Mickey's Eulogy given at Joey's funeral, August 29, 2011
All Israel have a share in the World to Come, as it is stated: And your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever; they are the branch of My planting; the work of My hands; in which to take pride.
In Fiddler on the Roof Tevyah asks God, “Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?” Practically, it wouldn’t … Furthermore and practically … would it really have spoiled some vast eternal plan had God granted Joey a long and healthy life?
Sadly … our practical knowledge base has no understanding of an eternal plan and our role in it.
The best we can do is to say that there is an eternal plan out there that is greater than we can imagine … and that while our role has the appearance of being random:
We each make a difference and have a special purpose in life;
Second … We may never know what that purpose is but we come to realize that what we do…matters….and even if we never know that purpose, we strive to do “good.”
And third … Each person, however short he or she has lived … stacks up merits, is judged in the same way that a long living righteous person is judged ….. and hopefully earns heavenly eternal status.
And so Joey Jannol entered this world with a purpose and left….with a purpose. However short, Joey’s life is an epic work. And the reason I think so is based on a certain passage from the Ethics of the Fathers.
Ethics of the Fathers is a part of several works comprising the Talmud that was completed by Rabbis of the 3rd through 6th century. These Rabbis had great wisdom and foresight to write down the law that was given almost 2,000 years before. In the midst of persecution and loss of their life for practicing Judaism, their work kept Judaism alive to this day.
The opening paragraph of Ethics of the Father reads like this:
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets and the Prophets passed it on to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah.
….Sounds very lofty, Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah. Many books have been written about what this means and I now transpose it to Joey so you may understand him.
You do not have to be a great judge to be deliberate in judgment. Joey was very deliberate in judgment because he is one of the few people I know who avoided first impressions and reached for the good in a person. He was very methodical at whatever he did to a point of being a bit humorous with them. He did this in order that he could deliberately judge how to interact and help that person.
You do not have to be a Prophet or a great teacher to raise many disciples. Joey has and will raise many disciples because he touched people in a special way. It would be too emotional to go into detail here but part of me thinks God took him because he is needed up there to inspire his angels. I believed that one who is touched favorably by someone else becomes a disciple. I think Joey raised many.
What does making a fence around the Torah mean? It seems to be a strange concept. However, think of it this way….Much the same way we make fences around a beautiful garden to prevent the fragile plants from being affected in a bad way, we were asked to make fences (not just laws) to prevent people from doing bad. I saw firsthand how Joey was there for those that might have gone astray; whether the kid in school that did not get much attention or a neighborhood friend who may have lost focus. Joey knew that his helping hand got them back on track.
How can I put this all together? I still remember the remark that the mother of a neighborhood friend of Joey’s made to me several years ago. She said, “You know you have a real clever son. He came to my door this earlier this afternoon and asked to see my son. My son wasn’t home but I told him to come back at 4 o’clock. He said thank you and left but then he appeared at my door only 5 minutes later and asked if that was 4:00 p.m. or 4:00 a.m. Well, she and I laughed but then she said to me, “You know he’s not all that wrong. I’ve been so caught up with work and everything that I needed this as a reminder to be watchful of my son these days.”
It is amazing how a child born with learning disabilities, one who had a difficult time learning in school as a young child could amount to such greatness but the direction of the Ethics of our Fathers is fascinating and that direction was within Joey throughout his life and thus Joey’s soul will be living a long life. His spirit is strong within us and provides us with great direction.
And I guaranty that if you keep these ways of Joey and the Ethics of the Fathers, that you will also have a special place in this world and in heaven. Further if we follow this way, we earn the right to demand that God make good on his covenant that we and our dearly departed are rewarded with a good role in eternal life and that we should no longer have to look at a life cut so short with such finality.
Joey was blessed by your prayers. Prayers for his recovery came from all over the world and in many different forms. They were so numerous and diverse that God himself had to step down from heaven back in April when medical science wrote him off. Your wishes caused God to intervene and have a 5 month conversation with Joey that started out by God asking Joey, “Where the heck did you get all these well-wishers from?” To which Joey would answer, “I du no.” God then would say, “We need to talk. You need to be made spiritually healthy and your soul needs to be purified so you can enter my Garden.”
And there was much they spoke about, God and Joey … Big things and little things. God wondered why Joey would do a lot of computer work for friends but not charge money for the work. But Joey would answer, "How can I charge people for something that comes so easily to me. I just do not feel it is right to charge people for something that is a gift, it’s something that should be shared"
The conversation continued and God asked Joey, “But certainly you must have concerns about the Cancer.” Joey replied, “I really never asked 'why me?' I did my treatments without complaint or hesitation. Even though MRI after MRI showed how tenacious the tumor was, I never resisted going further in hopes of some day conquering it. But my biggest worry is that I will not have a chance to make a real difference in this world; I really wanted to do something to make the world a better place.”
God then comforted Joey and said; “Your impact on the world is complete in the inspiration you gave to so many others. More so, you have brought a lot of prayer into the world. People around the world, of all faiths and walks of life are praying. You therefore have inspired the world and have gotten them back on a path to do “good.” Indeed because of you they shall inherit the land forever; indeed they are the branch of My planting; the work of My hands; in which, I take pride”
And so the several months long conversation finished. God was finished with Joey on earth and prepared to purify his soul. The spirit of Joey conveyed an inspiration to us to see if we could get Joey Bar Mitzvah’ed. Joey could not be Bar Mitzvah’ed at age 13 as the learning was much too difficult for him. But since Joey could not speak, he found a deliberate and humorous way to inspire us to see how a Bar Mitzvah could be done.
A week ago, I was cleaning out a storage shed to make way for some items. As I moved boxes around, there was a box up high. I touched it and it fell on me. A number of things came out of it but the strangest thing that came out was my 1969 “reel-to-reel” Bar Mitzvah tape. Long forgotten, it was intact. And this ancient tape inspired me to ask around as to how Joey can get Bar Mitzvah’ed.
Last Wednesday, Joey was indeed Bar Mitzvah’ed while still conscious. His soul in our human terms was made pure. He died a very peaceful death Saturday morning. Your prayers mattered.
Even if you know that someone is about to pass on, your prayers for recovery provide two things: 1) comfort for the soul and 2) tremendous advocacy for judgment.
Joey is now up in heaven. In this neighborhood at Eden Cemetery, he has a lot of company. His maternal grandfather Carl is up there most likely machining tools and Joey will be helping him as Joey himself was good at precision tool work. His paternal grandfather David, the avid tennis player who believed that the philosophy of tennis was the same as life, is teaching tennis to the angels and so Joey is now a ball boy. Of course, heaven is timeless and this is just a first step for Joey. He has much more to do and his spirit will be both in the wind and in the calm air that surrounds us.
Great tribute was paid to Joey by an esteemed colleague who himself had brain cancer, recovered for a while and is now seeing the cancer come back. He visited Joey several times.
Upon hearing the news of Joey’s passing, he wrote to us the following note: “Fly Joey, Fly. You earned those beautiful wings. Hit the afterburners to go supersonic and know what a beautiful footprint you left on our planet. Be at Peace Brother.”
And so this is the epic work of Joey Jannol. Thank you very much for the support you have given our family. May Joey’s spirit always be among us.