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03 February 2009 @ 08:10 am
My Father: December 1, 1932-January 27, 2009  
My father, Barnet "Barney" Edelman, seen with me below in our last picture together, passed away one week ago today.

He had been ailing for quite a while from a variety of illnesses, including congestive heart failure, but what finally took him from us was either polymyositis or dermatomyositis. Though his agonizing symptoms seemed consistent with one or both of those, his doctors were never really sure, as he was not responding to any medications. As his body withered, his many physicians were puzzled, and wished they had a Gregory House on staff to solve the medical mystery.



I arrived in Florida a week and a half ago—on my parents' 55th wedding anniversary—still hopeful, even though Dad was already in the hospital. But when the pain became too great for Dad and it seemed as if the only way he could live was in agony and with a ventilator, he decided to go to hospice, following his wishes as to no extreme or aggressive measures, which he had expressed to us in living wills going back to 1992.

My father did not give up. Rather, what I saw him doing was sticking strong to his convictions as to what kind of end he wanted, and he chose to spend his final moments in peace and dignity. I held his hand for the last half hour of his life, telling him that I loved him and thanking him for the life he gave me. He was barely in hospice four hours before he passed.

The funeral was Thursday afternoon. My Mom, my brother, and I placed items with Dad before they closed the coffin. Mom dropped in a letter, my brother placed paint brushes in his jacket pocket, as Dad had been an artist, and I added the King from a chess set I'd bought him when I was 19, as well as one of the coins I'd had minted years ago to commemorate my fifth anniversary, the last because he'd shown me the way to have a happy marriage.

The service was beautiful. The cantor sang "Some Enchanted Evening," a song which describes how Mom and Dad met, and which he often sang to her throughout my childhood and beyond in his deep, booming voice. The navy sent an honor guard, which played Taps and then presented Mom with a folded flag. My wife spoke, my Mom's best friend spoke, and my brother and I spoke.

I'm not afraid of either speaking or crying in public. My only fear was that I'd end up weeping in a fetal position at the base of the podium rather than getting out a word. I did manage to get through my eulogy, though I'm not sure how comprehensible I was, because in addition to crying, I found myself wailing and keening. But I'm told I was understood.

Here's what I thought was most important for me to say about my Dad:

I have known my father, really known him, for all of my life. Not every child is lucky enough to have been able to say that.

Some children miss out on their fathers because they decide to be physically absent, choosing work or hobbies over spending time with their kids. Other parents are emotionally absent, not letting their children see that they even have emotions, hiding who they really are, maybe because they are embarrassed by their feelings, or afraid that real men don't cry, or hug, or kiss their children.

With my father, I wanted for nothing. Dad was always there for me in both body and spirit, showing me by his living example what it was like to be a father and a husband, that it was possible for a man to show tenderness, to be unafraid of open affection with his children, and to be a loving husband. He was selfless with us all.

It is impossible to speak of my father without also speaking of my mother, because they were one. Together, they showed me what true love was like, taught me what a marriage should be. Dad loved us all more than he loved himself. When it became too hard for him to live on, the pain that was the greatest for him was never his own, but rather the pain that he saw in us.

At tragic times like these, so many families are worried about all the things left unsaid because they were not brave enough to say them and they ran out of time.

We were lucky, because of my father's openness, in that we always said to each other what needed to be said from the moment I was born. There are no regrets about that thanks to his openness, his willingness, his understanding and his love.

But the most important thing I can say about my father is that through our relationship he was able to spare me the void that so many men have in themselves.

The world is filled with adult men who never heard their father say “I love you,” who wonder throughout their lives whether they were loved. I talk to friends about this and see it in magazines and newspapers, and I have always been amazed by this. My father spared me from this wound that many men walk around with.

I never doubted that he loved me. He told me so whenever we spoke. We always hugged. When we were children, because he had to leave for work before we left for school, he would leave notes for us to find each morning to let us know how much he loved us. We kissed on the lips whenever we first saw each other, and when we parted. I never doubted my father's love.

That is the greatest gift that a father can give to his son. I consider it a miracle that he had the strength of spirit to be able to give to me what he was never given himself.

I will always love you and I will always miss you.


After the funeral, we returned to my parents' home where I sat shiva with my mother and brother through Sunday night, friends and family filling the house. Sitting shiva serves many purposes, one of which is to distract the mourners from their devastating loss. But as I moved through the house, there were, of course, endless reminders of the void.

The sight that got to me the most was this:



As I wrote above, my father was an artist. To feed his family, he was an art director for many companies, including McGraw-Hill, where he worked, I think, for 23 years. But his passion was his painting. All of our homes are filled with his art. As I sat talking one moment, I realized that there were 16 of his paintings hanging in that room alone.

But this final painting, left unfinished, unsigned, and never to be completed, hit me hard.

Dad is gone, and won't be back.
 
 
 
(Anonymous) on February 3rd, 2009 01:35 pm (UTC)
Condolences
You have my deepest condolences, Scott. These are wonderful, lasting thoughts to have. Your Dad sounds like a great guy.

John D.
SF Signal
Maura McHugh: serene gracesplinister on February 3rd, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
My sincere sympathies Scott. Your father sounded fabulous, and you obviously treasured each other. What a wonderful gift.
Richard Parksogre_san on February 3rd, 2009 01:49 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry for your loss, Scott.
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)mabfan on February 3rd, 2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
Scott, you have our condolences and sympathies on your loss.
jamietr on February 3rd, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
Scott, my deepest condolences. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss.
Jay Lakejaylake on February 3rd, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
I am very sorry for your loss, but admire your memories.
Jeremy Tolbertthe_flea_king on February 3rd, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
My deepest, deepest sympathies for your family's loss.
Marymaryturzillo on February 3rd, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
Your dad
Scott, what a moving commentary. A man who could inspire such a wonderful eulogy from his son must indeed have lived a memorable and significant life. I love the fact that you posted images of his paintings; they are beautiful. Also, even at the end he was a very handsome man, and I can see how his features are carried on in Trevor. I would imagine his talent is likewise carried forward in Trevor, and of course in yourself, too.
Matthew S. Rotundo: Radioactivematthewsrotundo on February 3rd, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
My condolences to you and your family. Your father sounds like a wonderful man.

stevendj on February 3rd, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
My condolences as well.
warrenlapinewarrenlapine on February 3rd, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Saddened by your loss...
I'm sorry to hear about your loss. I was never as close to my dad as you clearly were to yours. But like you, I knew that my dad loved me and I know how valuable it is to not have that void. I was lucky in that I spoke with him the day before he died unexpectedly and we both said "I love you." He's been gone now for nine years and typing this I feel my eyes fill up, and as I said, we were not that close. Losing a father hits hard, harder than I'd have imagined. But he'll always be with you even a decade later. Stay well.
Nick Mamatasnihilistic_kid on February 3rd, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
Condolences to you and yours.
puppetmaker40puppetmaker40 on February 3rd, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
Scott-
Both Peter and I extend our condolences and sympathies for your loss.
This is a beautiful tribute to your father.
Kathleen David

edited to correct a spelling error.

Edited at 2009-02-03 03:32 pm (UTC)
Maria Alexander: Hugzladyeuthanasia on February 3rd, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)

Oh, Scott! I'm so sorry. Your words made me weep. What a wonderful man and lucky family you have. I hug you from afar and wish you all peace.
(Anonymous) on February 3rd, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
Dad
While reading this I was sitting at my desk crying when my friend, who was at the funeral, came by saying there's no words for a moment like this, but you my dear brother, as always, have found them. That's beautiful!
I Love you always! Lee
P.S. Dad would be proud!