I wrote a letter on Sunday to my first cousin (who flew in and delivered the first hesped at my dad's funeral service), his wife and children, and to his mother -- who, thankfully, survived the war with my father.
...We have now lost someone very precious to us – a father, husband, grandfather, brother, uncle: Yaakov Arieh ha-Levi.
You well know what my father was about: what human and Torah values he upheld, what respect he commanded from others when he did not seek it, what nurturing he and my mother provided, what goodness sustained him, what survivor personality helped him endure.
So many times he was hospitalized; so many times did he return home….a little worse for wear, but with all his fine attributes intact. These attributes shone through to his last days.
Yes, it was a difficult week for us, as I’m sure it was for you. But it was a much-needed week, and on my father’s behalf, a much deserved week. I’ve always felt sorry for people who haven’t had the opportunity to sit shiva for more than an hour because of a Yom Tov. As others have said, it truly is helpful.
It isn’t that I heard lots of nostalgic stories throughout the week, but it’s the people who came to pay a shiva call or those who called us from all points in the world. It was overwhelming and heartwarming to see people from all walks, from all stripes – from our various schools and universities, from our shuls, from our social circles, etc. They came out of the woodwork to honour our father’s memory…and our family.
For that reason, I wasn’t so sad; I remained composed throughout the week of his last illness, and through my father’s petirah [burial] and shiva. More than anything I’m grateful – because we had my father for so many years, and because of the solid foundation he and my mother provided for us; I’m proud of my father’s strong belief in Hashem and his always keeping his siddur or Tehillim close at hand – and making constant use of them. My father was always the “ehrliche Yid.” I am also thankful that my father is no longer in pain and that his neshama is reunited with those whom he loved dearly and missed terribly for all those years.
It is these emotions that supercede any sadness and true grief. I know that I will have many moments when I am sad because of my loss, and perhaps people cannot understand that I haven’t been crying all this time, but my father was all goodness, and that knowledge sustains me...