I went Friday afternoon to the funeral of David Pregerson, the 23-year-old filmmaker who was struck last week by a hit-and-run driver in Pacific Palisades, and passed away due to brain injuries on Tuesday morning.
His friends and family filled up the massive Wilshire Boulevard Temple as the rabbi, David's parents, and his grandparents shared some thoughts. I never met Dave, and everything I know about him has been gleaned from my research over the last week. But I can say from the handful of funerals I've been to, that this one was different. My thoughts on this really were framed by a story that Rabbi Steven Leder related to the audience.
The story is as follows:
Reb Zusha, a Chasidic rebbe, once told his disciples, "When I die and face my judgment I do not fear that the angels will ask me, 'Why were you not as spiritual as Moshe?' I will simply tell them Moshe was a soul, so much greater than my own. Nor do I fear they will ask me, 'Why were you not as kind as Avraham?' If they do I will tell them Avraham was unique in his capacity to do kindness. Nor do I fear they will ask me, 'Why did you not compose songs to God as David?' If they do I will say, 'How can you compare me to the "sweet singer of Israel?' But what I do fear if that they will ask me "Zusha, why were you not Zusha?" and for this I will have no answer!
David Pregerson, from the sense of his personality I gleaned from the speeches and the crowd, had fun being himself. The "Daveness of Dave," as his father put it, is something that's very difficult to live by. The norm is to be very wary of what other people think about you; to be concerned first with image, and second with being yourself, assuming "yourself" is a good thing. Again, I didn't know Dave, but apparently he walked around the Pacific Palisades "like the mayor" and even (at least once) wore an LED belt buckle at a bar, with his phone number shining--so that the ladies would have no trouble taking down his number. That's someone who's comfortable in his own skin. He lived life the way he wanted to live it, and as evidenced by the hundreds of people who visited him as he lay unconscious at the hospital, and the filled synagogue this Friday, Dave being Dave had a lot of people who cared about him.
Yes, Dave's death is, as his father related his brother's words, "A God damn fu**ing tragedy, and there's no fu**ing way around that." But if I gleaned anything from the funeral, Dave maxed out his 23 years on earth, doing what he loved, making friends, acting kindly, and being himself. How many people live until 90 and, in their final days, reflect upon much of their lives with regret? That, too, is a tragedy.
Unlike Reb Zusha, one gets the sense that Dave won't fear the angelic question, "Dave, were you Dave?"
Anyone who may have information regarding this incident should contact LAPD detectives at (213) 473-0234. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247).
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