Note: below is an edited version of a post I did several years ago. It’s weird to have your dad’s eulogy become a requested post on the internet but that’s what’s happened and I’m ok with it… you can’t really “know” me without knowing at least a little about him and missing him is easier when there are other nurturers around to take his place.
Biggest regret? I picked up a felting needle for the first time about a week before he died… so, yeah… Anyway, here’s that post.
Did you know that Sesame Street debuted on my birthday, the year before I was born? That show was a big deal for my family. I have audio tapes of my dad coaching me to repeat things into the microphone. He prompts:
“Say ‘Hi Oma (Grandma).’ Now say ‘I love you.’ Don’t forget to say ‘hi’ to Opa (Grandpa). Tell him to ‘send us cash.’ Now what do you want to say to Mr. Hooper?”
My dad died
two five years ago today and I have to say, I don’t like it. I still feel like a part of my physical being has been severed and the empty space hurts really bad.
The worst part is the unsettling continuing shock. When it first happened, I was horrified of course, but there’s all of the in-the-moment stuff that you have to go through – travel, funeral, headstone… Somehow, when all the tradition and ceremony ends, you know you’ve been through a hard time and there’s a finished feeling.
It was really then that the enormity of “forever” started to bitch slap me around, and it hasn’t stopped since. It’s funny to me that somewhere inside, I forgot that the funeral was only the end of the beginning of the loss of him. i still find myself thinking “wait… wait a second… you mean, NEVER?” and it aches deeper than anything i’ve ever felt.
Mr. Hooper died too, back in the day. Here’s the clip of the cast explaining the permanence of death to big bird. It makes me sob, but it helps too.
We both believed in “because” and finality, but he was a whimsical, imaginative guy. I used to archive some of the best emails I got from him. His death was sudden, but coincidentally, this is the last email from him that I saved:
Considering where this nutty world is going, I have decided to come back in my next life as a Monarch butterfly, providing I can keep coming back each birth cycle. I will look beautiful. I will be able to travel. I love to fly and I will have many many good friends…we all will look the same so no one in our group will pick on us; what could be bad? Ok, I know I can get eaten by a big ass big bird etc or get caught by a stupid ass kid and put in a jar…
Anyway, I miss him. Eulogy below.
1934 - 2006
Eulogy written by his daughter Moxie (Melysa Lieberman)
Read at Kol Shalom Cemetery, San Rafael, California on August 23, 2006.
First, to clear up any confusion about my name: I was born “Melysa” but several years ago I legally changed my name to “Moxie.” For the first few months after I made the change, my dad called me “Melvin, or whatever-you-name-is-now.
The thing about Eugene is that if you knew him, you KNEW him. Which makes it hard to say things about him that haven’t been said by all of you already. But I’m standing here to speak for my family. My family, which feels like it’s shrinking with every passing minute but is also so much larger than we ever knew.
Eugene was a deeply silly human being. Recently at work (running an afterschool program) I found a note on my desk from one of my staff. There was a voice mail from “Some guy trying to enroll his dog in childcare.” My dad had left an endless message, in a Yiddish accent, inquiring about our activities and expressing his fear that the other kids would make fun of his exceptionally hairy son, Murray (his dog).
That was one month ago and I can’t believe I’m here, now, like this. There is so much left undone. He wanted me to email him a phone number, I had a few cd’s I was going to make for him. He told me last week that he had clipped an article in the IJ he was going to send me, and for that matter, he owed me money.
My mom has been telling people that my father was a man who never complained. That is a lie and she knows it. If you think that Eugene never complained, you never heard him screaming and swearing at his computer, his fax machine, his remote control. He was attracted to technology. He believed in and utilized the internet as another way to connect with people. Having said that, he also had to call me after power outages because he couldn’t turn the tv back on.
Eugene was really a teacher. He had patience and understanding and could teach absolutely anyone to swing a baseball bat … but … could teach absolutely no one to do math homework. You can ask Rachel if you want, but I wouldn’t advise it - the math scars run pretty deep.
Here’s a dad lesson, though: I remember him driving me to the bus stop for my first sleep-over camp. I was so nervous about making friends. He told me that making friends takes time but that people were going to get to know me. I was quiet for a while and right before we got to the stop I wondered out loud: “What if no one starts to talk with me?” My dad took a swift left and pulled into a supermarket parking lot. Before I knew what was happening, I had in my lap an enormous bag of cookies. I’m talking about a bag of cookies bigger than my rolled-up sleeping bag. We giggled the rest of the way to the bus. The lesson? Cookies begin friendships.
Greater than the power of the cookie lesson was the importance of seychel: common sense with people. Eugene believed in being there when you are needed but before you are asked. He taught us to seek out opportunities to lend support, to offer comfort, to embrace people. Both of my parents are devoted, compassionate people and they taught us that taking care of others is simply “what you DO.” And he did it. And so do we. And you are here, you are doing it too.
He gave us so much and he left us all too soon. I know that we come together to celebrate and honor him, and he will always be a part of us. But I can’t walk away without telling you the whole truth. I can’t walk away, from this place, without saying that his absence has created in me a rupture I can only liken to a volcano, or an earthquake, or an explosion. A potent, trembling tsuris. It’s a chaotic void so volatile and powerful and devastating that it threatens to escape from my flesh and bones with an eruption so big, so painful that it will knock down walls and silence city streets and stop the earth from spinning and destroy the sun. I will never be the same. We will never be the same.
When I was young, I asked my dad why he was bald. He told me that he gave his hair to this other man, a man who needed the hair more. We laughed when he said it but it’s important to me to say this now, to his family, his friends, his communities: He told me that he gave his hair to a man that needed it more and, I believe him. I will always believe him.