Tuesday, December 17, 2002

today or tomorrow laurie is planning to send out an email to our email list asking anyone who has something to share -- henry story, funny anecdote, whatever -- to email them to us. laurie's email is lstrongin@starpower.net and mine is allengoldberg@starpower.net .

i went out to our minivan for the first time since getting back and found a treasure trove of henry's tchotckes stuffed in the pocket behind the front passenger seat. it reminded me of a whole bunch of things that henry loves. thank goodness he was such a pack rat. i think i'll be making discoveries of henry's treasures for months to come.

normally, i couldn't/wouldn't step out of our house and away from henry without my cell phone. i lost it in the confusion of our return from minneapolis last week and i'm in no particular hurry to hunt it down.

we're now taking jack to his and henry's school in a little visit. we are just going over to say "hello." i don't know how this will affect jack. i think it is going to be great for jack to see his friends and equally hard for laurie and me to see henry's classmates and teachers. jack appears pretty okay by day, his usual ebullience is just slightly deflated. a lot of jack's friends come over to visit, and has been going out for fun times with friends and family and their kids. it is at night when jack has the most trouble. this former king of snoozing two seconds after tuck-in has found that he cannot get to sleep. to help him fall asleep we've had he come in bed with us and another night laurie snuggled with him until they fell asleep together in the top bunk of the bunk bed that henry and he shared.

here is a photo that i just took of jack with his lego creations of the past few days. laurie and i have been giving him his birthday presents without waiting until his real birthday. he was afraid that he was going to have to celebrate his birthday in minnesota.

Rabbi Justin David
Congregation B'nai Israel
Northhampton, MA
Remarks at Henry's Funeral
Friday, December 13, 2002

Laurie, Allen, Jack, Pat, Sy, Ted, Abby, Andrew, Andy, Tracy, Jennifer, Dan, what is there to say? So much has already been so eloquently expressed by you, Laurie and Allen, through your e-mails, through your editorials, through your boundless acts of strength and compassion, and, most of all, by the rich, courageous, vibrant life of Henry Strongin Goldberg. In a sense, what is incumbent upon all of us to convey to you is quite simple - that we love you, that you are not alone, that Henry’s life and your life is testament to a source of compassion and strength that exists outside of us and through us simultaneously.

After your loss, our loss of Henry, our task is to attend to those regions of the mind and heart where Henry continues to live. Our scriptures teach us, that the human soul is the candle of God. Just as divine energy, divine love, divine compassion reign eternal, symbolized for us in the eternal light in every synagogue, so that bit of love, compassion, that spark that animates us, lives on. Our task now, is to reflect on Henry’s remarkable life, and to sense Henry’s continuing presence, like a candle whose flame appears to be extinguished, but whose light continues to give off warmth and radiance.

Henry was a light to all of us - to those of us who were involved in the intimate details of his day to day care, to those of us who are his family, to those of us who are intimates of Laurie and Allen, to his teachers, friends, parents of friends, members of this community, of work community - anyone who was touched by the life of Henry Strongin Goldberg. Henry warmed us with his courage. He inspired us with his strength. He delighted us with his spirit. Henry imparted the life that comes with hope - in just his being a kid and partaking of the pleasures of childhood.

It was Shelley Remer who first told me about Henry. Fighting back the tears, Shelley told me about the little boy in Elaine Berman’s class who would most likely have to have a bone marrow transplant. Shelley told me that I could pick him out immediately, because he was always wearing a Batman costume. And she was right. There was Henry, the first time I met him, eagerly and purposefully putting away blocks, wearing his Batman costume. I introduced myself to the kids in the class, whereupon Henry looked me right in the eye, pointed at me, and said, “You’re Mr. Ratburn,” a character from Arthur. As a parent, you learn to see the world through your child’s eyes based on how he or she plays. And even from this first glimpse, without all of Laurie and Allen’s reminders of how much Henry loved Pokemon, and superheros, it was clear that Henry saw the world as a place to embrace and to explore.

There are two stories that Laurie and Allen shared with me last night that I feel particularly compelled to share with you as a rabbi, because they exemplify the love and compassion that was so present in Henry’s life, and that can imprint Henry’s lasting presence upon our hearts. Many of you know of the love Henry had for his Sunflower teacher, Liani, and in particular, for her daughter, Bella. This summer, Bella was in a ballet performance, and Henry had to be there. The day of Bella’s performance, Henry woke up, cast aside his usual kid clothes for a pair of khaki pants, a yellow button down shirt and a blue blazer, came downstairs, and sat, all dressed, for two hours, until it was time to go to the performance. At one point, Laurie said, “It’s time to go,” And Henry said, “Wait. I have to get her flowers.” And to hear Laurie tell it, Henry sat transfixed throughout her performance, as if Henry was watching the love of his life.

Many people remarked how Henry was a help to younger siblings. It was approximately a little over two years ago, at the time that Henry was about to return after his transplant, that a family at the Gan here at Adas Israel suffered a terrible tragedy, when a man died suddenly, leaving his wife and two small children. Simon, one of the children, had the blessing of being one of Henry’s closest friends. Henry said to Allen and Laurie, “I want to make him feel better. I want to talk to him about his daddy.” And so, at a time of fragile recovery, when the world had closed in on Henry and was slowly opening back up, Henry called his friend.

If only we could embrace each opportunity for living so completely, that we could express our love so simply and so spontaneously. To the extent that each of us strives to live with great er compassion and tenderness, we embrace Henry’s living presence in us.

Our tradition is wise in recognizing the profound degree to which we absorb the influences of parents and all who care for us. Henry’s love, his wisdom, his joy, his vitality were uniquely his, but they were also learned, and so in remembering Henry, we have to remind ourselves of the extraordinary accomplishment s of Laurie, Allen, Jack, family, Pat, whose constant presence and energy defy description. Laurie and Allen, you recalled to me last night, with great admiration, how Henry endured what he had to endure with steadfastness, never complaining, even though he had every right to moan until the end of time. I think I speak for everybody here when I reflect on how remarkable it is that, through disappointment, pain and great darkness, not once did you ever show any bitterness. We would love you all the same if you had, but the two of you must have made a remarkable internal decision that you were going to greet every challenge with a sense of purpose, with love and compassion, and with hope. For 7 years, you lived a life of no limits, because your love for Henry was boundless, and so your efforts to keep him alive were boundless.

Jack, I hope that you feel proud, that you loved and will always love your big brother, who loved and will always love you. Henry loved you, Jack, simply because you were his brother, his best friend given to him by your parents, because your kind and considerate toward him, because you played with him and watched TV with him. The greatest thing any of us could ask for is a best, best buddy. When we grow up, that best, best buddy might be our husband or wife, friend, but when we are kids, that best buddy should be our brother. And Jack, you were Henry’s best buddy, the greatest thing he could ask for.

In my synagogue in Northampton, MA, we have a pamphlet titled, “Do Jews believe in the soul’s survival?” For me, having been blessed to know Henry Strongin Goldberg, the answer is undeniably clear. In all the concentric circles of relationship, love, support, that existed and blossomed around Henry Strongin Goldberg for 7 years, Henry’s flame, God’s little candle of vibrant intensity, illumines our lives. Any child who benefits from new treatments to fight FA will do so because of the fight Henry made. Any physician or researcher motivated to explore the lastest therapy will do so because of Henry’s brave example. Already, Laurie and Allen can tell you about children who have benefitted from Henry’s example.

Henry will live on in the heart of every child who will be inspired by Henry’s life, directly or indirectly, to live more sweetly - with more vigor, compassion and imagination.

Henry will always be alive for we who regarded him with love and admiration.

And, Laurie, Allen, Jack, for 7 years your lives have been Henry’s life, so intricately intertwined. God’s candle that was given to you for too short a time has already ignited additional flames within you that nothing can extinguish.

It is our tradition to bestow these humble words upon mourners - Ha-Makom yinachem. Rabbi Harold Kushner struggles with what these words mean in the face of tragedies such as yours. Instead, he looks for comfort in the following questions: How do we respond? What do we intend to do? Are we capable of loving, in a world that has disappointed us? With all of its imperfections, are we capable of loving a world, because it does bestow its measure of beauty and goodness? And can we love ourselves and the people around us, even though none of us is as strong as we would like to be?

May these questions be the beginning of some solace and healing. Ha makom yinachem - may the love of all of us here, and those not here, of family, friends, teachers, doctors, children, admirerers, lifetime friends of Henry, give you a glimplse of the ultimate love, that brings true comfort.

Y’hi zichro baruch - may Henry’s memory be an eternal blessing for all of us.

Henry's grandmother, "Nana Pat," a.k.a. Laurie's mom, wrote this and read it last night at the Shiva.

Henry Strongin Goldberg’s Tale
A fable for all time – a tale of love, courage, determination, life, compassion, respect, laughter and love

Born of love, a life of love, and a memory of love

A lifetime lived in only seven years, one month, two weeks, and two days

Oh, too short, but filled with zest, fun, the love of many, happiness, adventures, - as a friend of ours said, a life filled with more experiences than many centenarians can count

Henry taught those of us, including so many in this room, the value of love, truth, courage, ability to adapt, and fun

Recently, I had the good fortune to take Henry and Jack to see the most recent Star Wars movie. When Henry came home and was asked what he liked most about the movie, he told Laurie that Yoda was his favorite, because he was small, fast and wise. Just like Henry,

Climbing trees, exploring the secret passage, playing hide and seek. Playing with his beloved aunts and uncles and cousins. Henry was so fortunate, he even had two uncle stinkies or actually one Uncle Stinky and one Uncle Poopy. Winning at chess – he even beat Uncle Peter, who Henry suggested needed more practice – winning at endless games of war, teaching Jack the ways of the world, wrestling with Jack like they were Siamese twins, finally mastering a running somersault on the beach, driving the tractor at St. Michaels with Papa Sy, spelling Papa Sy’s name at the family Chanukah party, catching his first fish, taking responsibility for flushing his lines and giving himself his medication, sitting in that chair as he was wheeled in for his radiation treatment and singing songs, being with Grandma Phyllis and Papa Teddy, patting Joe Joe on the head with so much love – paddling the kayak, listening to stories (not encyclopedic facts like Jack liked), climbing trees, repelling rock walls with Debbie Blum, doing Tae Kwan Do, reciting all the lines from his favorite movies, laughing at his favorite parts over and over, loving Bella, going to Disney World, and loving his mommy and daddy, and Jack and Joe.

But at the root of this Superhero was Henry’s good fortune to be born to Laurie and Allen, who with their endless bravery, respect for Henry and his life, love, devotion, advocacy for Henry, hope for Henry, fun-loving spirits, souls and willingness to share Henry with all his family, friends and the world .

When Henry was born, Sy and I determined to celebrate every day of his life. I was especially lucky to have been given the gift to walk the road with Laurie, Allen, Henry, Jack and Joe – the greatest gift Laurie and Allen could have given me.

There is a traditional Hebrew blessing Zichrono liveracha – His memory will be a blessing.

The Goldberg Strongin family thank you for being here, for your love and for sustaining Laurie and Allen, Henry, Jack, and Joe through Henry’s journey. Thank you for sharing Henry with us.

Donations to the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund

The family is planning to establish a foundation or fund to honor Henry and to share his life force with the world

So Dance with Henry, sing his song and go out in the world doing good, making people’s lives better and Henry will live through all of us.