Streaming Video Honoring A Living Legend
To make a donation online in honor of Papa, go to: PPA Research and Education Fund (Run4Papa)
To watch a recording of yesterday’s funeral service and eulogy in honor of Papa, please click: http://www.irakaufman.com/funerals/index_videoarchive.cfm?funeralid=5184
The outpouring of support in the form of phone calls, texts, and emails have been overwhelming and our family is so very appreciative of all the generous and kind words directed our way. From the bottom of our heart, thank you all so much!
Below is the full transcript from my eulogy in honor of my “Papa.”
The Greatest Man I Have Ever Known
Loyal. Honest. Genuine. Humble. Selfless. Extraordinary. The most patient man in the room. The definition of having true character. Available around the clock and days that end in ‘Y’. A doctor who cared for over thousands of patients. The kindest man with the most gentle smile I’ve ever met. Inspirational, that’s an understatement. A modern day saint. These are the words and descriptions that come to mind when I think about our “Papa.”
While I pondered last night about what stories to share on this most heartfelt day, I wanted to provide a side of the “Papa” I had the pleasure of living with for the past 34 years. I know I am biased, but in my eyes, the man was a living legend who demonstrated through his actions that everyone deserves to be cared for. He also showed me time and time again that it costs nothing to be kind and virtually anything could be accomplished in the course of a lifetime through sheer determination and will power.
I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few behind the scenes stories with you today. At the age of 7, Papa and I would often walk downstairs to his large basement in his Southfield home where a red wiffle bat and a white wiffle ball were conveniently waiting for us. He would pitch to me for hours on end chasing me with the wiffle ball as I was sprinting around the poles in the basement known to us as first, second, third and home plate. Always smiling, always laughing, and always encouraging me along the way. I would ask him, “Papa, how long can we play this game together?” He would say, “I’ll keep pitching so long as your arms keep swinging.”
As a teenager, I frequently had the luxury of sleeping over his house which meant a couple things. I ate plenty of junk food and candy, I got to sleep on his couch, and even more importantly, watch TV until my eyeballs could no longer stay open. We would wake up around 6:30 a.m. so he could drive me to Hillel Day School where I would shoot baskets for an hour or so before school started. I remember asking him one morning before school, “Papa, do you ever get sick?”
Without hesitation, he smiled at me and said, “Nope. I just get to help sick children get better so I don’t really have time to ever get sick.” That remarkable selfless mentality and drive have stuck with me ever since.
Just shy of my 20th birthday, I recall introducing a girlfriend of mine from England to Papa. He looked at me. And then he looked at her. And then he looked at me and then he looked back at her. And he looked at me and said, “She is way out of your league!” I walked away laughing as they spoke for the next 30 minutes and observed the interaction that I had seen many times before with his patients, nursing staff, family and friends. He had the remarkable ability to gain your trust immediately and always had your best interests at heart, no matter whether you met him once or knew him all your life. He treated people with the utmost respect and I couldn’t help but learn and be inspired from such a wonderful man.
Most of you may be aware that Papa worked for over 50 years as a pediatrician, had a medical practice of over 18,000 families, and established life long bonds with these families from one generation until the next. At age 80, he recognized that he was unable to continue practicing as a pediatrician. When we were driving one afternoon, I asked him “Are you going to retire now?” He gave me that priceless look that only Papa could give and said, “I’ll stop working when people stop getting sick.” For the next 4 years, he worked making house calls to people who were homebound because they didn’t have the means to be taken to a doctor’s office or hospital for examination. This lifelong commitment and dedication to helping people was a powerful and contagious influence on our family.
At 30, I had a very painful rotator cuff surgery that sidelined me for the better part of 9 months and I began tirelessly rehabbing 7 days a week. Being inactive for that long, I had plenty of time to think about a whole host of things, but I often thought about Papa and how he was beginning to struggle with his communication. Back in 2010, I had never heard of the disease Primary Progressive Aphasia, known as PPA, but this was the disease that had been diagnosed to our Papa. PPA is a dementia that makes a person progressively lose the ability to communicate and comprehend language. I kept thinking how unfair is this? Here is a man whose lifelong passion was communication by helping diagnose sick children, meticulously solving their problems while simultaneously calming the nerves of parents’ decade after decade.
However, his communication skills were starting to diminish. In our family, we are a strong believer from bad comes good. I became inspired and motivated to use Papa’s own example of attending to the care and needs of others. In fact, I began to feel obligated to help him and other families battling this vicious disease. I wanted to find some way to GIVE BACK to Papa that which he had given to so many throughout his life.
On Wednesday, November 2nd, 2010 I received a rare last minute opportunity to enter the NYC marathon even though it is an incredibly challenging race, I knew I needed something to get me out of this inactive and slightly depressed state of mind.
I flew to the Big Apple and began running that marathon. Throughout the race, I kept thinking about Papa and how much strength and loyalty he had to his patients, his profession, and our family. I recall thinking how profoundly ironic this disease called “PPA”, was affecting Papa and I continue to be inspired to do something that would honor a man who was so highly respected among so many in the community and certainly within our family.
After the race, my brother Jared mentioned that there was a marathon on the Great Wall of China and immediately my mind went into overdrive. Over the next 6 months, our research led us to Northwestern University, the #1 facility in the world for PPA research. Our vision was simple: to raise awareness and funds for this vicious disease that was attacking our Papa and surely affecting so many other people and families. In August of 2011, Run4Papa was created in hopes of honoring and continuing a legacy that had been instilled in all of us since we were born.
As I look around this room, I see the faces of people that believed in Papa and this cause from Day 1. Every single one of you have contributed to the Run4Papa cause and made what began as an inspirational idea into an extraordinary charity and reality. We are also grateful and overwhelmed by your generosity.
I remember showing Papa pictures of all the various races leading up to the Great Wall of China. You could see the excitement in his eyes. Well, that is, until we arrived at the picture of the insanity that is the Great Wall steps. He looked at me and was able to say, “How will you run that?” I glanced back at him with a huge smile and said, “I have you as my inspiration and that will be more than enough to carry me 26.2 miles including the 5,164 steps.
At 32 years old, I came back from China with medal and put it around his neck. I felt so proud and honored that he could experience this journey from start to finish. And honestly, I thought it would be a one-year project. But so many of you, so many of his former patients, so many families battling against PPA everyday along with complete strangers that I will likely never have the opportunity to meet made the decision easy to continue moving forward.
Papa always told me “the key to finding a cure for any disease was through clinical trials.” After consulting with the medical team at Northwestern, we decided to put together the 1st National PPA Study in History! Through the help and support of so many in this room and across the globe, that idea became a reality within 6 months. The study has been fully funded with several patients already enrolled.
Last Friday night on Kol Nidre, as Papa was eating his last Shabbat meal with my parents in their home, Northwestern and PPA’s Run4Papa received ground-breaking news of a partnership in the form of a very large grant to be received from the Alzheimer’s Association of America. This totally ensures that the speech therapy trial, so beneficiary to PPA patients throughout the world, will continue to receive this groundbreaking therapy for years to come.
To quote my cousin Jordan Lanyi “We lost the heart and soul of our family. The most selfless man to ever walk this earth. A pediatrician who practiced for over 50 years and helped thousands of kids, and a grandfather who would do anything for his children and grandchildren. You were an amazing person Papa and we will miss you every day for the rest of our lives.”
Papa. I know that a large piece of what I do in life has been directly influenced by the special relationship we had over the past 34 years. I miss you tremendously, I love the compassion you showed us every day for all 88 strong years of your life, and I promise I will keep running for you as long as my heart beats.
As I see it, I hope Run4Papa will be a testament and continue the legacy of a man who has always been loyal, honest, genuine, humble, selfless and extraordinary. The most patient man in the room. The definition of true character. Available around the clock and days that end in ‘Y’. A doctor who cared for thousands of patients. The kindest man with the most gentle smile I‘ve ever met. Inspirational, that’s an understatement. A modern day saint.