My brother Jeff would look for the theme of this most tragic day. And at the core of this difficult story are certainly his exceptional qualities.
But Jeff would be self deprecating, and be unimpressed with himself. He would look deeper, and beyond. He would work the extraordinary magic of his craft to lay bare the heart of the matter. At the heart of the matter is the question burdening the soul of every person here- and people across the world who knew him, or know him now, by virtue of the press coverage of Jeff Zaslow and his accomplishments.
And the question we probe is the overwhelming dismay and disbelief, the awesome question we have every right to ask. How, O G-d, did you allow and ordain such a thing as this.
In the moment of initial pain- the shock of hearing what happened to Jeff- my sister, and my mother- uttered the identical phrase. I don’t think I can go on after this. And I had the same thought. And perhaps you did as well.
That cry would prompt Jeff to probe the depths of our despair. Is this utter sadness unique to him alone? Is he- are we- the only ones to suffer a seemingly senseless loss by unexplainable tragedy? And so his book would ask – what comes after that. He would seek out and investigate those who, like us, suffered tragic loss, to see what happened after the unbearable sadness. He would look for the pattern of human experience.
And Jeff wouldn’t have far to look. What did his mother- our mother- and our own beloved grandparents do when they lost her beloved brother in the fiery skies of a World War II bomber over the English Channel. Surely she cried out- I don’t think I can go on after this! But she did go on. To marry our father, may they live and be well, and to have children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren. To bring Jeff into this world, and to guide him, and us, with love.
Jeff, in pursuing his search for the theme of his saga, would seek out his own beloved wife, and her parents and family, who likewise lost a dearly beloved brother, and son. Who surely said in that moment, I do not think I can go on after this. But they did go on- they went on, for Sherry to marry Jeff, to know love, and for them together to bring into this world their most precious possessions, Jordan, and Alex, and Eden.
Jeff would perhaps look at my own father in law, he should live and be well, who lost his own father at the age of 14, and undoubtedly wondered I’m not sure if I can go on after this. But he did go on, and married, and had children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
No doubt countless such stories exist among all of you here. In myriad emails, and texts, and comments we have received, we see that many of them offer condolences, out of love for Jeff; but also from great sadnesses that they themselves experienced.
And so despite our loss, Jeff would find love, and he would write about it, and comfort us with his words, that despite all the inexplicable sadness, there was life and happiness that followed.
And we must therefore give Jeff happiness in the eternal realm where now resides, by declaring, I can go on, and I will, for his sake, and for our sake, and the for sake of the souls known to G-d alone, yet to descend and enter into this world, for whom Jeff Zaslow will be a powerful and undiminished memory.
Jeff would look at the overflowing tributes and accolades about him, and he would be pleased, in fact, he IS pleased at this moment, as the Talmud and our sages are explicitly clear, that the soul of the departed, at this very moment, this time before burial, the departed hears the eulogy, and hears our words of well-deserved praise, and fond remembrance, and he himself is comforted as he moves on to his glorious reward for a life well lived.
And yet while Jeff listens to his praises- and we could not express what Jeff deserves if we sat here for countless days and time-Jeff would downplay his fame. But I assure you he would make sure we walked from here with the eternal truth by which he lived: we owe respect, and the true interest, to everyone we meet. Not just those on the Walk of Fame, but Jeff Zaslow style, with abiding interest and concern for every person in his world. Strangers, and acquaintances, his bereaved nieces and nephews and all us his family, and all of you. If If you knew Jeff, or came within his orbit, you were Jeff’s friend, and Jeff cared about you; he cared little for himself. Jeff achieved more, but needed and wanted less, than anyone I know.
My wife points out how this is so wonderfully apparent in the dedication of what we now sadly know to be his last book. A book about the love fathers wish for their daughters. The book wishes love for my daughters, Jordan, Alex and Eden….and for your daughters too. Jeff would not dream of wishing for his very own daughters, without in the same breath wishing for all of our children as well.
With whom is G-d pleased? With he who is pleasing to his fellow man. When others find us pleasing, then G-d is pleased with us. I do not know anyone more beloved among the people he knew than my brother. This gathering is testament to that.
And being so beloved by everyone he touched, Jeff Zaslow is exceedingly beloved on High. May each of us strive to live in the spirit that was Jeff’s guiding star, and natural inclination- love, interest, and concern for others.
May his memory be for a blessing, and may his merit from Heaven protect and envelop his wife, and daughters, our family, and all who loved him.