I received a sad call over spring break that my Grandpa had passed away. He was 94-years old, lived a very full and meaningful life and was blessed to have passed away in the comfort of his own home.
We were in Colorado at the time of the news. The long journey back to Austin and then to New York for the funeral gave me a lot of time to reminisce about all the incredible memories I had of him. His unique character made him quite the legend in our family.
Grandpa Norman, along with my Grandma Fay, were both extremely kind and generous people. Their home and hearts were always open to anyone in need. The impact that they left on their friends and family showed in the fact that people traveled from all over the country and the world to attend both their funerals.
I was really touched by all the amazing stories that were shared about my Grandpa. The service was a celebration of his extraordinary life and was one of the most beautiful reverences I have ever attended.
Although he was a man of few words, when he did speak, his words and actions were powerful. I thought I would share a few of Norman Friedman’s life lessons that I still carry with me today.
Life Lesson #1
When I was little, it was always fun to go over my Grandparents house for Hanukah. And of course, as a kid, one of my favorite things was opening gifts. I remember one time I tore into a present and it was a La Click pink camera. “I love it!” I exclaimed with excitement. And then, I was taught Grandpa’s first life lesson…”You don’t LOVE things, you LOVE people.”
Throughout the years he would repeat that over and over to anyone and everyone. At the time, I thought it was a little annoying. But, as I got older, I realized he was right. It’s not the things you accumulate, but the people (“and possibly pets” he would say) who you surround yourself with that matter.
Life Lesson #2
From my earliest memories and throughout my entire life, I always remember Grandpa rolling around on the ground. He loved to dump a big box of toys on the floor and get down and dirty playing with all the kids. He was extremely fun-loving and had a good sense of humor.
At the age of 84, he went on a white water rafting and camping trip in Idaho. At 90- years old he drove up to Saratoga Springs and enjoyed a side-by-side naked soak in a mineral bath with my husband, Scott. At his 90th birthday party, we witnessed Grandpa doing a full blown Russian dance to techno music.
He was an incredible man who lived life to fullest and was always up for an adventure. His fabulous youthful spirit and willingness to explore new experiences leads me to life lesson number two – “Never forget your inner child.”
Life Lesson #3
When my Grandma passed away 17-years ago, it was hard on everyone, but especially my Grandpa. I remember talking to him after the funeral. I asked him how he was doing and he dropped life lesson #3. “We have no choice but to go on.” And he did.
When I would call to see how he was doing, he would blow off a major shoulder injury as a small scratch. When his grip got too weak, he would make a contraption that would pop open the dish washer or the garage door. It got to the point where I was scared to touch anything in house on my visits for fear of setting off a boobie-trap.
I could go on and on about all the life bombs he unknowingly nourished me with. But, my biggest take away in observing his life is that he surrounded himself with a remarkable community of friends and family that enhanced every step in his life and made it extremely meaningful.
I feel very blessed to have walked on the planet at the same time as this great man. He will be forever in my heart!