Prepared Remarks at the Funeral of Baruch Bricklin
These are some of the remarks that were made at the funeral of Baruch Bricklin, March 3, 2010.
From his son, Daniel Bricklin:
The commandment is Kabaid et Aveechah v'et Eemecha -- honor your father and your mother. One way we have chosen to honor our father, is to have his children say a little bit about him to everyone assembled and publicly give you a little taste of how wonderful, and how honorable a man, Dad was.
It is also clear from the Torah and rabbinic teachings that a father has duties to teach their children. And teach us, he did, whether directly, indirectly, or by example.
He taught me to drive, how to use a slide rule, and how to start and follow through on a project.
He taught me to blow the shofar. One of my favorite photos is of him and me, up on the beemah, holding our respective shofars to our lips. The one he used was majestic, and he was able to somehow draw out the most magnificent of sounds with a timber I've only heard from him.
He taught me how to make sure you do a good job: Every year, he would start a month before Rosh Hashanah and practice diligently so that he always hit the notes perfectly, even that one with the most pressure -- the lone tikeah g'dolah on Yom Kippur, the Jewish anniversary of his birth. I guess that sweet, warm note symbolized his entry into the world as a gift to be spread over all of us.
Dad was a great listener. He was tuned in. Even after the accident he would love to listen to us talk to each other, and for years made insightful remarks that astounded us.
His listening was special in that he would respond to the needs of others. Rachel Lefkovitz recounts the story of when she was learning to drive and just not getting the hang of it, and how he took her out just one time and somehow, by the time they got back home, he had helped her learn the essence of driving and she felt comfortable.
He always erred on the side of understanding others. Sometimes this empathy may have been a little too much for the situation. My High School classmate Mike Stein called yesterday to tell me the story of when, as a newly minted lawyer, my father had hired Mike's firm to help collect a debt. As it happened, Mike was assigned the case and got to work with Dad. As he recalled, after talking with Dad, Mike saw how kind and understanding he was -- too much for the situation. He explained to my Dad that maybe my Dad should just listen, and Mike would do all the talking. They both enjoyed sharing the money that resulted. Mike remembers his kindheartedness to this day.
This understanding and help came together in one of the projects we worked on together. As I was developing VisiCalc I felt that it was important to have a pocket reference card that explained all the features. Dad worked closely with me, with mock ups back and forth, figuring out how best to use typography to clarify these new concepts to others. This is one of those cards from the first version of VisiCalc. Many, many people have told me how it was through this reference card that they were able to learn how to first use the first spreadsheet. Rachel wasn't the only one he helped over a conceptual hump.
Dad had a framed cartoon hanging in his office -- the only one, as I recall. It showed a printer, just like him, sitting calmly at a desk, just like he at his. Standing over him was a demanding customer. As the customer made his demands, the printer took it in, accepting the demands as part of his job. The caption: "Of course I want it today. If I wanted it tomorrow, I would have given it to you tomorrow!"
It was not a cartoon of revenge or ridicule, but of understanding of human nature and the need to make the best of life. To be of service to others while doing what you like to do.
Dad has always been an example I've strived to emulate. When I do things, whether it is creating a new computer program or trying to get a crying baby to fall asleep, I have always heard him in me, and I always will now that he's gone. I only pray that I can live up to his example in its many facets. He set the bar so high.
His memory is indeed, through how he lived his life and how he enriched ours, a blessing.
May he have peace and fulfillment.
Dad, you've done well. Good Job!
From his daughter, Sarah Greenblatt:
It is my honor and privilege today to be able to share with you some of my thoughts and feelings about my father. My father was a righteous man. He was incredibly loving and caring. As I was growing up, as busy as my father was he always found time to do things for us. He delighted in our every accomplishment and he made me feel like I was the greatest. My father had an unbelievable enthusiasm for life. He loved to laugh and he treasured the good times. He was loved by his family, friends, neighbors and community.
My father was a real family man. He loved my mom with all his heart and they were an amazing team together. It is no wonder that my mother never gave up on my father and stood by him through all of the hard times- they were a match made in heaven. My mother says that everything she is today and all of her achievements are all because of my father's faith in her and his unconditional love. She remembers that she was shy and insecure but my dad believed in her and through his support and encouragement she discovered the strength and talent that he saw in her.
My father was always there for me too, somehow he solved problems without any stress and always seemed to find a way to work things out, often going above and beyond. I remember the time that I had a big slumber party planned for my girlfriends one New Year's eve and a huge snowstorm hit. My dad saw how disappointed I was because everyone was canceling and without hesitation he got in his car and drove for hours picking up all of my friends all over Phillie. He was also great at helping me throughout my school years with my Hebrew homework. I was always amazed by how smart he was and how much he knew. I loved when we would find a Hebrew word we didn't know and the pleasure he would get taking out his big Bible Concordance and we would look to see all of the places that word was found in the Bible and all of the different forms and meanings it had. Of course our homework sessions always ended with my father falling sound asleep long before we were done.
My father was a very spiritual man, every morning I would see him davening with his tefillin on. He especially loved the holidays- they were family times and full of the Jewish traditions that meant so much to him. We were so proud of how beautifully he blew the shofar in our synagogue- an honor and a mitzvah that meant so much to him. Sukkot was the annual building and decorating of the sukkah and enjoying meals in it with family and friends. Hanukkah was special because of all of the songs that he loved to sing, always in the same order. Passover was probably his favorite holiday. My dad loved the seders, the more family and friends that came the better. He relished chanting and singing every word in the Haggadah. He got such pleasure seeing our generation participating in the Seder and loved all of the new traditions we introduced. Shabbat was of course another highlight for my dad. I have wonderful memories of how he would stop on his way home from work to pick up the box of little Shabbat delicacies that his mother Dena prepared for us. And after the meal as we sang the Birkat Hamazon I always found my way to sit on his lap. One of my favorite memories is sitting every Shabbat morning next to my father at shul, praying side by side.
My father loved music- both listening to music and singing. As a very young child I remember how he sang us Hebrew lullabies. Growing up, the stereo was always on while he worked at his desk with folk music or his favorite Hassidic Song festival record from Israel. I can remember always hearing my father singing his repertoire of favorite songs while doing the dishes every night. Even at the Hebrew Rehab for a while he was in a senior choir and he had a solo. In the past few months when he was so rarely responsive, when we sang for him Hebrew songs and prayers, he delighted us by chiming in with the last few words of each line.
My father was a selfless son, probably to a fault. He was always there for his parents and too often put their needs before his own. He put aside other opportunities to go into the family business and worked tirelessly for the Bricklin Press. He brought to the Bricklin Press his determination and artistic eye, combined with his strong people skills and his love of the Hebrew letters. When his parents made aliyah late in their lives he supported them and made sure that they had everything they needed. The bonus of course was the wonderful family trips to Israel to visit his parents and sisters, My dad really loved those trips to Israel!
As a son in law he was also unbelievable. After a long day at work he would go out of his way to stop and visit his mother in law in the nursing home. My father had four sisters who he loved very much. Though he used to tease them about how difficult it was growing up with four sisters, as he got older he took the role and responsibility of being the only brother very seriously. There was no better way to surprise and delight him for his 60th birthday than bringing all of his sisters in from Israel, Calif and DC.
As a grandfather my father loved holding the babies, singing his little songs to them and as they grew, taking them to the playground, playing with them and reading them books. Unfortunately all of that was cut short by one horrible accident and as hard as we all prayed and my father worked in his therapies, he was never the same. He was robbed of his zest for life, much of his memory and his independence. I always felt as if he was only a shadow of what he really was. And so my father has struggled for the past 19 years with my mother by his side. He was a strong man and he put up a strong fight but it was time for him to stop struggling and I am so glad he is finally resting in peace. He left us all an amazing legacy to try to live up to and he inspired us and influenced our lives and the values that we live by. He was a blessed man and I am so proud to be his daughter.
Some of what his son, Jonathan Bricklin, said:
K'chu eimachem divarim shuvu v'shuvu el HaShem.
Take with you those things important to the Lord.
I didn't really like the tune for those words when I first heard it sung in 7th grade, but I came to really be moved by the image the words brought forward. At first, I associated "those things" as physical things, such as the ark, and whatever else was described in the Torah. But later on in life I thought about those important things as not something that was physical.
Those things important to Dad were things I found myself taking as being important as well. A love of God, yes, most definitely. More so, how he expressed that in the world. What Dad used to anchor that love the most in his life was Ruth. Dad was a devoted husband. I could not honestly talk about Dad without mentioning that love. Ruth, his children, his sisters. I have used that same anchor, for, like Dad, I was blessed with the perfect partner as well.
I reflect at this time how it states in the Torah (Exodus 34:7) how sins are visited to the third and fourth generation. Dad was dedicated to erasing past transgressions. He always gave me, Daniel, Sarah, actually he gave to everyone, the freedom of choice, something I think he did not feel he had gotten from his own father.
There is the Jewish saying
Ahl sh'losha divarim haolam omayd:
Ahl hatorah, ahl ha'avodah, v'ahl gimilut hasadim
This is typically interpreted something like, On three things the world stands: Torah, Work, and acts of loving kindness. I have my own interpretation, What is our purpose here on earth? Learning the Teachings, Working the Teachings, Taking strength and guidance from those for whom the Teachings are the One Reality.
Silently without any fanfare Baruch Bricklin modeled a life dedicated to loving support, honesty, caring, compassion, freedom.
Baruch Bricklin was a good dad.
We are here, continuing the work.
From family friend Hillel Goelman, sent as a letter that the family asked to be read:
Dear Ruth, Dan and Carol, Sarah and Jonathan,
Baruch was a prince of a man - what can I say? He was a humble but genuine, good humoured person who always gave and gave and gave. He gave to his family and he made everyone feel like they were in his family. He gave to the community, he gave to the shule. I remember when he used to go up onto the bimah at Germantown to blow shofar at the end of Neilah on Yom Kippur and my Dad and I used to look at each other, smile and say, "Baruch HaBa." Everything was ok when Baruch took over, everything was safe, everything was fun, whether he was driving us to Phillies games, putting up his Sukkah in your backyard, sitting in our back yard watching the baseball games. I always felt so privileged when every January 1 he would give me a diary with my name embossed on the cover. He wasn't fancy or splashy but he had a great smile, a great laugh and a great sense of humour. I know the last years were difficult for him and that the entire Bricklin family treated him with such respect and dignity. Despite his challenges you enabled him to constantly feel your love and support and presence and I am certain this nourished him very, very deeply. You embraced him in every moment of his life. He, Ruth and the entire Bricklin family taught all of us so much about being models for our children. I feel Baruch's loss very deeply and the world will be a little bit colder and lonelier without him. But I carry his warmth within me, his smile, his sparkly eyes, his wisdom and my entire life is so enriched from having known him. I wish you all comfort in this time of deepest grief and please know that Sheryl and I are sending hugs and love from out here. We may live far apart right now but we'll always be neighbours on West Mt. Airy Avenue and in our hearts.
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