SHIVA AND MAKING DAYS COUNT

Dad in his nineties

Jack Popik

Jack Popik died last week. My father-in-law was six days short of his 96th birthday and quite ill; he was ready. Jack was, however, the last of his generation from two large extended families and it was strange to think that all of those brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, are gone.

Services were held at Temple Beth Jacob in Redwood City. The funeral was the usual combination of the ridiculous and the sublime. Probably due to the tension and grief surrounding death, every funeral I have ever attended had moments of hilarity.   I was concerned that our granddaughter, Kamiko, was too young for a funeral but she wanted to go because it meant a ride in a limo (where does she get this stuff?). Then she complained that the ride wasn’t very long. Jack was an accomplished tennis player, competing well into his eighties. He didn’t like to dress up—ever—so he was buried in his usual outfit: tee shirt, tennis shorts and sneakers. We (“the kids”) thought it was perfect but some of the mourners didn’t think it was suitable at all.

Later that day, family and members of the Temple gathered at Sue’s house for Shiva (a Jewish mourning ceremony) and to share memories of Jack . There was mention of a “life well lived.” I don’t know if Jack thought about that and, if he did, what living well meant to him. He worked hard, had a long, happy marriage and raised two children who in turn raised their own children. At the end of his life he said to me, “I never thought getting old would be this way.” By then he was too tired to talk much so I didn’t find out what he had expected.

At Shiva there were prayers about making every day count. It is a good thing to remember that our time here is limited and that too often we let the days dribble away. It can be hard to pay attention to small pleasures; it is so much easier to think of what we don’t enjoy. Later that week, I was taking Kamiko and her dog, Bella, for a walk. The dog needs to be walked twice a day and I was on duty. Bella knows how to savor every moment as well as every blade of grass in her path. Her walks take forever. Kamiko—in between skipping ahead—whined about wanting to get home to watch Beetlejuice. I had my own plan—to drink a glass of wine and watch the news. I wanted to whine, too. Then I recalled the lessons of the past few days. It was springtime, I was walking in a park with a goofy dog and a sweet little girl skipping along in front of me…. It made the day count.

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About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.

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