Back From Memorial Service
Yesterday I flew up to Boston to attend the memorial service for my old friend and mentor Robert Seidman. My parents were also there, so I saw my father for Father's Day.
I lasted about 3 hours. Bob had many friends, children and grandchildren. All of the stories were different, but the picture of the man that emerges is remarkably consistent. A man who uniquely wed passion and intellect, who had lived through some of the fiercest fighting in the Navy in WWII (Murmansk Convoy, Pacific Theater) and therefore, perhaps, for whom nothing else was going to disrupt his cool. A man who at age 94 was still working to change the world for the better, while taking time to sing sea shanties with his grandchildren and start teach his great grandchildren how to appreciate sailing by strapping the carseat to the mast.
Some of the stories I had heard when I was young came back to me. At the time, they hadn't meant much, since at age 10 my conception of WWII was limited. But I remember one casual story from Bob: "Always appreciate when you get to see someone. You never know if you will ever see them again. One evening before going into battle I had dinner for my officers. The next evening, 8 of the 10 people at dinner were dead."
Bob's experiences in the terrible crucible of war had not embittered him. They had given him the power to enjoy each precious moment God grants. As I said at his memorial: "When I think how easy it is to get discouraged, to give up and stop fighting, I remember Bob. He had seen the worst life could offer. He had fought the good fight time and again. But he never stopped. When I try to think how can I inspire the next generation to carry on the fight, I remember Bob."
And there was singing. It was so much a part of Bob for all of us. We concluded with "If I had a hammer" (and learned that he and Ann had been friends with Pete Seeger -- which is not at all surprising in retrospect). And that was Bob. A hammer of justice, a bell of freedom, and his life a song about love between our brothers and our sisters all of this world.
There is a line from the end of Return of the King that I kept thinking afterwards. As the Fellowship ends at the Gray Havens Gandalf tells Merry, Pippin and Sam: "I will not say, 'do not weep,' for not all tears are evil." And it is a sadness blessed without bitterness.
Farewell, my friend, my teacher. I do my best to pay it forward.