Steve’s Eulogy for Dad
My Dad was born in Brooklyn, New York, a tough, Jewish kid from an orthodox leaning family. He always portrayed himself as a fighter growing up, and he continued in that spirit in every aspect of his life until the day he passed away. He believed in hard work and that every struggle no matter how hard, was worthwhile and brought knowledge and strength. He was filled with questions from an early age and had an overwhelming drive to find answers to the “big problems” in life. In going through his papers I found a letter he wrote to his parents in May 1945, at the age of nineteen. To me it explained a lot about his nature. Here is a small excerpt: “As you know Dad, it has been my sincere desire to spend the rest of my life not as a practicing physician but as a man of research delving into the unknown and trying in some way to bring to light and knowledge which will be beneficial to mankind.” Now that is definitely not the typical note home to your parents, but very much Dad. What I find most remarkable is that I believe he stayed true to that desire through his entire life. He worked everyday in his journal writing, to piece together an understanding of the world around him and to discover answers that would make a difference. In fact, his need was so powerful that his last year of writing was done after his stroke when he could no longer use his left side. He would type letter by letter pecking away with one finger on his right hand. Much like Sisyphus the goal of finding ultimate answers were Dad’s boulder forever being pushed up the mountain. The more he wrote and the more he lived, the more questions and problems that confronted him. I think in his heart he understood this and the daily act of writing became more important for his personal health and balance than for any of the answers he ultimately crafted.
Being a doctor with a young practice in Libertyville was always a central part of his day. He was a person of habit, everyday waking, writing and preparing himself for the day. Making rounds at the hospital, getting to the office around 9:00am and generally seeing patients until 6:00pm or later with a break for lunch.
When I was young, we would make rounds at the hospital together. I gowned up and observed a number of simple surgeries with him and at times would go with him to the newly developed emergency department and assist him with minor procedures. Times have sure changed. Can you imagine a nine year old kid assisting in today’s medical world. The lawsuits would be filed before we had left the hospital parking lot.
When we were young, my Dad’s medical practice did not leave much time for daily family activities. There was a short period of time when he took us on individual weekend getaways. In 1967 my turn came and we went to the Palmer house in Chicago, the weekend of the big snow. The train ride into the City was an adventure in itself seeing all the streets, cars and many houses snowed under. We went to Chicago stadium and saw the UCLA Bruins (with Lew Alcinder, soon to become Abdul Kareem Jabbar) defeat Loyola University, a very big and memorable moment for my ten year old self.
Family childhood trips included trips to New York to visit his family, Florida for the sun, ocean and shelling, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. And there was always the car game which was initiated with the question, “animal, vegetable or mineral.” Each of us would have to choose our topic. The time would pass quickly as the competition heated up between the 3 boys. For a number of years springtime trips to McCormick’s Creek State Park in southern Indiana were a highlight, with rustic, wood heated cabins, long hikes in the forest, and searching for the perfect vine with the longest and most perfect swing over the ravines.
My earliest memory growing up in Libertyville was the move from our home on 7th avenue to the newly constructed house on Milwaukee Avenue which had been built immediately adjacent to his office. (It would later be more famously known as the Bauer’s house) I was 4 and spent most of my first few weeks sitting on a dirt pile watching the apartment buildings being built next door. For my Dad it simplified his life. He could walk to work and be home for lunch or just see another patient or two or three.
This was the early 60’s and life was energetic in the Salzman household. There were now 5 Salzman kids: David, Rick, Steve, Judy and Beth. The house was filled with all of us and a constant flow of our friends. Dad worked, continued to write and for a short while dabbled in music. He was an accomplished classical pianist and over the course of a year or two tried his hand at popular music writing a Broadway play titled “Lanni” and the accompanying music. I don’t believe the play was ever produced but many of the music pieces were excellent and entertaining.
Around 4th grade life changed. Dad and my mom “Gerry” were divorced and within a year we moved to Skokie and Dad moved to Loch Lomond, Mundelein.
Family became defined very differently afterwards. We got to know Ginny, Karen, Dennis and shortly thereafter Jennifer was born.
For a while life was split into two worlds, Skokie and Mundelein. Both were very different with their own joys and disappointments. For the next few years, week-ends with my Dad revolved around the lake, projects with Dennis and the occasional holiday party bash. The parties were filled with music, food and friends. I did not know all the guests but the DeLorenzo’s and Bauer’s were loving, close friend’s who always kept the singing and action moving.
The one Mundelein family vacation I went on was a Winnebago trip south to New Orleans, Mississippi and Florida. I am sure you can imagine the fun with 6 kids and two adults for two weeks in a Winnebago. I was barely over sixteen with a valid drivers license and the highlight was that I drove for a good portion of the trip. My one other strong memory from that time, happened as we drove through the Everglades. On a sunny day, smoke appeared in the rear engine compartment, then a burst of flames. We pulled over and at the same time I ran out and was throwing heavy towels over the flames my Dad ran around the other way and in a moment of panic promptly lost the keys in the muck and shallow water of the Everglades. The cool medical practitioner was a little out of his element. Needless to say, we had a very very long afternoon on the side of the road enjoying the natural wonders of Florida.
Instead of a college trip, Dad and I went to the Tetons, and during the car ride had long conversations. In the Tetons, we took long hikes and soaked our achy muscles in the cold streams and continued the conversation. In truth, I think that was the first time we truly started to get to know each other and was the beginning of the adult relationship we shared.
Shortly after, he discovered that I had only applied to the University of Illinois School of Architecture, which made me the third son NOT to go to medical school. I think he came to the realization shortly thereafter that each of his kids were individuals and for better or worse would be making their own decisions.
Being a doctor stayed central to Dad’s daily regimen. It filled his days, provided him professional challenges and gave him fulfillment through his relationships with his many patients. He continued with his daily journal writing. Chronicling the highs and lows of each day and diligently pursuing his search for answers that would make a difference. Unfortunately, the search for answers to the big questions did not necessarily give him the solutions for day-to-day life. Tensions grew in Mundelein which ultimately ended in Dad and Ginny getting divorced.
Slowly his life regained its routine. Once again, being a doctor and writing were primary anchors in his life. The Libertyville Medical Group was truly his 9th child. Perhaps the offspring that received the most attention and at times was equally adept as the other 8 of us at creating frustrations. I cannot speak with any specific knowledge to his day-to-day routine but I know he shared a bond with his physician partners (Dick Dolan, Mark Fields, Bill Greenfield and Chuck Colodny were the ones I came to know) and these bonds were as strong as any other in his life. Over the years there were rewards and tensions that come with all relationships. But through it all he always deeply valued, respected, and when he retired, rooted for the success, of LMG. This became clear to me when I brought Dad to Helen’s wake last fall. His face lit up when the LMG folks, doctors, nurses, staff and patients came over and shared recollections. The stories and jokes brought back a smile of happiness in his face that I had not seen in a long time.
When he retired from medicine, he was a happy man. He had loved his day to day contact with his patients but had increasingly become disenchanted with the realities of the medical bureaucracy. He was excited to focus his days on writing and the simple pleasures of walks, cooking, conversation and travel. His goal was to turn his journals and concepts into a series of books describing his philosophy of life. He started with grand aspirations of being a best selling author and national book tours, with both academic and popular notoriety. But, that was not to be. The true success of the books (all 6 of them) was that they sustained and excited him. Giving each of his days a direction and purpose.
With retirement he and Helen were a couple and they entered their golden years together. They shared taking care of the house at 1107 Lomond Drive, took walks, traveled, argued, made up and genuinely enjoyed each day as it came without the tensions of practicing medicine. They had annual pilgrimages to Door County, Wisconsin and Sanibel Island and mixed in other adventures too numerous to count. In many conversations I had with them, they both supported each other unquestionably. Their mutual support continued in meaningful and tangible ways up until Helen’s death last fall. They were truly the closest of friends and found in each other a trusted and loving life partner.
In January 2005, Dad had a major stroke in Florida, which initiated his final struggle. My sister Beth and Helen were with him at the time and I joined him a day or so later. Once he knew he was going to survive, his goal was to live independently with Helen and continue his writing. For a while they succeeded, sharing an apartment at The Park in Vernon Hills and he worked on completing his final two books.
Born a big city kid he discovered himself in the small farm town of Libertyville. My Dad perceived life as a series of struggles, with rewards and joys mixed in. He led a very full life filled with family, hard work, professional success and a daily exploration of the world he lived in. He was not a perfect man and made many mistakes along the way which created heartache. Perhaps he did not discover that one great idea that changed the world that he envisioned when he was young. But, with his intellect, creative energy and love for life he provided insights, guidance and friendship that touched on and changed each one of us. None of us ever said it enough, but despite all the disagreements we all loved him.
His final struggle over the past five years was his toughest, but I think he stayed true to himself, working and learning all the way and is now enjoying his well deserved peace.
Beth’s Eulogy for Dad
Thank you all for coming. I am Beth and I know my Dad is honored to see you all here celebrating his life. I would like to share with you a little bit about my relationship with Dad and the nature of his spirituality as I came to know it. It may help to clarify why there is no Rabbi or clergy here today.
When I was born, my father was already a very successful man. He had a large and growing medical practice and a large and growing family and he was loved and cherished by the community at large and at the hospital. He was a man of Science and reason. He was also a man of G-d, practicing the Judaism of his youth. As with any successful person, he depended on a team of people to help him manage and sustain the many aspects of his life. He was spread too thin to be present for every aspect of his life all the time. His life and his spirit was big and as a consequence, he was evolving and connecting to new ways of looking at life that would ultimately be very important in his spiritual development and in helping him be present to all the aspects of his life even from a distance. This story illustrates this point.
When I was born, It was July and my oldest brother was away at summer camp 8 hours N and very homesick. Parent day was at the same time that my mother was due to deliver me. Since my mother could not go, my father reluctantly left after my mother promised she would cross her legs and wait the 36 hours until he returned. My father tells of finding a small motel room behind a house to sleep for the night. He woke up to the phone ringing and he knew that I had been born. In his groggy state he reached for the phone only to find that there was no phone in the room. Startled, he got dressed and went to a phone to, sure enough, find out that I had been born. Although it took him a while to process this event, it became pivotal on his spiritual path and fundamental in my relationship to him.
Through my own discussions with him over the years, it became clear that he had consciously connected to something in that little motel room that informed him, without another person or modern technology, of exactly what he needed to know at exactly the right time, hundreds of miles away. He had received a message from an all-knowing presence directly. Some may call it intuition, others the still small voice within. What he came to understand is that G-d is always talking to us, whispering to us, giving us signs and symbols and signals if we will only tune in, pay attention and listen.
He began to pay attention and listen to this ever-present, all-knowing presence that is available to everyone, everywhere all the time. He called it G-d. He saw life being mirrored to him in everything. When he studied chemistry he noted that the ionic and covalent bonds of chemistry mimic the bonds of human relationships. His connection to G-d in this way was transforming. His spirituality deepened and his desire for organized religion became less. Rabbis or clergy were no longer able to comfort him and he no longer felt the need for a middleman between him and G-d. Instead he found he could consciously connect to this Presence with his writing and walking and sometimes in his dreams. He walked everyday for at least 2 miles in nature. He did this for decades until he couldn’t walk any more. He walked and he wrote and he tuned himself in to the still small voice of G-d within, often having Aha moments, eurekas or insights, giving him answers or solutions to problems, or ideas for his next creative endeavor.
He would tell me that when he would sit and write he often had no idea what he was going to sit and write about. He just knew that when he put pen to paper it would just flow. He said he often felt a Divine hand coming in and writing through him. Sometimes he would read what he wrote and be amazed because he did not know where it came from. He could not take full credit and yet he did write it.
Although he continued to study all religions, it was this personal connection to G-d, through his walking and writing, that was his most satisfying and it was these practices that integrated him and the many aspects of his life. In this way, he was able to connect to everything and everyone all at the same time and that all knowing presence. Through them, he felt a deep and personal connection to each patient, staff member, friend and family member even from a distance.
I only lived with my Dad for the first 5 years of my life. After that I initially saw him according to a visitation schedule. By the time I was 12, my father let go of this rigid schedule, sensing it was not good for either of us. So our relationship became based on tuning in and sensing when it was good to get together from a distance. When one of us wanted to see the other, opportunities appeared or one of us called. It worked well for us and there was always lots of love, even from a distance.
His faith in G-d, the Presence that just knows, remained strong all the days of his life and when he was connected to this Presence everything flowed perfectly in his life and when he was disconnected life was depleting.
One of the things that always troubled me about my Dad was that he believed that as he aged his health would fail. He also believed that through his connection to G-d he would have what he needed or he would die. He trusted and was okay with dying if the good Lord was ready to take him. This story of amazing synchronicities that only a Divine hand could have coordinated demonstrates how well that belief worked for him.
5 years ago my daughter and I were trying to plan a last minute vacation to some place warm over winter break. All the weather forecasts for the southern states across the US and Bahamas were predicting 40s and 50s, not beach weather, as we desired. I promised my daughter that if we stayed home we would go somewhere warm in January or Feb over a long weekend and be guaranteed good weather. During that time a friend called to invite us to Florida for a week in Jan. A co-worker of hers had a house in Florida that he usually rents month to month but had been damaged in the last hurricane. Repairs had finished one month early and he was renting this house week to week for one month only. She took the week of Martin Luther King’s b-day, which most schools have off. My daughter’s school had 2 days off, making it a good time for us to go away keeping my promise to her. I found very inexpensive flights and realized the house was on Sanibel Island, the same Island that my Dad and Helen went to every year in February. Our trip was scheduled for Jan 14-22.
I called my Dad to let him know that we would be on Sanibel Island 2 weeks before him. He told me that they had changed their plans and were leaving to drive down early and would be arriving on Jan 14. Then we figured out that his condo was only a few blocks from our house. This got my attention and I knew I was going to Florida for more than just a warm vacation.
We all had a wonderful week. On the 22nd, when we were to fly home, there was a blizzard in Chicago. Our flight was delayed until 10:30 that evening with no guarantee it would depart at all. Eventually I got the airline to agree to put us on the next available flight, which was early Monday morning. We had an extra 40 hours to spend in Florida, yeah! We had already checked out of our house and so we moved to the extra bedroom in my Dad’s condo.
At 10:30 that night my Dad had a major stroke. No human being could have orchestrated with such precision all of the elements that led me and Laura to being there for him and Helen in Florida in his time of need. A Divine hand was definitely involved and we all felt it.
This is the all-knowing, all connecting, unifying Presence to which my father was faithful. It does not require anyone to access, just the ability to tune in and listen and flow.
I could share with you many more stories like this. You get the idea and have I am sure some of your own.
I ask everyone now to take a deep breath and connect in your own way to this Divine Presence and this ability to connect to anyone or anything, anywhere through all time and space. Whenever you want to connect to my Dad, Wally, or Dr. Salzman, as many of you know him, just tune in and know that his spirit is still here with us. It is here in all of his children and grandchildren of course. It is also here in all of his patients, at the hospital, the medical building and in the heart of this community.
So as I connect I just want to say…Hi Dad, I love you and I miss you. I know you are still here with us with your big spirit; I still miss you being here physically especially hearing your voice. Thank you for teaching me about this empowering way of connecting to all of life. I shall carry it with me all the days of my life and all of you can too.
Jenna’s Poem for Dad
My father saved lives
My father worked hard
My father was determined
My father loved to learn
My father loved to teach
My father loved music
My father loved to read
My father loved to write
My father loved challenges
My father gave hope
My father gave dreams
My father gave security
My father was a lover
My father was a fighter
My father grew weak
Good bye father
Au revoir mon pere
Please suffer no more
Be free Poppy
Have peace daddy
Please suffer no more
Rick’s Eulogy for Dad
Walking the same path today as yesterday, Dad.
There’s a man buttoning up a house, sealing out the cold weather
a woman walking her dog, trucks and cars grumbling and mumbling along.
The world feels a little lonelier today.
I haven’t spent much time with you over the last decade or so.
But still, there was the handshake, the hug, the smile
the laugh, the cough, the sneezes-in-threezes
the occasional phone call, email, snail mail.
You were here, if not in all your glory, still
curious, inquiring, affectionate
with your formidableness intact.
You were “someone in our corner helping to shore up the tent,”
as Maureen recently put it.
I’m nearing the Richmond village green now.
There’s a lovely gathering of snowdrops
in the lawn of the house across from town hall.
The first flowers I’ve seen this unofficial spring.
Soon crocuses, forsythia and daffodils will bloom
buoying our spirits with their hardiness, their beauty,
their readiness to reveal themselves as soon as the earth thaws.
There’s the bridge over the Winooski that was rebuilt last year.
It was a source of controversy and inconvenience for quite a while.
Both lanes are moving freely now.
Another car’s crossing over…and there’s the playground, and kids playing.
It’s another warm, sunny day.
There’s the kite, still waving in the breeze, seemingly saying “Hi” or “Goodbye,”
like Vermonters in spring shooing away the black flies.
It looks as if it may be trying to take advantage of this stiff breeze and take off.
When your stiff breeze came up, Dad, your legs stretched out.
Beth said you looked like you were at peace when she left you last night.
She knew it was a matter of hours.
Early this morning you were gone, downstream, around the bend
like the snow on the riverbank yesterday,
gone, to help freshen and deepen the river.
You’re breathing freely now, without the need for aqualungs,
or aero-lungs, for that matter.
You’ve peeled off your scuba gear and are soaking up the sun,
enjoying the warm breeze in your hair and face, refreshed
on board some para-scientific research vessel.
It might have been a leisure craft, but you know
it’s your way, Dad, your choice, to put work before pleasure.
Nevertheless, you enjoyed journeying through this hard, watery world.
Exploring its nooks and crannies, gathering rocks and shells from its far flung corners:
The Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Guam, Koror, Palau, Captiva, Sanibel….
So many places, so much diversity to be appreciated.
So many possibilities in life…for life…So many possibilities.
You got around, Dad. Steve’s followed in your footsteps, or should I say flutterkicks and Danny’s following in his, with a passion for scuba diving.
How do you see it, Dad? The way I see it:
Steve inherited your drive, and your passion for building a world focused on wellness.
David inherited your keen sense of the need for justice and fair play.
GG inherited your love of travel, your love of place, and your artistic attention to detail.
Beth inherited your excellent story telling and intuitive diagnostic abilities,
as well as your focus on wellness and well being.
Jenna inherited your determination, your joie de vivre, and, in her words,
“your fondness for fine dining!”
Laura inherited your love of piano, the arts and travel.
Ari inherited your love of music and nature and animals.
Allie inherited your love of culture and communication, and is quite a writer as well.
Danny inherited your love of…well…women. He also inherited your passion
for science and technology.
Amanda inherited your passion for playing classical piano.
Virginia inherited your love for making up silly songs.
Dennis may not have inherited it genetically,
but he’s a wonderful family provider and enjoys hard, honest work.
Cassie may not have inherited it genetically,
but she too has a passion for journaling and writing.
And Richard, well, clearly one thing I inherited from you
is the gene disposing one to “verbal hyperplasia;”
your playful diagnosis of your fondness for the spoken word.
But seriously, Dad, you touched so many lives with your bright and hopeful spirit
your courageous and caring heart
your helpful hands, your steady feet
and, of course, your curious and determined mind.
Yes, you diagnosed, you prescribed, you performed, and, you also knew.
You knew how to share your confidence freely,
how to share your faith and trust and good humor.
You helped stimulate the healing response.
You helped restore others’ faith and trust and good humor.
You helped ease the pain and suffering of many people.
I’m out in the cornfield now, moving forward, gaining some perspective.
Looking back on our little town in the Green Mountain state.
Just a little town in the middle of a little valley
somewhere on Planet Earth, within the Solar System
in the midst of the Milky Way.
A pretty good place for kids to grow up.
A few buildings, a few farms, two rivers
some woods to romp in, not much to it.
But a lot of living goes on here.
Kind of like the little town where you settled, Dad,
and raised a family with Mom
and raised a family with Virginia
and doctored a community with Helen
and wrote your books
and cared for your children and grandchildren.
I gathered your photos together, Dad, and arranged them on the mantel
amidst pine cones and chestnuts, an acorn, chunks of onyx, obsidian,
turquoise and granite, mica and pumice, quartz crystal,
amethyst, an oval of polished tiger eye, and many of the
beautiful shells that you treasured so.
There are no mysterious junonias, of course,
or any rare and elusive right handed lightening whelks, but there are left handed whelks, apple murexes, a right handed paper whelk, banded tulips, olives and
king’s crowns, periwinkles, cones and augers, scallops, clams and jingles,
cockles, coquinas and cowries, shark eyes, sand dollars and angel wings.
We walked many a beach collecting these old homes of once living creatures,
with gulls squawking, pelicans diving and sandpipers dodging the crashing waves.
Your photos rise from these wonders of the earth, capturing the many faces of your spirit:
confident, playful, curious, joyful, enthusiastic, skeptical, probing, hopeful, compassionate, determined, shy, sad, glad, fierce, forgiving.
It was when I was young, Dad, and we were scouring those pristine beaches together,
that I saw your spirit shine through most clearly.
I thank you for those good times.
You have a lot of faces Dad, most of them instantly loveable.
And those that aren’t instantly loveable, are easily forgivable.
It sounds cliché, but I will miss even the not so loveable faces.
You often said it, didn’t you? “It’s easy to love what’s loveable.”
Only through recognizing and appreciating what’s forgivable
do we practice extending love, fulfilling love.
I’m crunching along now on the husks of last year’s late soy harvest.
Soon the husks will enrich the soil.
Now they’re helping to keep my boots high and dry, free from mud.
Time to turn back. Chauffeuring duty calls.
I’m down by the river again.
Just grabbed a handful of dirty snow from the riverbank.
Now, melting with the warmth of my hand
the soil is washing away, slipping through my fingers
revealing the most amazing crystalline patterns.
Life’s a treasure hunt, Dad.
So many marvels to be discovered.
Today, it’s your turn to find the afikomen.*
It’s quite a world, this world you’ve lived and loved in,
this world of constant transformation.
The only thing this world seems to lack
But that’s here too, hidden, within the fearless love we feel for one another.
Thanks for the chat, Dad. We’ll always have our conversations.
Whether or not we were in shouting distance,
never seemed to matter before.
No. The conversation won’t stop.
Does the river stop flowing towards the sea? Preposterous.
With a little luck, our conversation will take on new clarity
melting loneliness away, along with
whatever grievances the heart still clings to.
I love you, Dad. We all do.
*Matzah at the Passover seder used to symbolize redemption