The Art of Giving

Barbara Schwartz

There are many ways of giving. You can give a gift; you can make a gift; you can give of yourself; you can give your respect, you can give your love; you can give your life.

This is the day after Memorial Day, and I wish to address the art of giving one’s life and giving one’s love.

My father was the oldest of six children. He was born in 1913, followed by three sisters and then two brothers. Dad was the first to pass away, followed by two of the sisters, the youngest brother, his first sister (at the age of 100 years and 11 days) and, just last week by the last man standing, his first brother, fifth sibling who passed at the age of 96.

Harry was, as I just stated, the fifth of the siblings born, and the first one to serve in the military. He was an electrician by trade. While in the Navy he was doing an electrical repair when he was literally electrocuted because the yeoman helping him failed to turn off the electricity to the area that was being fixed. He recuperated from that.

He fell overboard during a mission on the open seas. He recuperated from that.

He sustained a gunshot incident where he lost his left eye. He recuperated from that.

He drank two shots of whiskey at a New Year’s Eve party and was immediately hospitalized where it was discovered that the whiskey was bootlegged and he had sustained a poisonous situation and had some liver damage. He recuperated from that.

He underwent a divorce and he recuperated from that.

He lost his daughter to cancer and he survived that.

He lost his son to cancer and he survived that.

We called him Harry the Hammer because of all the obstacles he went through and how he always hammered through the rough parts.

Family members gathered six years ago when he celebrated his 90th birthday. We would celebrate the good, the bad, and the ugly with him.

Harry was ALWAYS giving of himself. He did it graciously and with love.

As he aged, was still gracious and giving and thought of others before himself.

The phone rang the other morning at 8 a.m. As I looked at the caller ID I said—out loud—This can’t be good

And I was correct. Harry the Hammer passed the night before with his wife and family members with him.

The funeral will be tomorrow and I have tried and tried and tried to get plane arrangements. My cousin is flying from San Jose, and I wanted to match my flights with theirs so that we could be together for the car ride to the cemetery. Try as I might, I couldn’t get flights even close to his times. (I even tried to fly into San Jose and fly further with them, but that didn’t work either.) I just couldn’t see myself getting a rental car and trying to fight the Los Angeles traffic to a place that I had no idea how to get to by myself.

I will physically not be with Harry as he is buried, but I am sure that he will always know that I was there in spirit and he will still be loving me as his loving niece who will never forget him.