belittlement; I never saw him cheat anyone, or try to escape a responsibility when it would have been easy to do so.  He took the very worst news, like getting ALS, about as bravely and as maturely as anyone could.  He didn’t complain; he just tried his best to keep enjoying life.  One challenge at a time.

There is the famous Jewish joke about the two highly accomplished men who passionately pray on Yom Kippur.  Each of them begins his prayer by saying, “God, even though I am nothing please listen to me.”  After these men finish praying, they overhear a beggar begin his prayer the same way, “God even though I am nothing …” where upon the two accomplished men turn to each other and whisper “look who thinks he is nothing!”   My father was humble not in the fake sense of someone who thinks he is superior but knows enough not to act that way.  Rather, he truly respected people for who they were.  I would love to brag about his many professional accomplishments but I know that he wouldn’t like it.  In fact, Dad probably wouldn’t have liked me even to mention the words “professional accomplishments” (sorry Dad). 

The essence of my father really had to do with his love of life, love of learning, his interest in almost everything, his love of family and friends, his love and devotion to my mother and her love and devotion to him.  My parents were married for 62 years (which is 55 years longer than most marriages).  They had to be doing something right!  Whenever we would visit my father would truly light up, he was so happy to see us.

I was talking this morning with Dad’s friend, Arthur Kaledin, who couldn’t be here today.  Arthur called Dad one of the “few truly good men that I have known.”  I am very grateful for the years I have had with my father.   He was a truly good man and a truly good father.  I love you, Dad.


Yeou-Cheng said...

We are truly sorry for your loss... that was a beautiful eulogy!

Unknown said...

David, sorry to hear this. Your comments were clearly heartfelt and talked to the essence of who your dad was to you. From knowing you since we met in musical circles years ago, " Like father, like son" .


Julia Berkley said...

A wonderful eulogy, David -- most sorry for your loss, but happy for the life you got to enjoy with him.

Unknown said...

Sorry to hear about your loss, David. But the world is a better place because of people like your dad. I've known a few people like that, and often wonder how such people seem to be born "wise beyond their years." It's one of those mysteries of nature. You were lucky indeed to have one of those people for a dad.

Anonymous said...

I'm saddened to learn of your loss, and sorry I never had an opportunity to meet him. I'm sure he was proud of you, too; the fruit hasn't fallen far from the tree.

Scaryhair said...

Thank you for sharing this part of your Dad with us David. It was a very special way to treat a very special man. Anne Fogarty

Sandy said...

David, I never met your dad but you have given us a meaningful portrait of him. He provides me with important lessons through your sharing. Thank you, David. His memory is already a blessing.
Sandy Coy

Unknown said...


Beautifully put!


Ellen zagorskygoldberg said...

What a beautiful, heartfelt portrait of a very special man. David, thank you for sharing. You are right, he sounds like someone with truly exemplary middos, and, knowing you, I am not surprised.

May you and your family be comforted among the other members of Zion and Jerusalem.

zarkesfam said...

thank you, David, for teaching us so clearly and beautifully of the legacy of your father's life - for you, and, I hope, for us as well.
Lorel ZK

David Gilfix said...

Thank you everyone for your kind comments.