Saying Goodbye to my Dad
How does one capture the story of a person who is so important to them? Here’s how I said goodbye to my dad.
My dad passed away last Monday. I was in Montreal with my family for the funeral and the Shiva all of last week. During that time, I heard many amazing stories about him from many visitors who came to pay their respects.
Here is a good one worth sharing:
My dad was the President and Founder of a powder coatings manufacturing company. One day, a supplier flew into town from Toronto to visit him. He was a young guy, fairly new to the industry. My dad took the opportunity to share his unadulterated opinion of the product that this supplier was trying to sell – it was poor quality and it was overpriced.
For those who have never met my father, he was a very animated man – very passionate with his thoughts and opinions. In that conversation, my father was very severe in his tone and undoubtedly raised his voice and gave him a piece of his mind. The supplier was very intimidated.
After his rant was over, my dad looked at his watch and noticed that it was noon.
“Let’s go out for lunch,” he announced to the supplier.
The supplier accommodated. My dad took him to a Middle Eastern restaurant and ordered everything on his behalf – in Arabic. They had a lovely feast. When the bill came, not only did my father absolutely refuse to let the supplier pay, but sent him back to Toronto with two boxes of food for his family.
That was my father.
I thought that it would be good to share the eulogy that I wrote for him. It was interesting to hear the feedback from those who were at the funeral. Many people thought it was amazing and made them cry. I felt that it fell very short.
There is so much more I would have liked to say and each time I re-read the eulogy, I feel more and more disappointed with just how weak it was. How does one capture the story of a person who is so important to them in less than 5 minutes? And… how does one do it just 2 days after finding out that her father has died?
It’s difficult. My head was cloudy and I was unable to remember all the things that made my father so incredibly special. So… here’s what I came up with:
Over the past few days, many people have used the word “patriarch” to describe my father. It’s a good word because today, I’m not just up here talking about MY father – it has become clear that he was like a father to so, so many people. He was genuinely interested and cared about everybody and, knowing his standards were high, it was always so rewarding to make him proud.
Anyone who knew Henri Ades knew that he was not an ordinary man. He was extraordinary in every way. I am not talking about his obvious extraordinary achievements like bringing his family to Canada, starting a formidable enterprise, his generosity or even the remarkable strength that allowed him to come back from the brink of death over and over and over and over again. I am talking about the little quirky characteristics that made him extraordinary. As the youngest of 3 kids who appeared as a surprise to the family 13 years after my brother, you could say that as a child, I was exposed to his quirk in a unique way. Let me give you a few examples…
When I was in grade 2, he pulled me aside and said, “Go get your money, we’re going out.” Excited, I stashed $8 in my pocket and let him know that I was ready for our adventure. He’s the only father in the world who would take his 7-year-old daughter to the horse races and teach her how to bet on horses. I was over the moon when I doubled my money! To this day, I wonder if he just magically “made that happen.”
When I was a little older and my mother needed to be with my sister Terry in Ottawa when she was sick, I stayed at home with my dad. He was Mr. Mom and became the chief, cook and bottle washer. Literally. “The 99 cent special” was a headline on his marquis, making a feast out of foul, eggs and a little Israeli salad. Not only that, he was both scientific and meticulous in the kitchen – experimenting with spices and ingredients, and thoroughly washing the chicken with soap and water before cooking it.
My father was a bit of a prankster too. Every Purim, he gathered the kids around the table and played the belt game. Have you ever heard of my dad’s Belt Game? Here’s how it works: the leader of the game – who was ALWAYS my dad – would fold the belt in two and twist it around so that the center would form two holes. He would then ask you to guess which hole was the inside of the belt. He would make bets with you, 5 cents per bet. He would start off by lulling you into a false sense of confidence, allowing you to win for the first few rounds – and then BAM! He twisted the belt so that you would lose EVERY time, no matter which hole you picked. He would get the greatest joy out of this game, letting out a big belly laugh knowing he was tricking you. After the game was over, he would hand out $10 and $20 bills to all the kids, leaving them feeling good.
Really, that was the epitome of my father – a generous jokester who just loved the game of life.
I always said that my father was a BIG Liver. He loved EVERYTHING that life had to offer – family, friends, food, travel, entrepreneurship, a great story, and… Florida! And the thing he loved most was doing it ALL with my mother right by his side. He didn’t just love having her near him, he respected her and depended on her deeply. I am convinced that one of the main reasons that he lasted as long as he did was simply to watch over her and make sure that she was OK.
About 5 1/2 years ago, I interviewed him and recorded the conversation. I asked him questions about what it was like to grow up in Egypt, about his relationship with his siblings, about growing a business, about his role as a father and about his relationship with my mother. I just listened to it again yesterday. In it, he shared how instrumental she was in supporting him as he started his company, Protech. She didn’t just help him financially, he said, she helped to build his confidence too. They were partners in every way.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of my father was that he was a deeply spiritual man. He prayed daily and had what I would call a “direct relationship with God.” When he had his first stroke and lost the ability to communicate, he still had the ability to pray – prayers were embedded in his essence – and he prayed again just a few days ago at Passover. Like his sister, Nanda, he managed to get just one more in.
In my father’s absence, I have decided to step in and do a little praying of my own.
Dear God – thank you for taking my dad in such a perfect way. I am happy that he was at home and died peacefully in bed beside my mother.
Now that you have him beside you, God, give him a beautifully tailored suit and nice cologne. Show him around and tell him some good jokes. Make sure to introduce him to your best chef and feed him well. Give him a good glass of scotch or a Turkish coffee. Let him watch the hockey game, maybe a few Egyptian movies or a little CNN. And after some reconnecting and kibbutzing with Tante Nanda and Oncle Marc, Tante Gracia, Oncle Emil, Uncle Soly, Uncle Roger, Oncle Nisso and Tante Joelle, put him to work.
He’s a brilliant man. I am sure that he’ll have many innovative ideas about how to make things better down here. The thing is God, I recommend that you listen. My father is a creator, an inventor, so ask him for his input and his advice. Besides, if you don’t ask him, I’m pretty sure he’ll tell you anyway. If you’re lucky he’ll even create a powerful formula for you!
Anyways God, I know that he’s in good hands with you. Take care of him, keep him engaged, and give him a good seat in your sanctuary. Tell him how much we love him and how much of an impact he’s had on every single life he touched. Also God, please remind him to watch over my mother until the day they meet again.