My father, Jack Herring, of blessed memory, died last Wednesday, October 5, on Yom Kippur. My sisters told me that he drew his last breath during the unetaneh tokef, a dramatic prayer that imagines God reviewing each individual’s life and deeds and determining if he or she will live another year and experience rest and calm or wander and be tormented. He struggled greatly with COVID for over two weeks. At age 93, after almost 70 years of marriage to my mother, Bobbi, he had made peace with dying and did not want to suffer anymore from a state of vastly diminished health, worsened by COVID. I wrote this poem in the present tense on Friday, September 30. To honor his memory, I’m sharing the revised version, now written in the past tense. I love you, Dad, and miss you but I thank God that you are at rest.
I was so used to calling,
Six or seven times each week.
To hear my father’s soothing words,
His voice so gentle and sweet.
To be my age (I’m 64),
I thanked God for you each day.
You knew that life must wind down,
So you taught us to find our way.
Your laughter, patience, and quiet strength,
We felt your caring ways.
God rewarded you (and us)
with life and “length of days.”
You made us laugh, with torrential jokes,
You modeled (peace) shalom bayit.
Through your words and every deed,
you inspired us to apply it.
At sixty-five, double work complete,
we worried you had no hobbies.
Yet once again you fooled us saying,
“All that I need is Bobbi.”
Zayde, Dad, Yankel, Uncle Jack,
a gem with many names.
We love you Dad, want you to know,
Within us you’ve earned eternal fame.
© Rabbi Hayim Herring 2022