Updated 08/26/2011

 

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Written by Ronnie Baras

 

 FYom Kippur – and the loss of a father and a brother

By Ronnie Baras

Yom Kippur is the day in traditional Judaism where our fate for the upcoming year is sealed. We spend the day praying for life – for ourselves, for our families and for our people. This Yom Kippur will be different for me, because it will be the first Yom Kippur without my father, Hyman Baras and without a special best friend, Gabe Arzouan.

I lost my father several months ago. He was an amazing man. He was the kind of man everyone wanted to be with - the “life of the party”. He loved life. My brother said it best when he said that my father set examples of excellence that none of us could reach.
Five years ago, he suffered a heart attack – a sign that his diabetes was getting worse. His cardiologist told me that my father might not survive – but my father came home within a week. I asked him a rather morbid question – “Do you think you will be alive in five years?” He laughed and said, “Absolutely not”. I was intrigued at how calm he looked, so I asked him if that bothered him. He answered, “Absolutely not. I’m a lucky man. I lived long enough to have gotten married to your mother. And if that wasn’t enough, I lived long enough to have children. And if that wasn’t enough, I lived long enough to see each of them get married and have children. And I’m proud of all of them.” On a more somber note, he added that he couldn’t bear the thought, however, of not seeing my children. He was right – he lived slightly less than five years from that day and his last words were “Let me see that picture one more time”. He was again shown a picture of my children and within hours he was gone.

Gabe Arzouan was like a brother to me. I believe it was about 14 years ago that we met. We bonded instantly. We never ever had a fight. How amazing is that! To have a best friend for 14 years and never have had a fight! I often asked his parents “How is my brother doing?” They would answer, “Fine. Now be a good brother and find him a wife”. I would then say, “Don’t worry. I won’t rest until he’s married.” He too was the “life of the party”. Everybody loved to be near him. He once tried to fix my watch – but it stopped working on a Friday night. “I hope we’re not going to have our first fight over this,” Gabe said. “Are you kidding?” I answered. “You just did a miracle. You turned my watch into a shomer Shabbat (Sabbath Observer)!”

We had a ritual that every time we saw each other, we ran toward each other with open arms and then we’d hug each other and bury our faces onto the other person’s shoulder. We thought it was funny and we never got tired of doing that. The last time I saw him, a few months ago, we did the same thing. Only this time, an older woman observed us and when we raised our heads, she looked at us with tears streaming down her face. “That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. You must be brothers who haven’t seen each other for a while,” she said. “That’s exactly right,” I answered. Gabe kept laughing and said, “We’re actually ‘like’ brothers but we’re not related by blood.” I added, “What difference does it make? Related or not, we’re still brothers.” Gabe passed suddenly, so unexpectedly. He was young, but like my father, he managed to touch so many lives. Although his funeral was held within hours of the confirmation of his passing, over three hundred people attended his funeral. He was a brother to many. That was Gabe – he made us all feel so special. He made time for us. Even now, I smile when I think of his smile. I always will.

The other morning my two eldest daughters got off the school bus. My three year old ran to them and they all hugged each other as if … they hadn’t seen each other in years. I almost cried. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. That’s my dream – to see my kids have a relationship with each other like Gabe and I.

On Yom Kippur I will pray for my family, my friends and for our people. I will no doubt think of my father and my brother. I am honored to have Hyman Baras as my father. And I am honored to have been like brothers with my special friend, Gabe Arzouan.

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Ronnie Baras is a comic hypnotist as well as a band leader and real estate investor. He can be reached at ronniebaras.com