As I said previously, I was asked to give the family euology at my father’s funeral service. Several people asked me to post what I said, so here it is. While I’m the final author, these comments reflects the thoughts, feelings, and love of the family and friends who have been here mourning my Dad’s passing this past week:
I’ve been asked to give you the family’s perspective on Ed Hamburger: husband, dad, step-dad, uncle, brother, grandfather, teacher, friend! When I asked family members to describe my Dad, several words kept coming up: Loving! Devoted! Persistent! Tenacious! And Stubborn (but in a good way)! Dad stuck by his convictions and beliefs, even if he was the only one who thought he was right. He was a die-hard Orioles fan, despite how well (or more often) how poorly they were doing. He was a gentleman and, indeed, he was a gentle man, but more than anything, he was a fighter.
When his health took a turn for the worse this past Monday evening, my siblings and I came down to Sarasota as soon as we could. Dad was put on life support in hopes that he would live until all of us could get there. It was a mad scramble, but we were all there by Tuesday evening when the collective decision was made to remove the life support.
We gathered around his bed, telling him how much we loved him and how much he meant to us. We stood there together, as a family, sharing the experience and supporting each other, expecting Dad to pass on pretty quickly. And we stood….and stood….and stood…and stood. After a while, we sat…and sat…and sat. And eventually, we found places to lie down so we could get whatever rest we could. The doctors thought he would not last more than a couple of hours once life support was removed, but Dad held on for almost 2 more days.
During his treatment, as in life, when he set his mind to do something, he did it regardless of the obstacles. In talking with his doctors, he was constantly asking what he needed to do to get better! He didn’t complain about what he had to do, he just did it! He was a fighter.
This tenacity was nothing new for my Dad. Throughout his life, he has overcome incredible odds. For example, he took on the challenge of teaching special education children in the Baltimore inner city school system. In addition, he earned two masters degrees despite having dyslexia. As far as family goes, he would often decide to visit one of us kids, for no particular reason, and do whatever it took to do so. My brother, Chip, fondly remembers how Dad would visit him while he was at boarding school, sometimes for an event, like a basketball game, and other times, just to visit. Dad and Arlene would often visit with my brother, Sid, and his family, to watch the kids in a play or dance recital. They would visit with my sister, Marjie, and her family, to watch the kids play soccer or do tae kwon do. They loved traveling to Israel to visit with my step-sister, Lynn, and her family. Just being there with his family is what mattered most.
My Dad and Arlene became snowbirds because they hated the cold. But despite this aversion, they would regularly travel to the northeast to visit family and friends. For example, they would travel to Baltimore to visit The Kalishes, the Goldbergs, and the Shapiros. They would travel to Stowe, VT (often in the throes of Winter) to visit with my step-sister, Nancy, and her family. Indeed, the Krakowers all recall how Dad would get all bundled up, with his white traveling cap and ear muffs on, and would trudge along so he could ride the Gondola up Mt. Mansfield for a mountain top lunch and then watch the girls ski down the mountain. I know they loved all their children equally, but I think Dad’s favorite warm climate destination was Atlanta, GA. What a coincidence: my family and I live in Atlanta, GA.
For the last 20+ years, our family has had a reunion every summer at the beach in Wildwood Crest, NJ; it was one of my Dad’s favorite weeks of the year. Dad had really wanted to go this year, but his declining health made this impossible. Yet, our Dad managed to get us all together with him this week (which was scheduled to be the week in Wildwood). Thus, even in his last days, he overcame a fairly substantial obstacle by bringing “Wildwood” to Sarasota.
I cherish that my Dad and I grew much closer over the last couple of years. You see, in 2008, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I think our relationship was strengthened by our shared experience. Throughout his fight with cancer, I remained in awe of his strength and resiliency in dealing with his health challenges. I have attempted to emulate those characteristics in my own battle with cancer, as well as with other challenges in life.
My father was a tenacious fighter, a loved and loving man, and an inspiration to me and those who loved him. There are many ways to measure the scope of a man’s life. You can count the number of lives he has touched through his various vocations and avocations. You can count the number of challenges (health or otherwise) he overcame. You can count the number of people who are mourning his passing. I choose to measure the scope of my father’s life by the amount of devotion he showed to his family and friends and the love that they gave him in return.
Thank you to all of you for the positive thoughts and warm prayers. It’s hard not to go through this experience and project (or at least consider) the possibility that my fate may be the same. Trying to stay present, but…