In Memory of Tom Singer

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The last two days have been the hardest in recent memory.  When my father died a few years ago, it was a long slow slog of deterioration and in the end my brother, daughter and I were at his beside in the ICU. There was complete closure. Nothing was left to be said. He was 86. A good long life.

But nothing prepares you for the telephone call saying that a dear friend has passed away. Tom died in his sleep this week in his Scottsdale, Ariz. home. He was 67. There’s no closure. Not for his wife, two sons, friends and the rest of his family. Certainly not for myself and my wife, Alicia.

The four of us were close, Alicia, myself, Tom and Mal. 

Tom’s death seems to have been peaceful. No pain. That’s blessed. Like me, he was a two-time colon cancer survivor. Did the disease come back? We’ll never know. He was buried on Thursday duiring a graveside ceremony in a pastoral setting near his adult roots in Costa Mesa, Calif. I was asked to be one of the pallbearers. In the great Jewish tradition, we took turns shovling mounds of dirt on to his casket after it was lowered six feet into the ground. Like I said, there will be no closure. The chance to say goodbye. No last giggle. The decision is final. There is no appeal.

I will remember Tom in many ways. He was quirky, combustible, funny and really didn’t have much of a cuddly side. He was a man’s man in the mold of the Eastern European country he was born. He never complained about anything. Not an ache or a pain or a personal problem. But he had a very soft side.

He adored his wife, two boys and grandchild and knew I was overwhelmed with joy over the recent birth of our first grandchild, a boy, the delicious and beauteous Fox. I have been reduced to a whimpering slob over him. 

And so, Tom sent me this email only the other day, with these words of wisdom. It was the last one:

On the first day, God created the dog and said, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.”

“The dog said, “That’s a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten?”

And God saw it was good.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said, “Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.”

The monkey said, “Monkey tricks for twenty years? That’s a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?” And God, again saw it was good.

On the third day, God created the cow and said, “You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer’s family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.”

The cow said, “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I’ll give back the other forty?” And God agreed it was good.

On the fourth day, God created humans and said, “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I’ll give you twenty years.”

But the human said, “Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?” “Okay,” said God, “You asked for it.”

So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.

For the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family.

For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren.

And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable information. I’m doing it as a public service. If you are looking for me I will be on the front porch.

Below the message line he added simply: “Wecome to the club, Grandpa :)”

See you someday on that front porch, Tom.

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