My Friend Joel

“A brother is a friend God gave you; a friend is a brother your heart chose for you.” – Proverbs
I met Joel 10 years ago while working as a professional fund raiser. The contrast between us was apparent from the moment we met as was the attraction we felt for one another. Joel was a penetrating, thoughtful and reflective thinker with a Doctorate in Holocaust Studies. He took life and life’s events very seriously.
Many things concerned or bothered him. Some of them included social injustice, hatefulness, pettiness, intolerance, politics surrounding health, hunger, housing, education and safety for children. He would come to me railing about someone or something with the expression on his face and his hands in the air screaming, “How can they say or do that? It makes no sense. What is wrong with them. I can’t take this. Mitch, you have to do something about this.” 
He always had tasks for me to do as if I had the power to make the world more inhabitable for him. We would laugh for a moment and then he would resume his tirade about what needed to be done. That was one side of Joel that will live inside me forever. His unyielding belief that all men were truly created equal and that we all have a moral, spiritual and ethical responsibility to guarantee that every person being denied, be affirmed and allowed.
We both had extensive Jewish educations and had many wonderful conversation of the sort that had no answers, but were a great deal of fun getting nowhere. One of the topics that did resonate with us both was the inconsistency between what people would say and do in the Chapel/Sanctuary while praying and what they would say and do once worship was over and they were out of “that” place. He was bothered by the apparent insincerity toward prayer, holiness and Godliness. We both believed that one of the purposes for prayer was to seek the courage to do what was challenging and then do it or at least stop doing what was hurtful to others. We knew that we were in the minority with our thinking and accepted that without judgement of others as were just as flawed in our own ways.
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Joel and his wife Annette had enjoyed a significant degree of financial success and he was acutely aware of putting some of his good fortune (not a pun) where his mouth was to help others. He never did this with fanfare, trumpets and recognition. He always did this humbly, with gratitude and as quietly as he could. He knew how blessed he was, did not need to show it off, yet did need to share it to give others the opportunity to advance.

Joel was the father of twins, Rachel and Michael. His love for them was in his heart, face and hands flailing about as he would tell me stories about their childhood exploits. I don't believe he ever really got " children", but he fully grasped parenting and being a Daddy.

His partner throughout has been Annette, an angel and a woman of valor. Where Joel was serious, thoughtful and reflective, Annette was the cork popping out of the Champagne bottle. She was the entrepreneur, marketer, advance person and Ring Master. They made great music together until the day the music died. 

Joel became ill with Cancer about 3 years ago and everyone said that he would beat it, they got it early and all the things we all say to help ourselves deny what we really know. It became apparent at some point that Joel was not going to be the victor in this duel. Cancer was going to win, we just didn't know when.

Early this morning, May 10, 2012, Cancer won and Joel took the magic carpet ride took to God's palace. I was with him the last couple of days to let him know how much I loved him, to hold his hand, to stroke his brow and to just speak idle chatter which he could hear even though he could not reply.

So my dear and loving friend, your body is no longer filled with the pain of disease, but you will never die in my life. You were a friend who I chose to call a brother and I will carry your hearty smile and laugh with me whenever I see Annette, Rachel and Michael, think of you, see a photo of you or speak about you with another person.

May you rest in peace, May your memory be for a blessing and May your soul be bound up for all eternity. I love you and will miss you and am grateful for your friendship and our memories. Travel gently my friend.
 
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