We lost a friend and neighbor this week, Steve Goldstein.
After two brain surgeries and chemo, the cancer won.
He was a guy who collected broken lawnmowers. By the end of this eulogy, I hope you'll appreciate why.
Steve was one of those rare guys who was both sensible and 100 percent genuine. He never did things to be "politically correct". That meant that if he said something, you knew he meant it.
No one else in our neighborhood would mow the lawn shirtless. But if it's hot out, that's the most sensible thing to do, right?
Steve also helped everyone, and I mean everyone, with any kind of problem with their home.
Your pilot light went out and you can't figure out how to turn it on? Ask Steve.
You have a loose shingle on the roof? Steve would notice it before you and be up on his ladder fixing it before you could blink.
You need help cutting a board for a DIY project? Borrow a tool? And so on.
Most men like to have their "cave" as John Gray calls it, a place to retreat and do whatever men like to do, smoke cigars or whatever.
Steve built the greatest man-cave in his back yard, a 50x30x20 (that's feet) shed.
That's where he did his projects, that's where he stored his "stuff".
A woman's nightmare. But every man reading this will nod his head in understanding.
As I said, he collected broken lawnmowers. Maybe that would be a good question for your table - "Why do you think the guy collected broken lawnmowers?"
The answer, of course, is because he enjoyed fixing them and then giving them away to his neighbors.
That's the kind of guy he was.
But he was also a reverential guy. In his youth, he had the good fortune of spending a few years in a New York yeshiva. Somehow he ended up there even though he was born and raised in Pensacola. And that experience fostered in him an indelible respect for Torah and Torah scholars. None of his other life experiences could erase that. Not his service in Vietnam, not his years on the road as a salesman, to places that one might think are the diametric opposite of a yeshiva experience.
Almost to the end he attended Baltimore's most famous weekly class, the "Thursday night class". I saw him walking home Thursday night. Here's how the interaction would go:
"How was the class?"
"Good. It was a good class. I didn't understand half of it, but the half I understood was good."
Often after helping a neighbor such as us, we'd feel so much gratitude that we would try to pay him something. He wouldn't hear of it. "I'll tell you what, have us over for a Shabbos meal."
And so we did. Many times. After his brain surgeries, with giant stitches on his skull, the kids thought he looked a little scary, like Frankenstein's monster. But they all loved him, they could tell there was something special about him, about his intelligent frankness.
The decline was swift. As recently as Thanksgiving he had his wits. But by Channuka he was having trouble finding familiar things.
Our street will never be the same. Condolences to Abby, his wife of 25 years, and the rest of the family.
To end on an "up" note - one of the eulogists at the funeral mentioned that he hadn't known Steve as well as he would have liked, and now it's too late.
Question for your table - Is there anyone in your life whom you'd like to know better before it's too late? Is there anyone you'd like to do an act of kindness (chesed) for, before it's too late? Here's a zinger - How do you want people to remember you at their Friday night dinner tables?
PS - to see today's "Amazing Jewish Fact" - on Reincarnation - click here.