Eulogy by Aviva C. Jacobs


My Abba. He was one of the most special people IÕve ever known. Funny, hardworking, persistent, loyalÉand many other adjectives youÕd likely use to describe someone close to you. But my abba was truly extraordinary. He was bigger than life and everyone who he came in contact with was left impacted—maybe viewing the world a bit more optimistically, or advocating for themselves more frequently, or even just seeking out the joy in everyday a bit more often.  He was willing to stand up for what he believed in, even—and especially—when it wasnÕt the popular/easy choice. He truly sought to get up every single day and make the world a better and more just place. There are no words that can even come close to describing how much IÕll miss him. How heartbroken I am that he wonÕt get to experience so much that life still had to offer and that he still had to offer the world.

And with all of the grief surrounding my family and me right now, I canÕt help but smile a little bit when I realize that I canÕt think of a better way for my Dad to go and that heÕd, quite frankly, have it no other way. In Vegas during March Madness with his brother in the swimming pool. But his life was cut much too short. My heart aches at the thought of him never knowing what it feels like to be called Papa or Saba. At the thought of what he wouldÕve brought to the world for the next 20 plus years—as a doctor, as a husband, as a daddy, as a friend. And I honestly donÕt know how weÕre going to make it through this, but I know that weÕll find strength from Dad and that weÕll get through this, Mom, Lan and Benj.

I can picture my dad standing here today. Somewhere in the back so that he didnÕt draw attention to himself. In a sharp, perfectly tailored suit with a plain white button down shirt, so that he wasnÕt too ostentatious. But heÕd be really mad if I just stood up here and cried and felt sad, and if he knew how many people were aching right now. So, abba, IÕm imagining you were here and IÕm going to share some of my favorite stories about you and the magic that you brought to the world:

When I was 5, I was the only girls on an all-boys soccer team. He was our coach. And I vividly remember him not only teaching us how to play soccer, but also helping us (at a very early age) learn all of the lessons about teamwork, playing until the final whistle, giving it 100% every game, and giving a teammate a pat on the back when he/she messed up. One game, I got a yellow card and I cried. I remember my dad pulling me aside to tell me how proud he was of me for standing up for myself and for playing just as hard as the boys. My dad coached so many people and taught them so much more than just how to play soccer, many of whom still reference the life lessons he taught them 25 years later.

Another story: about once every few months growing up, my mom would go out with her friends, and Ilana, Benji and I would have a special night with Dad. WeÕd turn off every light in the house, chop up dozens of pieces of fruit, melt some chocolate over the stove and have our very own fondue party. For no rhyme or reason other than it was a kidÕs dream at the age of 10 to just have that magic on a random school night for no reason at all. And weÕd usually end the night by having spirited game of soccer in the hallway of our house—weÕd close all of the bedroom doors and have an indoor game of soccer squealing and giggling with total joy.

Every Wednesday morning (since I was as little as I could remember), my dad would take the kids out to breakfast and then to school. We changed the restaurants up over the years, but I remember the excitement IÕd feel every Tuesday night knowing that the next morning would bring that special time with our Daddy. WeÕd talk about school, sports, life—and it was at many of those breakfasts that I began to really learn the values that would later guide me in life.

Those are just a few vignettes.

He loved my Mom so much. It was honestly a love story for the ages. He revered her, he encouraged her, he challenged her. They were truly each otherÕs better halves and I know the memory of them meeting up for lunch dates at the Smithsonian or whisking around for random romantic weekend getaways have taught Ilana, Benji and I what true love is and to never settle for anything less.  And his favorite thing to say—when people asked him how long theyÕd been together—was Òwell, 39, years, but Ôyou knowÕ, really 41Éwink, wink.Ó

He was so proud of us. My sister—sheÕs a surgeon in a field where there are so many more men than women, and I could see the kvelling in his eyes every time we were all home and she was describing various cases to him. He knew youÕd carry the torch, Lan, and I know heÕs honored to share the name Dr. Jacobs with you forever.

He was beyond proud of my brother and the commander and leader he was in the Israeli Army, flying to Israel 3-4 times a year to see him when he finished a training march, and my Dad loved sitting on the rocking chair in our living room in front of a blazing fire just listening to the beautiful music that only my brother could create on the piano. 

He loved my mom, Ilana, Benji and I more than life itself. We know this. He was so proud and so encouraging. No matter what, our family was our rock and he was the backbone.

I learned over the years my most important life lesson from my Dad— about treating every human being with respect. Especially when it came to people that society had typically decided didnÕt deserve the same level of respect—clerks in restaurants, front desk workers in office buildings, parking attendants. People who the rest of world typically treats as transactional figures. But not my Abba. He knew about their life stories, often where theyÕd immigrated from. He told me about their common interests in sports, about their children and grandchildren. He connected with people at a deep and pure level. He told my siblings and I multiple times that the only thing that really mattered in life was how you treated people and real human connection.

IÕve always known, at some point in my life, the day would come when I would be standing up here. I just didnÕt think it would be so soon and I donÕt think IÕll ever understand why this happened when it did. Abba, I miss you beyond belief already. And IÕm not really sure how the world will move on. Certainly it will be much emptier because youÕre not here. But I know that you wouldnÕt that to be the final word, Dad. So I ask everyone here today to carry on the memory of my Abba in a few special ways: to treat people in the world with a level of respect and kindness that they might not otherwise experience; to stand up for justice and for excellence, especially when thatÕs the least popular choice; to live every day to the absolute fullest—drive to work with the convertible top down, the heat on and gloves, when itÕs early spring and 55 degrees outside; appreciate the history and culture that have come before us and ensure that future generations are able to tell and pass along those stories. That all defines my Dad through and through.

I love you forever, Abba.