My dad peacefully died after an illustrious 83 years. He passed away just like he lived by doing it his way, on his own schedule, and when he was ready. To the end, my father kept us on our toes, constantly having to reevaluate his care all while honoring his end of life wishes. While the last few months were extremely difficult and challenging, he died with dignity and serenely. One may say he was lucky to go as he did.
Dad, Benson, Buzzy, Buz, Grandpa or Poppy as he was known, was a lucky man. Some may say that he was unlucky with all of his health challenges. I disagree. He didn’t let any of his ailments stop him. He was fortunate to have the best doctors in the area to treat him. And boy did they treat him, as he kept them busy. He was lucky to have people to turn to for advice about his health, and his options. He was lucky to have extremely compassionate individuals taking care of him and his family when we all needed it most.
Buz, a faithful husband was utterly devoted to my mother Susan. In fact, he said routinely that he was more in love with her than the day they married. My parents were married 61 years this past November, and in my humble opinion, is the epitome of being lucky – by finding the right partner in life to share the many joyous and more poignant occasions. By a stroke of good fortune, my parents reunited in the Emergency Room at Duke University Hospital after being separated for a few weeks. Both needed medical attention, and were brought in separately. As some of you know, my dad was in and out of rehab after a few bad falls. They celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary by kissing through hospital and oxygen masks. Was it luck? Divine intervention perhaps? Rabbi, I will have to discuss this further with you.
During their 61 years together, my parents had 3 children, Marla, Lauren (me) and Jonathan. While I know that my siblings and I had very different relationships with my father, he was truly lucky to have the love and affection of his children. While he wasn’t the most demonstrative, he was there for his children when we needed him the most. By his actions, we knew he loved us. And by the same token, his children were there for him until the very end. While that may not be a stroke of luck, having the unyielding support of his children, one might consider him pretty damn lucky.
Buz has two sons-in-law Adam and Mark, daughter-in-law Yvette, and three grandchildren Joshua, Kyle and Justin. Poppy or Grandpa Buz was fortunate to see his 3 grandchildren being born, grow up, and reach so many milestones. Most recently, he was thrilled to hear that his oldest grandchild received a few college acceptances (by the way, we are still waiting on a few). Watching his grandchildren grow up was one of his profound joys and being witness to that, is luck, don’t you think?
Early in my parents’ marriage they discovered sailing. From learning how to sail on a collapsible boat in Bayside Harbor Queens, to having a boat in Huntington, to Northport, and with their last boat being moored in Shelter Island, sailing has been a part of my parent’s identity. So much so that my father eventually earned his captain’s license through the US Coast Guard. The love of sailing has been encouraged and enjoyed by his children, and grandchildren. I will forever be indebted to my dad for fostering that love. After the boat became too much for them, they re-discovered sailing through Star Clippers Cruises, massive tall ships sailing to exotic places like the Caribbean, The Mediterranean, Thailand, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to enjoying their last cruise through the Panama Canal. Most people never get the opportunity of going on adventures of the sort, and not only am I envious, I would consider him quite fortunate to be able to.
Those who knew my dad, friends of his growing up in Brooklyn and Lynbrook to college fraternity brothers from Washington & Jefferson College, his sailing buddies, the friends from Huntington and Sag Harbor, to those who he became friends at Carolina Arbors – the dog park, the Romeos, water buddies, the Shalom Club, the Ollie classes, he has left an indelible mark. The ability of making connections and friends so easily was remarkable. Is that a skill or just luck, I am not sure.
While he was loved and admired, those who knew him, knew my father wasn’t always the easiest or cooperative. He was beyond stubborn and became irritated quite easily as the years caught up to him. For all of his faults, he was able to recognize those imperfections, come to terms and apologize near the end of his life. For his family who were on the receiving end of the apologies, it was his gift as he was able to articulate his sentiments when we needed to hear his words. For him to acknowledge his limitations was quite fortuitous.
My father, always the outgoing person, the historian of all things Civil War (by the way, he passed away on President Lincoln’s birthday), and the consummate joke teller was unforgettable. One of his many talents was he knew how to make people laugh. He had the uncanny ability of sharing a story appropriate for the moment, occasion or situation. A magical gift I wish I had, as I could use a few laughs right now. He never missed an opportunity to have the last word or be the center of attention. One might say he was a commanding presence. Even as he spent his last days, he managed to become the center of our attention! The way he lived, was how he died, one lucky man.
I truly believe what was meaningful to Buz was to know he was important, was loved and adored and to make a profound mark on this world. For those of us who were fortunate to have him in our lives, however long or brief, he did make an impact and will forever be in our hearts. For that, we are the lucky ones!
RIP Dad – You will forever be in my heart