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