While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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Archive for the ‘Jonah’ Category

Ten Years

Dear Jonah,

Well, difficult as it is to believe, today marks ten years since you died.

Ten years. It’s on days like these that I wonder about the human impulse to make things fit into neat containers. It’s not that I’m not deeply affected by this anniversary. I am. But why should ten years be any more consequential than nine or eleven? Oh well. Somehow it just is.

I remember when I was in college, I’d begun bracing myself for turning twenty-one. That was going to be a big one, the transition from childhood to true adulthood. But then I turned twenty and, without any warning whatsoever, got thrown for an immense loop. My teens were over. Why didn’t anyone tell me this would be bigger than twenty-one? Read the rest of this entry »

The Art Auction

Dear Jonah,

A few weeks ago, I cried for you – first time in a long, long while. I’d come across a story that captured a sentiment I often think about. Namely, the fear that one’s lost child will be forgotten when we ourselves are gone.

I imagine that many parents whose children have become memories wonder about this. But who would blame us?

Why do we bring children into the world anyway? We delight in witnessing life that’s come from us and in watching that life grow and thrive. Wanting a child’s years to extend beyond a parent’s is natural. For those of us whose kids have died, how many want the memory of their child to outlast us? I suspect that my own motivation for helping to create a foundation in your name is wrapped up in this need to see you outlast me.

Which brings me to the story I found. I’d never read or heard it before, even though an internet search found that it’s often used in sermons. Alas, there’s no attribution so I offer it with gratitude to whomever wrote it.

It’s called “The Art Auction.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Final Birthday

Dear Jonah,

On February 14, 2009, you turned 19. Nineteen days later, you were gone.

Careful plans had been orchestrated to prepare for your first birthday away from home. Katie and Mark were with you at UB and took you out for a birthday dinner, but Ellen, Aiden and I were in Washington, DC, so a long-distance celebration was on order. What transpired was fun, and far more poignant – owing to your leaving us – than we’d thought it would be.

The first gift arrived in your UB mailslot — a slackline. Something you had fallen in love with at Kutz Camp, you were eager for springtime to arrive when you could attach it between two trees and do some close-to-the-ground tightrope walking on campus. Late in March, the slackline came back home. It’s still waiting for us to find two trees and willing volunteers to enjoy it on your behalf. We’ll get there.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Music Goes On and On

Dear Jonah,

We’re working on the 10th Jonah Maccabee Concert, and it’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this now for a decade. After you died and we began thinking about how we wanted to honor and remember you, the concert was an easy choice. You loved music. You loved Jewish music. You loved your temple. You loved doing good for others. And despite how much you tormented Aiden through the years, you loved doing nice things for your family.

The concert – which brings contemporary Jewish music to Woodlands, and helps kids get to URJ summer programs whose families wouldn’t otherwise be able to send them – seemed like a perfect avenue for carrying your memory forward.

It was, and it still is. Ten years later, we continue making music and sending kids to camp – because of you. Not because you died, but because of what you loved while you lived.

Read the rest of this entry »

Play Ball!

Dear Jonah,

During Hanukkah 2015, when you were fifteen years old, I did something unforgivable. I gave you a deck of Jewish baseball cards. What in the world was I thinking!? Dreskins don’t care about sports. And Jewish ones, to boot?! What kind of father treats his son this way?

But there they were. Maybe a hundred cards highlighting the careers of Jewish major league players from the 1870s forward. At best, a modest trivial pursuit. And at worst, a rabbi-dad imposing his stilted view of the universe on his growing, resentful, teenaged son.

And what did you do? Well, you didn’t laugh at me. You didn’t make fun of the gift. And you didn’t make it disappear forever. Instead, you asked me if I would get you card protectors. Card protectors?! Perhaps you were making fun of me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Making Light Work of Giving

Dear Jonah,

I don’t know when you figured out that your old man would love you giving him gifts made by your own hands. Possibly, you really took to heart your parents’ message that it’s the act of giving that counts. Possibly, you liked saving the money. And possibly, it was making anything that involved fire.

We’ll never know. But when you were 13 years old and in the afterglow of becoming a Bar Mitzvah, you made me a birthday present that consisted of a cardboard box, one side of which you had replaced with a watercolor depiction of a night sky. You’d poked small holes in the stars so that the candles you placed inside, when burning, would light up the heavens.

I was euphoric. Read the rest of this entry »

First Gifts

Dear Jonah,

Gift-giving was a big thing in our family. Especially on Hanukkah. As a kid, my family lit candles each of the eight nights but only exchanged gifts on one of them. So perhaps in parenting you and your siblings, I was reacting to a choice my own parents had made. Wherever my motivation came from, I looked forward to doing the meticulous research that would ensure each of you (mom included) receiving at least one gift each night. I loved piling them all up before Hanukkah began and watching each of you select the gift you wanted that night (you gravitated, of course, toward whichever was largest).

When you were younger, you were likely to display your disapproval should I be so thick-headed as to get you something you didn’t like. But as you grew older, you began to understand it was the act of giving that counts; quality was welcomed but not crucial in eliciting true gratitude. You got very good at that. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking Waaaay Back

Dear Jonah,

Now that I’m in my sixties and you’re gone more than nine years, there’s a different kind of remembering going on. I’m getting “old man” nostalgic — that time in life when youthful memories, dimly recalled from years “long misprision rusted,” sneak up and remind me that many decades have passed and not so many more are waiting up ahead.

You, of course, always called me “old man” so this would be nothing new to you (except maybe the reality that it’s actually starting to come true).

Let me explain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering: Is the Joy Worth the Pain?

Dear Jonah,

I doubt you ever attended a Yizkor service, the quarterly gathering during which we remember loved ones who have died. Nowadays, you sit there right next to me.

When I lead these services, I often share the story of someone else’s cherished memory. My hope is these stories will trigger others’ memories of their own loved ones so that their observance of Yizkor becomes a very personal tribute during the hour we spend together.

This week, for Sukkot-Simkhat Torah Yizkor, I shared a story that hit very close to home. It wasn’t about you per se, but elements of the young man’s life reminded me of you. I warned the folks gathered there that I might cry and indeed I did. Afterwards, I was asked if that was difficult for me. Difficult to remember you with tears? Not only is it not difficult for me to conjure up a good cry for you, I don’t mind doing so in public. I want people to know that I miss you, and that you’re still a very important part of my life. The only difficulty was putting away the tears so that I could continue telling the story.

Read the rest of this entry »

“You Will Be Found” (The Jonah Mac Theatre – Endpiece)

PGT's Jonah Mac TheatreDear Jonah,

When the Jonah Mac Theatre (I still can’t believe they named it after you!) was dedicated at One North Broadway in White Plains, New York, I wrote three notes to you about it. But yesterday, I noticed a fourth note that I’d never finished. And since the moment it describes moved me so deeply, I really needed to complete it. So I’m sorry it’s taken so long to write this one, but I’ll tell you this: On March 11, 2018, I cried for you at this particular moment during the theatre’s dedication, and I cried for you again as I put these words together.

Read the rest of this entry »