Monday, January 04, 2010

Eulogy

The following is a synopsis of Jonathan Kaplan’s eulogy for his father, given at his funeral on December 31, 2009:

"When thinking of my father, the book of Ecclesiastes comes to mind as a work that captures the essence of my father’s approach to life. As the author says in chapter 8, verse 15, “And I commended delight, because a person has no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry; for this will go with him in his labor during the days of his life, which God gives him under the sun.” Dad was truly a person who sought to seize life and enjoy it as much as he could. He stayed local to North Miami, Florida (he didn’t like to travel), but he knew the city and its people in all their vibrancy and diversity. His staples were Starbuck’s Coffee and the American fare served at Jimmy’s Place. That didn’t stop him, however, from sampling jerked chicken or any number of the myriad of cuisines in his adopted home city. Not only did he eat the diversity of food in North Miami, but he also delighted in people throughout the city regardless of socio-economic status, creed or ethnicity. As someone said on the memorial thread on the Rangefinder Forum, “What a great life Al had, right to the end! We should all live life so well.”

"Life for my father was something he observed through the rangefinder of a camera. As a photographer, he always sought to capture the essence of what was before him. That meant paying attention to the angle of the camera or the amount and quality of the light in the room. Pop was not a passive participant in life. He knew that one could also shape the picture by the angle of the camera or by letting more light into the room. Life, just like a picture, was a reality you could help craft as well as portray.

"Dad was not a religious person in a traditional way. I remember him once telling me about his Bar Mitzva. The sanctuary was directly above the function hall of the synagogue. Instead of going all the way downstairs to the nosh afterwards he went out the front door of the synagogue and straight to the movie theater to catch the afternoon feature. I also saw a similar contrast in the last month of his life. The night before he first fell ill he lit a chanukka menora in his kitchen. He observed this commandment of Jewish religious life. Yet, not a week later he was complaining to me about the rabbi who had come by to visit him at the hospital. He was upset that the rabbi kept telling him to get up and pray every morning. My father was upset at the rabbi’s “approach.” As was typical in such conversations, I told Dad I agreed with the rabbi. He told me we would talk about it when I next came down to visit him. We never had the conversation as he passed shortly after I arrived at the hospital to see him.

"Pop’s relationship to his own religious tradition bespeaks his posture towards life in general. Life, in all its facets, is not something one accepts blindly. Life should be interrogated. One should always plumb its depths and question the assumptions of those who claim to have all the simple answers. This feature of my father’s personality expressed itself in his involvement in North Miami politics and in his conversations with his friends and families. As I grew older, I came to understand that for my father one’s conclusions didn’t matter so much but rather the integrity of one’s argument and that one’s conclusions were well reasoned.

"When I last saw my Dad a few days before his first hospitalization, we had a very vivid conversation about how he was trying to understand and appreciate his life. The conversation had been sparked by his conversations with a friend of his about what tied his blog – The Price of Silver – together. Most blogs are mono-focal; Pop’s was not. As we sat in Starbuck’s, my father related that what he thought tied his life together was that he was a teacher. In the last decade the various photo forums in which he participated and his blog became his classroom. As one person remarked on the memorial page to him on the Rangefinder Forum, “We lost a good friend, one that enjoyed people! He enjoyed sharing his knowledge and swapping ideas with everyone! Our loss is Heaven’s gain!” Even as a little child, my father was always teaching me: scribbling schematic drawings on napkins at Dunkin Donuts, explaining the physics of a car spoiler to an 8-year old, teaching me how to fish, develop film, take pictures, build stuff, tie the countless knots he knew, constantly teaching. Today we say good bye to a teacher, a friend, a cousin, a father – I only hope that I am able to pass on the good that I learned from him . . . may his memory be for a blessing!"

8 Comments:

Blogger Mark Ehlers said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Jonathan. We were blessed by your Dad's friendship and his willingness to help others. And now we are blessed by the thoughts and words you have shared about you and your Dad.

I had wished to meet your Dad either this winter or the next, as my wife and I were tentatively planning a trip down from Wisconsin. I wanted to spend an afternoon at Starbuck with him, talking about photography and people. Please feel free to email me sometime when you feel like doing so. If I do come down to Florida, I would like it if you could fill that seat. God bless you.

Mark Ehlers

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Parks Masterson said...

Thank you Jonathan. That was just right.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan,

I knew your dad since 2004 via internet and email and cell phone, and we often chatted daily. You revealed much about your dad's way of looking at life that I never really understood in all of it's many varied facets.

We had a lot of fun in our email and phone conversations, playfully plotting how he could photography Monkette in a new provocative pose, how he could trick the city council to admit that they might be in "error," his appreciation for his local friends, and the great help he gave to local friends, helping them with shopping and their personal struggles.

Your dad lived in a very simple way...the things he owned were not really the most important in his life.

People, and their lives, were always foremost in his life and that is the blessing he gave to others and made his world a better place.

Todd Frederick

11:05 PM  
Blogger Dan Lovell said...

After reading his blog for years, I flew out to Miami and had coffee at his beloved Starbucks, and listened to him talk of his pictures, and I loved a sampling of his work he brought to share with me. He had a twinkle in his eye, even at his age, and a great sense of humor. I will miss his posts, his personal emails to me, and his pictures. Condolences to his family, grandchildren, and his woman-friend.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Beautifully said, Jonathan.

Your father is sorely missed by the many his life, and teaching, touched.

May he rest peacefully.

Rick Beckrich

11:40 AM  
Anonymous zenjitsuman said...

I went to shul and said Kaddish for Al this passed Saturday, and repeated the prayer where it called on the Lord to bring back those who died.

I hope to see Al again in Heaven and hope he enjoy the celestial light and has a camera.

Harvey Edelstein, Las Vegas NV.

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never heared about Allan. Today I find their web page at random searching for other user of Minolta Autocord cameras. Seeying their images I feel a deep sense of humanity and hope from their ´60and '70 photographs. After decide to contact he to said this and another impresions from their works I see the sad notice of their desease. I dont know Allan but I´m blue because he pass away.
So far to Argentina somebody was touch for Allan photography.
My sincere condolences to Allan family. Andrés Fontana from Argentina.

6:33 PM  
OpenID dyinmkg said...

R.I.P. My very dear and special friend. You are truly missed. Your photos will be with me always.
Jonathan,Thank you for sharing your father with us.
God Bless,
Carrie Murphy, Seattle WA

1:44 AM  

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