by Lori Levy

Blessings From My Father

There is a phrase in Judaism often used when speaking of a deceased loved one, “Zikhronoh livracha,” which translates to, “may his memory be for a blessing.” It is a saying that can bring comfort to those who are grieving and memories of a loved one being blessings for those who remember. And more than that, it evokes a promise, to honor those memories and to carry forward the legacy that remains.

Memories of my father truly are my blessings. My memories are a part of who I am, and a part of what I will pass down to my children. Those memories remind me that I am my father’s daughter. It is my promise to honor my father’s memory and keep his legacy alive.

My earliest memories include total strangers commenting on how much I looked like my father. For those of you who can recall the days when the milkman delivered milk to our homes, the joke in our house was that a “milk woman” delivered the milk to our house, since I 100% resembled my father and 0% resembled my mother (in physical appearance, there is so, so much I got from my mother).

My father died at the age of 56. His death, at that age, shook my world. Because I am my father’s daughter. And how can I be my father’s daughter when he is no longer here?

I was 28 years old when he died, and although I no longer relied on him for food, shelter and day-to-day parenting, the loss of a parent at any age is devastating for a child. I recall a friend telling me I needed to ‘get over it’ and be there for my mother since she just lost her husband. While perhaps this was an attempt to get me to focus my grief into purpose, as a grieving daughter I was hurt by this unsolicited advice. It struck me then that while the loss of a spouse is truly heart-breaking, many spouses do find love again, widows and widowers do remarry; yet children don’t replace lost parents. The loss of a parent’s love is one that is never re-found.

For me, the loss also scared me for my own mortality. If he died at such a young age, did that mean that I would too?  Although he smoked heavily for years and did not maintain anything close to an active lifestyle, his passing brought home the reality of death for all of us. And while I do not smoke (abhor it), eat healthy (mostly) and exercise (often but not always), I am my father’s daughter. What if our similarities go beyond curly-brown hair? What if his death at a young age was merely something in his DNA, which I share? And if not, there is the fact that I do enjoy lazy a weekend and I am consistently inconsistent in my exercise routine — these behaviors come with a nagging fear… that I am my father’s daughter.

My father was also a kind-hearted and liberal-minded human being. You could see where his heart was by looking at the charities where he volunteered his time, the companies he invested in, and the political candidates he supported. He provided legal services to those in need, regardless of their ability to pay, as well as to family and friends, always without pay, more times than he should have. He believed in many of the rights still being fought for today and helping those in need. I am my father’s daughter as I believe what he believed.

My father was a quiet man, instilling fear in my friends and dates alike. He was reserved in praise and more likely to critique than rave, even when he was proud. He was uncomfortable expressing love. But a few of us, and maybe I’m the only one, saw through his reserved, quiet nature. I am my father’s daughter. I always knew he loved me. I knew that his generosity in providing spending money, a car to drive, and college tuition were how he expressed love. I knew that his not paying for law school was also love, and it was a proud moment in my life when I fully paid off my law school loans, my only wish that he had been here to celebrate that moment.

I am my father’s daughter. As much as I professed to hate his playing the devil’s advocate on any topic of discussion, I perhaps secretly enjoyed, and learned from, the banter and might enjoy playing that role now. I remember how he would not play “Scrabble” but would walk by just in time to identify a word in my tiles I did not see. And how he could walk into the room while “Jeopardy” was playing on TV and be the first yell out the correct answer, in the form of a question of course. I remember how he liked songs by the band Boys II Men, surprising himself because his previous favorite artist was probably John Denver.  I am my father’s daughter as I hum along to “Country Roads” now playing in my head, the cover of my father’s record album imprinted in my mind.

Being my father’s daughter means celebrating my Jewish faith and proudly passing the Torah down to my children, his grandchildren, as he did to me. It means teaching my children about Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and having a $2 bill ready for the finder of the Afikomen (hidden piece of matzah) at Passover. Being Jewish was an important attribute of his life, as it is in mine, because I am my father’s daughter.

I followed his footsteps and became a lawyer, a job where I get to help people every day, just like he did. I remember his subdued excitement when I graduated law school. And although he did see me get my first great job, it wasn’t until after he died that I considered myself as having a successful legal career. My one wish is to know that he knows what I’ve accomplished professionally, because I do know that he would be proud. Because I am my father’s daughter.

As my father’s daughter I have keen insight into his qualities, good and bad. I have an ability to measure just how much I am my father’s daughter and the knowledge to emulate the good and learn from the bad. Being my father’s daughter gives me the wisdom to instill in my children the ideals I inherited from him — and making sure they know him as I, and no one else, knew him.

I am my father’s daughter. In so many ways. I always have been. And I always will be. I am my father’s daughter because of all that I inherited from him, and because his memory lives on in me.

Zikhronoh livracha. May his memory be for a blessing.

Lori Levy is a successful lawyer in Austin, Texas, where she has served as Vice President of Legal Affairs for Texas REALTORS for the past 9 years. She spent the early part of her career serving as legal counsel to various members of the Texas Senate. She was born and raised in Texarkana. She attended Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, earning a double major in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies. She earned  her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin. Lori and her husband, Joshua, have been married 16 years and have two children, Shayna (15) and Noah (13).