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Twenty Years Passed

Posted in: Blog by amy on November 27, 2012

Over the weekend, a friend asked me why I haven’t blogged for so long. I immediately responded that I have been so busy with new projects and the holidays and that I’ll be writing soon. It is true: I have been busy. But, the additional unspoken truth is something I needed to evaluate. Why had I been avoiding sitting down to write a post? And why do so many of us avoid doing the very things that help us to BE?

The holidays can be a chaotic time of year for many of us. For me, it is a heavy time: Thanksgiving. The anniversary of my friend Sari’s death. The anniversary of my dad’s death. The hectic pace of this time of year helps me to avoid these difficult memories. However, when I sit down to write, I feel more present and aware than I ever do. I share; I think; I wonder; I imagine; I hope; and I remember. This is what I love to do. And, this is also what challenges me the most.

When we feel, we are vulnerable. When we are vulnerable, we may hurt. So, many of us run. We are so busy that we don’t slow down to think. For some, this is a conscious act. For others, like myself, we may be busying ourselves and filling the hours to inadvertently avoid having time to look into the eyes of the past. Look at your own life … Do you find yourself looking at lists of endless tasks?  Do you consider why you take on so much or why it is so difficult to stop to think and to feel?

As I am reflective at this time of year, and, as this December 1st is the 20th anniversary of my dad’s death, I am thinking a lot about the day he died. I remember my mom coming into my room the night I came home from college (right after hearing the news). She and I talked about the funeral, and she asked me if I wanted to speak during the service. My sisters did not want to, and immediately, I felt that I would be unable to do so, as well. His death was such a shock to us all. We couldn’t fathom standing up there and speaking. Standing, itself, was challenging.

The next day, my mom asked me if maybe I wanted to write something about my dad, and she would have the rabbi read it for me. Again, without much thought, I declined. Every emotion — the sadness, the fear, the anger, the devastation — was swirling and crashing around in my head, traveling through my every pore.  Writing was an impossibility. First, I did not believe that my dad would benefit in any way from my words. And, thankfully, I had done a good job of letting my dad know how loved and appreciated he was during our 21 years together. I wondered why I needed to push myself to share my thoughts with others. Also, I believed that if I was able to eat and sleep and comfort my dad’s parents in those first few days, then I had done enough. Sitting down to write was not something that I was able to consider.

Now, I realize that my mom had urged me to write something because she knew how therapeutic it would be for me. She also knew how I best expressed myself through writing. And, she knew what I, a 21 year old, was incapable of knowing: This eulogy for my father would be a gift for me. It would comfort me to share my words and feel that cumulative love and support from those who adored him. It would soothe me to hear my words read and to know that my love for my father was not just in my head or my heart … it would be wafting around the room, falling onto the shoulders of the funeral room’s inhabitants … it would be oozing into their minds … it would be tangible and real and lasting … it would be meaningful to my family and friends … it would honor my father … it would make his parents’ heartache evaporate for a moment or two as that pain was replaced with beaming pride … it would be mine … it would be my dad’s … it would be all of ours.

Instead, I could not create the tribute for my father. I could not bring myself to hold the pen, to face the reality that he was gone, to acknowledge that this funeral was even about to occur. So, I cried. And, then, I busied myself. I began making funeral arrangements with my two sisters. My dad was an only child. His parents were struggling to cope with the loss of their 52-year-old son. My sisters and I picked out a casket and made arrangements and talked to the rabbi and made plans for my dad’s dogs and cars and belongings and home.

We were busy.

And, 20 years later, I now find myself busy once again.

Yet, life offers us so many karmic opportunities in which we can do something differently than the way in which we had done so before. We can learn and change and improve and heal.

So, today, just days before the 20th anniversary of my father’s death, I finally have some words to share. Mom, I’m grateful that you encouraged me to write then. I’m grateful that you encourage me to write today. I’m grateful that a love for words and reading and expression and honesty and authenticity  is ignited within me because of you and because of dad. In honor of you, Mom … and in memory of you, Dad, I share these words:

It is hard to believe that 20 years have gone by, as it feels like yesterday when I watched you prepare your final Thanksgiving feast in your kitchen. Your enthusiasm for cooking was just one of your many passions. From your unique ratatouille dish to a perfect French onion soup, you put so much of your energy into each creation. That was how you did everything … with strength and passion. It has helped me to accept the fact that your life was cut short, knowing that you packed more into each moment than many experience in a lifetime. You knew how to feel and to love and to laugh. You did everything in such a big way — even your exit from this earth was done with that zeal: With drama and flair, right in the middle of the courtroom, you asked the judge for a minute and then suffered a heart attack that no one saw coming … not even the clean stress test a month before could have warned us. There we stood: Some lost their best friend, some lost the love of their lives, some lost their divorce lawyer … but we lost our daddy.

And, I lost my string to the balloon of youthful innocence that was floating high above my head. It remained there, but I could no longer grasp at it. I lost my favorite chess opponent and crossword puzzle assistant, as well. I lost my basketball coach. I lost my confidante and advisor. I lost my dictionary and source for learning anything about everything. I lost the person who gave me the passion that flows through my veins. But, then again, I didn’t lose any of that. What flowed through my veins 20 years ago only flows with more veracity and fervor today. 

The gifts you have given me are timeless and permanent. The cuddles and laughter, the lessons and corrections (yes, I remember to drop my voice at the end of a sentence, and yes, I stand up straight), the philosophical conversations and the quiet time, the dogs and the walks, the road trips and my endless questions, the excitement and the wonder … You encouraged all of that. You gave me all of that. That is with me still today. 

Your life was cut short. But, you lived without regret. You lived with love. You lived with style. You lived life your way … not to sound like a Frank Sinatra song … but I can say with full confidence that you were a true individual — a non-conformist — a man who lived life his way. You raised three girls who intend to carry on that legacy.

Now, as a mother of three, my life is full of joy and laughter as well as some heartache and pain. But, through it all, I have learned how to enjoy the moments. I have learned how to improve and evolve. I have learned how to slow down. And, I have learned that it is never too late for anything … not even for writing a 20-year-old eulogy.



Gene Igolka: July 1, 1940 — December 1, 1992


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12 Responses to “Twenty Years Passed”

  1. Pamela Cohen says:

    How beautiful…..your dad sounds like a special person. By waiting 20 years to write his eulogy, I now have the benefit of knowing such a great person too.

  2. Karyn Miller says:

    You made me cry in the middle of work. Such a beautiful eulogy. I remember that day so well. Life changed so much that day in so many ways. I am glad we still have each other through all these years. You are amazing. Gene would be so proud!

  3. Judy Kaplan says:

    Amy, that was beautiful and insightful. Thank you for sharing with the world the wisdom that you have acquired. The journey along the way makes for the richness in your message. Hugs and smiles, Judy

  4. amy says:

    You’re right, Kar — It’s like I said about our innocence being hard to grasp … I’m lucky I had you then, and now!

  5. amy says:

    Thanks, Pamela! That is so sweet of you to say. I like that spin on it … Had I not waited, you would not have read my words. 🙂

  6. amy says:

    I like what you say about the journey, Judy. So much of what we experience adds to who we are, of course. Your support and encouragement have had a great impact on my journey lately! 🙂

  7. Dani says:

    What a lovely piece. I am so glad you wrote it. I remember being at his house with you, Denise and some others over Thanksgiving break listening “Layla” by Eric Clapton and dancing around. He was a special part of my life too. He is with you always.

  8. Karyn bravo says:

    Loved this Amy! You really captured your dad. He was like a father to me. He was unique. Miss him. Glad you did this. Hard to believe its been 20 years.

  9. Rachel says:

    Amy, I will always remember your dad. What a wonderful man. He would be so proud of you….he always was, and for good reason.

  10. Lizzy says:

    Amy this is beautiful. I am sorry – I tried not to cry – but failed miserably. I remember when he took us all out to dinner shortly before he died….and of course I remember 12/1/92. Your Dad had such a presence during life and you have done an exceptional job of making sure his memory stays strong. I agree with all the other comments – he is so proud of you. I know it is no substitute but so am I!!!

  11. Jenny says:

    You honor your dad’s memory with the collection of your memories. Sometimes you need distance to be able to really put into words all that you want to say…and you did it beautifully. I would venture to say that not many people receive eulogies phrased so eloquently, and although I did not know your dad, I feel as though I did through all of the stories you’ve shared about him, as well as through this dedication to him. Years ago, I went to a lecture on raising children, and I will never forget one thing: They asked, “Do you live your life and do your actions reflect how you would want your children to remember you?” It sounds as if your dad did a very good job in this area. Celebrate on the 1st! It is a celebration of his life. I have a wonderful friend because of him, so I will celebrate as well. xoxo

  12. Sherri Dorman says:

    Amy, I wish that I could express with words the way you put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. (Use which ever applies). I too was wondering why I hadn’t had any new blogs from you in a while? I had started reading your most recent entry from the day I received it last November. I just couldn’t read it to the end. The tears and the memories were just too real. I too, have lost my Dad, and this week was his birthday. Always a very emotional time. Although I never knew your father, you have painted a beautiful life with him. It has shocked my brain into snapshots with my own father. I thank you very much for this gift. As I look at my Dad’s picture, which sits upon my desk, I can vividly remember stories, laughter and many of the happy times we shared together. Your words have given me this gift. Thank you. I love reading your words and look forward to your next entry, which I hope will be soon. Happy holidays!

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