After a valiant, several weeks struggle at the end of an otherwise spectacular life, my father passed away last week near Phoenix following a sudden brain hemorrhage at the end of a late summer road trip with my mother...
As I noted in an item describing my sudden, unscheduled absence from the blog, as well as The BradCast and Green News Report, while my Dad was 80, he was remarkably healthy and active and the catastrophic illness took all of us in the family --- as well as his many lifelong and newer close friends --- by surprise.
Late last week, we flew to my parents home in St. Louis to bury him on Sunday morning before the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah, celebrating the Jewish near year) on Sunday night.
With several days of mourning in the week ahead, I will be scrambling to help Mom begin to find her footing amidst this confusing, unexpected and dramatic change after 57 happy years of marriage to my father, her soulmate. I hope to then begin my own travels back to Phoenix, to grab what we left behind there after our quick flight back out the midwest, before finally retracing the overnight road trip back to Los Angeles. I'll need to restore my own footing following our midnight exit several weeks ago, before finally getting back on the air to make sense of the "new world".
I want to thank all of you for your many warm, generous and kind notes of support for me and my family, as well as for the heroic of efforts of Nicole Sandler and Angie Coiro to keep The BradCast trouble-making and muckraking across our many affiliate stations in both my and Desi's absence. Thanks also to listeners and readers alike for bearing with us for another couple of weeks until we are able to "return".
While I realize most everyone reading these words has experienced a similar loss --- and I thank those of you who have shared such personal recollections --- it is still astonishingly confusing when it happens, and will require no small amount of "emergency management" as one of two children (I have one sister) to assure our family is able to move forward in the days ahead.
My mother and sister (and her daughter) are all doing well, given the circumstances. Ultimately, only time will make things "right" again, and it assuredly will. So, again, I thank you for your patience as I do my best to make that transition as swiftly as possible.
Longtime BRAD BLOG readers may recall a few (somewhat amusing) cameo appearances my father has made on this website over the years. For example, here he impressively helped St. Louis County avoid selecting Diebold as their voting machine vendor in 2005; later documented his successful efforts to force poll workers to allow him to vote on a hand-marked paper ballot in 2006; before guest blogging his efforts to ensure election officials followed the law and constitution regarding Photo ID voting restrictions at his polling place in the general election later that same year.
Here is a short obit for my father, written with my sister and niece, as I was then forced to write and deliver my first eulogy at a funeral. Below are some of those Remembrances of Dad as prepared to share with his family and many friends who gathered in St. Louis at a beautiful service on Sunday to say farewell...
HARVEY W. FRIEDMAN
February 9, 1939 - September 24, 2019
I want to thank Rabbi Smayson for his warm and comforting remarks and especially for some advice he gave me when we spoke a few days ago, when I had an almost impossible time holding it together while sharing stories of my father with him. He told me that, in his experience --- having presided over too many funerals --- given the emotions of the moment at these things --- and despite the fact that I speak every day on the radio for a living --- it is best to write down ones remarks. I thank him for that advice, and apologize in advance as I try to stick to the written words and try hold myself together at the same time.
Amarah, thank you. He was so very proud of you. Though we don't get to see each other nearly enough living in different parts of the country, I feel as if I have been right there with you through all the trials and tribulations, as Grandpa --- and Grammy --- never stop bragging and sharing stories of your tremendous accomplishments, for which we are all so proud. There is nothing he wouldn't do for you, girlfriend.
I want to thank all of you for taking time to be with us today to honor, share memories and celebrate my father as we lay him to rest. So many of you were so kind and warm and supportive to my mother and Desi and me as we were stuck in Arizona, trying to figure out what had happened and what little we could do about it all. The stream of well-wishes and love from afar from so many of you were so helpful during those dark several weeks. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
But, about my father....First, I'm wondering if anybody here has the password to the WiFi at my Mom and Dad's home in Chesterfield? Dad was tremendously organized, leaving mom written instructions should anything ever happen to him. Details and instructions about almost everything.... But he forgot a few things here and there...
Though he did end his document entitled "Instructions for Lydia upon my Death" with the helpful final line....in bold, green letters: "Call me if you are having any problems."
That was my father. And, apparently, still is.
As this is, today, a holy place, I'll not share too many of the invaluable --- if occasionally inappropriate --- lessons my father taught me over his long --- if not nearly long enough 80 years of life. I suspect everyone here today likely has a "Harvey Story" or two --- or a "Harvey and Lydia story" or three --- I'm sure we'll have time to share memories in the days ahead. But, I'll share one, as it may tell us something about my father that I hope might serve as a useful reminder, somehow, for all of us --- I know it does for me --- as we move towards a world without his gentle spirit, warm heart, wiley sense of adventure and troublemaking and his (almost) always good humor...All of which I hope we can keep alive by sharing his memories forward with others.
I was going an afternoon Whale Watching excursion off the East Coast some years ago with Mom and Dad. Dad would get notoriously sea sick on the ocean when it got rough (or even when it didn't), and, as notoriously, always refused to take Dramamine in advance...even though he knew he'd likely get sick. Of course, we stopped at Subway to bring our own sandwiches on the afternoon boat ride. And, as Dad walked on the schooner, clutching the bag of foot longs in his hand, he asked me if I thought he "should just throw the bag overboard to cut out the middle man"...
Sure enough, after we set sail, on a blustery, cold gray, and drizzly day at sea, we ate our picnic lunch aboard the small ship, as the seas got rougher and rougher the farther and farther we moved from shore in hopes of spotting whales.
And, sure enough, before long we were not seeing any whales, but Dad was DE-lunching over the side of the boat as expected, as he'd become --- predictably --- sick as a dog from the mix of a Spicy Italian Subway and the worsening ocean conditions.
(I was right next to him on the rails, by the way. I hadn't taken any Dramamine either...just one of the many ill-considered lessons I had learned from my father.)
The seas eventually calmed a bit, though not much. But enough for him to wobble his way back up to the chairs on the top deck, where he sat with a hooded yellow raincoat over his head, his huge, dark wrap-around sunglasses, trying not to move so he could somehow avoid another trip to the rails as the hours ticked by, with still no whales in sight.
He sat amongst a group of elderly women who'd come out on the same tour boat --- I don't know if they were nuns or not, but they might have been, and it might, in Harvey-style, make it an even better story if we pretend they were.
But as he sat there, pale as a ghost, in his yellow hood and dark glasses, barely able to move due to his persistent nausea, the ladies --- or nuns, if you will --- were discussing their disappointment at the gloomy weather and, mostly, at not seeing any whales at all that day.
As my dad, after 15 minutes or so of sitting amongst them, not saying a word, trying to not be sick, finally overcame his nausea to mumble a few words --- though still not enough to move --- he mustered up words to inform the ladies that this particular Whale Watching company promised that, if no whales were seen on an excursion, tourists were welcome to take the tour on another day for free.
The ladies (the nuns) were delighted to hear that, and asked Dad if he was sure about that. He was sure, he told them. After all, he said, this was his 20th trip with the company, having never seen any whales!
After an appropriate stunned silence he added, still barely moving under his hood and dark sunglasses on the overcast, drizzly day, "Of course, I can't blame them. I'm blind."
So, what does this story tell us about my father? Not much, really. ... But everything at the same time.
Even in adversity. Under personal duress. As he could barely take care of himself, he found a way to make people he didn't even know have a laugh. First, of course, they were horrified....But the NUNS finally figured out he was joking.... I think. I hope. And hopefully, it made their disappointing day just a little bit brighter as well. I know he never stopped telling the story.
My father always strove to make the best of things, even in adversity, and to make the best of friends, even if it was a nun on a boat or a cashier at a St. Louis Bread Company --- where he was rarely allowed to eat, thanks to Lydia, due to the word "Bread" in the restaurant's name. In Arizona, they call the same restaurant Panera, so he might have been allowed to go a bit more frequently there.
Everyone has a "Harvey story" or a "Harvey and Lydia" story. Nobody more so than Harvey and Lydia, by the way. Some true, some not. Now, only Mom --- who he loved so dearly, and with whom he shared 57 years (or more) of Bonnie and Clyde like banditry and seemingly never-ending adventures --- knows for sure. (And she's not talking.)
Friends of theirs in Phoenix, who live there year around, told me after his passing that they looked forward to Harvey and Lydia returning each season, because even though they lived their year round, they waited for Harvey and Lydia who always seemed to find the best restaurants and funnest events, which even locals didn't even seem to know about until Harvey and Lydia arrived with big ideas each year.
My dad touched so many lives, in so many ways. Friends andfamily --- which he cherished --- and gave most of us jobs at various points in our lives (and probably paid us a bit more than we were worth for the work.) I believe you'd be hard-pressed to find too many people, if any, who didn't like dad or who dad didn't like himself.
My cousin Jeffrey, who worked with him for a while when he owned a Candy and Tobacco wholesale business, described Dad to me, upon his passing, as "Larger than Life", and that sounds about right to me. He and mom had just finished a whirlwind month-long roadtrip-of-a-lifetime, escaping the late summer St. Louis humidity through Colorado and Utah and Southern California, allowing Desi and me to share some of what would be his last glorious days and adventures with him and Mom. As you may have heard, he played 18-holes with his beloved Lydia on the morning before he was taken down later that night, undoubtedly with still even more adventures on his mind...
But while his good humor and very real zest for life may be legendary now and a part of him that I will always hold dear for the rest of my days --- his good humor and love of life might be a lesson for all of us --- along with his sense of decency and fairness as he always tried to bring people together if it was possible. Sometimes it wasn't, but that never kept him from trying.
The world is very dark and difficult these days, even before my father's passing --- especially for so many who are struggling in our country and our world --- but, in fact, for all of us, as many feel forced in recent years to choose a side --- to pit our beliefs and values against one another, for some reason, when we are all on this short, flawed but memorable Whale Watching cruise together, through sickness and through health, through good times and through bad.
Ultimately, I think. If my father taught me anything --- and he taught me much --- it's that, even if we can't come together, we can try to come together.
We can listen and be fair or try to be fair by listening to each other and seeking out common ground with good humor and love and respect.
We may not find it, but that musn't keep us from trying and working and hoping. And if we fail, we did our best, and we can agree to disagree and still love one another in disagreement while we keep working to find common ground on another day.
If theres anything I take from my father's life --- even in his death --- it's that we can all do better and we can all keep trying and we can all at least work to help make the world a better, maybe fairer, and definitely happier place for all of those with whom we come in contact in any way, on every day of the week.
In closing.... I've also been a writer for many years, and I recall when I was younger, after spending many years admiring actors like Fred MacMurray on My Three Sons, and Robert Reed who played Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch as I grew up, I thought one day I might want to write a play called "A Very Good Man", about a man like Fred MacMurray's Steven Douglas on My Three Sons or Robert Reed as Mike Brady or Jimmy Stewart in...just about anything.
A story about a decent person, a good person, who was not famous or a celebrity, but a man who simply succeeded in being a good, decent person, trying if not always succeeding, to be a good man of of good humor and love for all.
When my dad passed a few days ago, it occurred to me that that play I had always wanted to write wasn't about Fred MacMurray or Mike Brady or even Jimmy Stewart. It was about my Dad. He was A Very Good Man. Bigger than life, perhaps, but only because he was a very good man. And in his goodness, he was indeed a great man. Goodness IS greatness in the world we all now share. And, in the final analysis, he exuded both.
So, Dad. Thanks for the memories and support and love and inspiration. I hear there is all the ice cream and chocolate and cholesterol you'd like in the afterlife, and you don't even have to worry that Mom will grab that fork out of your hand or that piece of pie off your plate. Enjoy....Because at some point or another, hopefully many many MANY years from now...the fun will be up, and Mom'll be right there, throwing her body across the table to keep you from that tiny scoop of Ice Cream all over again. Enjoy it while you can, Dad, just the way you enjoyed every bit of LIFE that you could while on this earth.
I thank you, and love you for all of the lessons --- good ones or bad --- and for helping us all learn how to be just a little bit greater, by being as good as we can.
You made the world a better place, Dad, and I hope we're all gonna go have a piece of cake or a chunk of chocolate or a scoop of ice cream or something in your honor and memory in the days ahead. And maybe we'll make someone else laugh amid adversity...
We love you. I love you. I thank you and honor you for all the love and generosity you gave to Mom, to me, to Julie, to Amarah, to Desiree --- and for the innumerable gifts you have left behind for ALL of us...
I hope you will now rest in the peace you've so richly earned by inspiring us ALL to live better lives, by learning from a VERY good man...