He was born in 1894, and survived Czarist pogroms, escaped conscription into the Bolshevic army, lived through the Depression, fought for the unions and against union corruption, was overlooked (thankfully) by Senator McCarthy, served as President Kennedy's advisor on the affairs of the aged, and was a fighter and a champion of liberty for all of his 93 years.
He was a carpenter; he built houses and furniture, and was a perfectionist in his trade. He learned from his father, and passed on a smattering of his craft, along with his tools, to me.
I cannot sum up, in a simple posting or even in a long eloquent one, his life and his impact on the ones around him. I most certainly cannot tell of his effect on me. But I can say that I was proud to know him.
He was the oldest man I knew, and he had the most open and inquisitive mind of anyone I've ever known. He was not well schooled, but he was well read. And he was posessed of a wisdom and irascible inquisitiveness that did not let pass the injustices of our lives. He was always asking "how can this be, that there is such suffering, when there is also such wealth?"
We buried him yesterday. My father, sister, and I each helping shovel the dirt into his grave. My uncle, aunt, and cousins; my father's wife and more distant relatives, each, with a spadeful of earth, saying our final goodbye, feeling the final separation; burying his body, yet knowing that no coffin, no grave, no monument was big enough to contain his spirit. We lay his body in the ground, for nothing of this earth could hold fast his ideals.
I offered up a eulogy for him, midst the gently falling snow and the sniffles of the mourners. I sought for something to say about his life, some eloquent aphorism of his dreams, something of substance that had affected all of us, and nothing came to mind. But what sprang forth was what had always affected me the most deeply, and was the reason I loved him so dearly. Without ever trying to, he taught me a valuable lesson; one that was taught by example, in the way he lived his whole life.
He taught me that an open mind is not a luxury of youth; it is a trait to be cherished and nourished for all your life. To never close your eyes, to always look, and strive, and learn is to never grow old! Though age claimed his body, it never claimed his mind. His acerbic, yet gentle wit was as sharp the day he died as any day of his life.
The gentle snow fell quietly, dusting the trees and gravestones with a magical whiteness, and a beauty that only nature can create. The snowflakes wafted onto our coats, and rested in crystalline perfection in our hair. The rabbi sang Kaddish, and we all held each other for strength. And my Grandfather's spirit held us all, and kept us whole and warm.
Mayer barib Benyumen Falik (der Kleiner) ha Levi -- 1894-1987
Goodbye, Grandpa. I love you.