Robert Schwartz was my mother’s father. We called him Poppa.
A week and a half ago, I landed at JFK, returning from a six month stay in South America. Poppa had just gone back into the hospital, a routine by then well-rehearsed. So I met my family and we waited in a sterilized room for the news that our hero had risen once more. After all the miraculous recoveries he had already made, it was impossible to believe he wouldn’t do it again. Yet unlike so many times before, Poppa would not be leaving the hospital.
Poppa was going to live to be 100. He was going to play golf this summer. He was going to get started on some new brokerage agreements, and teach his great-grandchildren the art of chess. If it were up to him, he’d only just be getting started. So when we think about all his unfinished plans, we might feel sad about his passing.
But as much as our loss is sad, it isn’t tragic. After battling poor health and chemotherapy with a resolve yet unseen, Poppa greeted a comfortable death with characteristic dignity. He left surrounded by the people who gave his life meaning after many prosperous years by their side. He had 3 loving children with 7 beautiful grandchildren and 60 years alongside one of the strongest women I know. While he lived, for 89 years, he lived better than most of us ever will and raised the generations to follow him with full hearts that won’t let go of his name.
Perhaps the reason it doesn’t feel like he’s gone is because he isn’t: he continues to influence our lives in the sacred present. Look at all who have come to honor him. Look at all of the loving faces that have gathered here today to celebrate his life. Together, we carry the memory of him, and with it, we build his legacy.
His children are Robert Schwartz, and his grandchildren are Robert Schwartz. He was a pillar to all during his years, living his life in devotion to those so blessed to know him. And just as I will continue to live in all that he taught me, you too, are Robert Schwartz.