Wednesday, February 29, 2012
It snowed last night and that complicated Rachel’s trip to the Sacramento airport to catch her 7:10 AM flight to Denver. David was going to drive both Rachel and Susan to the airport and he had difficulty getting up the hill that leads to mary’s house. He did eventually make it and the three of them left at 4:30 AM in hopes of getting Rachel to the airport with time to spare. Fifteen miles outside of nevada City the snow turned to rain and the driving was less perilous. The good news is that rachel made her flight with a good deal of time to spare.
Monday was a day of preparation for the celebration of Sam’s life that would take place on Tuesday. The program was finalized and delivered to the printer. Robert took care of making a five minute video touching on the highlight’s of Sam’s life. He worked in conjunction with a local video artist to make that happen. The grandchildren prepared four display boards filled with pictures that marked the course of Sam’s life as well as the life of him and Bess. Susan did a little bit of everything and found time to put to paper what is was that she wanted to say at the memorial. I did the same. We all took a break to eat the Chines food that David had fetched for us and when supper was over we all returned to our assigned tasks.
Tuesday began as a sunny day and the weather would hold until the end of the celebration. The family arrived at 12:30 to make sure that all was in order for the 1:00 PM start. People began arriving at 12:35 and by 1:00 the auditorium was just about filled. Many of Sam’s friends from the synagogue were there, as were friends of David and several friends of Robert and Saul who had made the 3 hour journey to support their friends in their time of need.
Rabbi Alan Greenberg of the Grass Valley synagogue officiated and welcomed all of us who were present. Next we watched the video that Robert had prepared and it was indeed a touching tribute to the man who was so many things to so many different people. Next, a color guard from Beale Air Force Base performed the flag ceremony that marks the death of a veteran. It was a most moving sight that was performed with the precision that one would expect and it brought tears to all of us who watched. The family then went outside to witness a 21 gun salute and the playing of Taps. The family came back inside and took our seats and that was the signal for the rabbi to begin the next phase of the celebration.
He began by saying that what we were about to witness would be hard to describe in words. The word celebration was, in a way too upbeat for an occasion that would evoke many tears and the word funeral was too somber a word for an occasion when we many pleasant memories would surface. Today’s memorial would fall between the parameters of those two word. He then proceeded to chant several prayers in Hebrew and then invited the assembled to join in the recitation of the 23rd Psalm. One by one Susan and her brothers were invited to the podium to share their thoughts, feelings and remembrances. Sara, representing all the grandchildren, shared their thoughts. I was the next speaker and I observed that Sam’s life had the makings of a Horatio Alger novel where the son of immigrant parents soon after high school enlists in the Army Air Corps and has a career in which he rises to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He then accepts the challenge of college and earns a degree that is the first stepping tone of his career in education. He marries and raises a family who loves him and is devoted to him. He is a friend to many and pursues all of his many passions until the very end of his days. He was a man who possessed all the virtues that we admire the most.
The last speaker was Bill Kroot, an old friend of Bess and Sam, who shared his memories of both of them. The service ended with all of us listening to a recording of Sam singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth”, which was the final coda to a moving and memorable event.
We all then made our way to a nearby building where the temple sisterhood had prepared a variety of salads and a sweet table to help animate the conversations that were to follow. A little after 3:00 we began the journey home and we spent the rest of the day reflecting on the days events and lifting a glass or two to the memory of Sam Levy. We all retired rather early because it had been an emotionally exhausting day and several of us had a 4:00 AM rising time.