Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Philip R. Lenard 1924 - 1997

"Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather  find Strength in what remains behind: "  
Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth  
- an excerpt from the poem read by his daughter Jessica as part of the eulogy.

 Today is the 14th anniversary of my father's death. 2:30am on a Saturday to be exact. I don't understand the time factor. Wasn't it yesterday he lay in a hospital bed in the bedroom  he shared with my mother for 50 years?  Wasn't it yesterday I heard the foreboding sound of a death rattle and ran to his bedside to hold his hand?

I love you Dad.
You have been a wonderful father.

 One breath,...........a second breath,............... a third breath, and he was gone at the all too early age of 73.  Adenocarcinoma had won the battle over a strong, youthful, energetic and courageous man. Within a half hour the team from the mortuary came to wheel him out. Within 18 hours he was cremated (dust to ashes had been given real meaning).  Within 36 hours there was a standing room only funeral for my father - a special man whose infectious charm, humor, and charisma made him loved by many.
After three days of Shiva, endless platters of food marching through, the challenge of recruiting 10 men for a nightly minyan (neither my father nor many of his friends were very religious but still.....) After the sorry's were said, regrets and "shouldn't have happened", expressed, the family, as things go, were left alone to deal with their pain, loss, and sorrow.

A not brief history:   Philip Raphael Lenevitch was born the son of Russian immigrants.  His father was a junk peddler.  Despite early poverty, he was blessed with a preternatural energy, boundless creativity, and a genuine lack of fear.  He was an entrepreneur, a self-made man whose business philosophy was basically summed up by 'deal honestly with everyone'.  His ideas and businesses were responsible for providing livelihoods for countless people and families over the years.  He felt a responsibility to help the newer wave of immigrants, employing them at every opportunity, helping them to reach their dreams.

As a young man, recently discharged from the service, (he was an infantryman in WW II), He was waiting in a very slow moving line to pick up his dispensation check.  Never long on patience, he saw a sign across the hall that said 'salesman wanted'.  He left his place in line, and followed the sign into a jewelry shop. Although he had no experience, he asked the owner to give him a job, saying he would work for free until he started generating business.  He went on to prove himself in a big way, remaining in the jewelry business for over 40 years.  His financial success provided security for his family for over two generations.

He was a free spirit of many interests; flying (he attained his pilots license), sailing, (he bought a boat), bridge, racquetball, fishing, photography  -  a student of history and politics - a love of classical music. His interests were insatiable.  He seemed to accomplish things by sheer dint of energy and will power.  His philosophy and humor never wavered.  As the end of his life was drawing near, my sister and I asked him if there was anything he would have done differently. "Yes", he said, "I'd have lived longer".

An oak tree was purchased and planted on the beautiful land, along side the large pond behind the home my father had built.  A place he looked out on with solace and pride.  His two daughters, son-in-laws, and five grandchildren stood by waiting for the hole to be dug deep enough to plant the tree. We each took a handful of bone and ash and tossed it in. 
His wish was carried out.

He wanted to think of himself as growing with the trees.  And so he has.  He has grown upward towards the sunlight, and has cycled through many seasons of barren trees and new green leaves.  Now, years later, although sorrow  and memory have not evaporated, he still remains a part of all that is simple, not fancy, essential, not trivial, and like himself, ultimately genuine.

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