December 15, 2014

This is What I Said At My Uncle Jack's Funeral After He Passed Away on July 4, 2014

One of Jack’s favorite authors (and mine), Haruki Murakami, said “There are many things we only see clearly in retrospect.”  Luckily for us, the things we saw – and felt – together with Jack were clear the whole time. He had an authentic and deep relationship with each of us. The love was direct and present. The experiences of the relationship varied and delicious.

Jack has always been distinctly Jack.

My Uncle Jack was a unique person – rough and brusque but not at all. He worked hard to cultivate that curmudgeon character. But we know better. If he was teasing and poking and ‘stirring the pot,’ it meant he loved you. The harder time he gave you, the more you knew he loved you. And he loved us all a lot. 

Jack shared with me his love of literature. He showed me the power and elegance of a well-crafted sentence.

He called me Kasdan Major, which I loved. He would describe his feelings and actions as “avuncular” (Which I had to look up).

Jack brought a sense of humor that we hadn’t encountered before and it swept us away. Many of you probably know what I’m talking about – it steps right up to the edge of being wholly obnoxious but at the same time is completely endearing.  And its infectious.

He showed us how to taste life – how to live it – with travel, with music, with food, with drink, with music, with games and with friends.

He was an adventurer. He took me camping for the first time.  Taught me how to play poker.  (He valiantly tried to teach me Bridge, but it didn’t take.)  He introduced me to grappa, and port, and taught me how to appreciate wine.  The Vermont trips that he and Joyce planned became one of the central traditions of my life, as I grew from a 14 year old kid hoping to get to stay up late enough to watch the poker game to well, me, now.

He was a man who knew how to Love.  

He told us he loved us eloquently and often and beautifully.  He showed us, with the words he said and the words he wrote and by his smile and how his eyes would get wet with happiness and pride at family gatherings. Yes, we saw. Always with a love we could all feel.  And that will never go away.

I want to share a few things about that.


As I mentioned above, and as many of you know, Jack and Joyce planned yearly trips to Vermont. Jack’s pub quizzes were a thing to behold.  Multimedia extravananzas of impossible to answer questions spanning all things, with music, video, and cheese/herb/alcohol tasting rounds. But because I couldn’t perform well at them, I apprenticed to be the next pub Quizmeister.  He shared it with me.  Now I do it, and I added rules to set the same tone he did.  (e.g., The Quizmeister is judge/jury/executioner on all challenges). I’ve dumbed it down and I can’t compete with the breadth of his quizzes, and every year I still send him my draft and he replies:  

"It looks lovely, but I'm missing the answers, and you know what I'm like without the answers … I like the 'executioner' part. That speaks well for your attitude. Anyway. I'll say Well Done! And wish you and the troops fun at the gaming table~"


At family occasions – Passover at Jack and Joyces, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc.  He always took the time to say … He always said how much it meant to him that we were his family, his eyes would get wet during family moments.  His joy at being with family was palpable.  And every time I would think – it’s we that are the lucky ones:

His note from last Thanksgiving/Jack’s birthday captures it well – its one part sweetness and sappiness and one part Jack, like many of his notes:

Hi Guys~

Yesterday was amazing. The food was scrumptious and the people -- family and friends alike -- were loving and kind and creative and all that people should be. However, the song and the book that you created for me exceeded anything that I thought could ever happen. Listening to you sing to me and reading the words you put on paper for me brought up tears and I was happy to shed them. You guys have been, are, and will be wonderful! I love you~

* * *

Now to the realities of life: The clothing you got for me (no more clothes, please! Write me a word or two; take me to the movies; give me a book; take me to dinner, but no more clothing!) doesn't fit! The jacket is 'L' and too small! The sweater is 'XXL' and too big. Lisa could wear the sweater and David the jacket -- or do I have that wrong? Get your money back and do something else with it! I'll still love you! 

And always will.


A note from a prior Thanksgiving/Birthday celebration was similar.  This time, Jack and Joyce couldn’t come out because Joyce was under the weather.

I wrote:

Happy Birthday Jack.  There will be another Apple Cake!!

We hope that Joyce is feeling better -- you made the only decision
that was to be made, and I would have done the same.  But we sure missed you guys!


On Thu, Nov 26, 2009 at 1:58 PM, <> wrote:

Not only is Joyce ill on Thanksgiving (and of lesser import (ahem) alo giornato del natividad del tio Giqacomo)), but now the grossest breach of all is about to be perpetrated: the consumption of the apple cake specifically designed with me in mind will be eaten by everyone else, but not me!? How can in-laws, nieces and nephews, guests and other persons be so blatantly devoid of feeling as to eat that which is not intended for them? I almost came without Joyce so as to lay claim to her portion, but she begged me not to leave her. What's a man to do?

Alas. Another cake given to infidels whilst the intendee is ministering to the needs of a weaker being. I smile as I write, but I am very serious when I send with this jocular piece of fluff my love and real affection for you all. You have filled a gap in my life that had no family prior to you. Now it saddens me when we are apart when we should be together. 

Thank you for all your good wishes and Joyce -- as each of you knows! -- wanted me out of her hair and in yours. It was almost like: 'You owe me this, Jack!' and my answering, 'It's my birthday! I get to choose!' Mark this down in your calendars. She was too weak to win the battle!

Much love to all youse guys!



We love you.  

That uniquely Jack voice – we still hear it in our heads and we smile. And those memories we made together, they’re part of who we all are.

We are infinitely better and fuller and more alive people for knowing you – 

As you said in your note: “Now it saddens me when we are apart when we should be together.”  

Me too.

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