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October 14, 2010

A Blessed and Full Cycle of Life

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/blessed_and_full_cycle_of_life_20101013/

Photo

Papa Jake and Grand Deborah

On October 1,2010, my grandfather Jake Gottfried, passed away.  He was a brilliant architect, and a humble, gentle man.  My grandfather was, and still is, an exquisite role model to me, and showed me how to live my life with integrity.  I mourn the loss of my grandfather, but amidst my sadness, I also feel a strong sense of peace and joy.  I have tremendous gratitude and respect for the way he chose to live his life, and the love and dedication he showed his family.

In the past 3 years, I have witnessed the tragic loss of nearly twenty fellow Jews to the disease of addiction.  The majority of them were under thirty years old.  In the past few years, I have attended numerous memorials and funerals, where the air was thick of anger, loss, shock and despair.  I experienced such deep pain watching as family member’s mourned the loss of their child or sibling to the disease of addiction.  Prior to my Grandfather’s memorial, every funeral that I had experienced was the tragic loss of someone who had died way too soon.  These were people I knew who had lost their lives struggling to achieve sobriety.  Papa Jake gave me a gift by showing me what the full cycle of life is truly supposed to look like.

I am so grateful that my grandfather blessed me with the experience of attending a memorial that was truly a celebration of his life and not the tragedy of his death.  More than 350 people were present to pay their respects to a wonderful man.  As an architect, my Grandfather designed many buildings, schools, and temples all over Tampa.  His memorial was held at Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa, Florida where he was President of the Brotherhood for two years and a member of the congregation for more than 50 years.  It was beautiful that his service was held in their sanctuary, a sacred space that he helped to design.  The service was incredibly meaningful for me and to all my friends and family.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to go home to Florida for my birthday and share some incredibly special moments with my Grandfather.  Although he was suffering from dementia, it was very clear to me that he knew after many years of watching me struggle that I was finally at peace.  I knew that he believed I was going to lead a happy and healthy life. He rubbed my back, like he did when I was a little girl , and looked at me with his joyful eyes. He asked me over and over again, how did I get to be so beautiful? This is a moment that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I am saddened by this loss, but must honor him and keep him eternal by choosing to live my life with the same values and dignity that I have learned from him.  I hope that as I near the end of my time, I will have left as big of an impact as my Grandfather has.
Rest in peace Papa Jake.

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